Review: 5 Melbourne Cocktail Bars Pt. 2

IMG_7442My sojourn though the cocktail capital of the world continues.

Previously I gave you the first 5 of my top 10 cocktail bars in Melbourne.  With hundreds of small bars in the downtown area alone, let along the suburbs, its no small feat keeping track of them, knowing where they are, sampling and then deciding who makes the cut for a great Martini experience.

The things I do for you!  😉

What is interesting about the Melbourne scene is that you have such a spectrum of spaces to explore + enjoy ranging from alleyway stripped-back joints that go out of their way to be obscure and minimalist, to swanky stylish establishments that bring theatre to your experience, but not cutting corners on quality.

Even the big hotel bars game is lifted by this competition + culture.

There is also a vibrant exchange of ideas, ingredients and personnel driven by passionate people who see it as a ‘all ships floating up together’ scenario.  In my experience, service across the board has been positive, informed and one of wanting you to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.

So in short you don’t need to be thirsty or devoid of inspiration when drinking in Melbourne, and the Martini’s in this city have been pretty much uniformly excellent in my experience, you just need to decide the vibe + scene you’re looking for.

Here are my next top 5 bars you need to round out your cocktail experience of Melbourne.

IMG_7440Lui Bar, Level 55 Rialto Building, 525 Collins Street, City (go to the ground floor reception of the tower and security will show you to your lift)

55 floors up, with a sparkling view all about, including an outdoor terrace for the brave and smoking inclined, this place could get away with less. But its committed to great cocktails and service in a style that’s amenable, informed and polished.

Next to us on the day was a trio of people of means. He had the air of a Texan oil baron, with a wife (2nd obviously) half his age and a companion, plus serious bling to match. I heard him say, ‘Hey, we haven’t had our Martinis yet have we? Three dry Martinis please.‘ Apparently they start the day with one, but they’d gotten a bit distracted that day and needed to catch up!

Once mine arrived, with the superbly delicate Black Robin Gin from NZ,  on its own tray with metal olive skewer. Taking in the view, with the big city vibe that is the Martini’s natural habitate. This will do nicely, thank you.

It’s an experience where you’ll want to step up a gear style-wise. The staff know their business alright, you’re in safe hands here. Sit back and enjoy the ride.  They offer 16 or so gins from around the world (for example, Aviation, Sipsmith, West Winds, Plymouth) with Martini’s priced depending on your option from $22 upwards.  Website here


IMG_9684_2The Everleigh, 150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Look for the chicken joint,  find the door on the corner, then head upstairs.

There you enter another world. Part time machine, part parlour, part archive of the cocktail arts. If there was a bar that summed up what Melbourne bars do so perfectly it is the Everleigh.

Its a total experience, a friendly welcome by staff who could have stepped out of a 40’s flick (except the tats are better), an immaculately kept bar, hand carved ice and Martini’s who are mixed with a smile and stirred over more ice than sunk the Titanic.

People who drink there seem to dress for the occasion and you can opt for a booth or sit at the bar and chat, and enjoy the relaxed vibe.

They’re committed to keeping the arts of the Martini alive and mixed me as perfect an example as I can recall, with a hint of Dolin Vermouth and Tanqueray, and I liked the way the olives (delicious by the way) selected with tweezers and one in the glass, two on the side (about $20 as I recall). They carry both Tanqueray’s, Four Pillars and Melbourne Gin Company, which given the skill set should solve most Martini situations you find yourself in. Going off-piste with the menu shouldn’t be a problem either.  Special cocktail experiences round out the experience, first class.  Website here.


IMG_9695_2The Attic (upstairs) The Black Pearl, 304, Brunswick Street Fitzroy

The place has some roots for a new world bar, established in 2001 and regularly rated as one of the best bars in the world.  So I left this one for last on a recent excursion, landing on a Friday night when the happy hour crowd have moved on.  You go straight through the downstairs bar, and upwards, get buzzed in & shown to your seat by the hostess.

The scenario had it all: the lady friend besotted with the bartender lining up a rendezvous for later on one side, the crowd of 30 somethings well settled in the lounges about the room (not a big space – about 40 covers I’d say), a solo hipster archetypes working the iPhone intently with an Old Fashioned, and next to me the other bartender taking a tourist along for a journey hitting him up with a West Winds Cutlass with a good back story. Low lights, blues cranked up, fine for Friday night 9pm.

You’re looking at Hendrick’s, Few, Plymouth, Hayman’s, Sipsmith, West Winds and McHenry Gin options with Dolin the house vermouth. Cocktails tasted via straw by the maker and they’re pumping out the drinks, but patently care about the result. For me, a medium dry Plymouth with a twist, a full flavoured option to round out the night. Get a posse + let loose. Website here. 




Romeo Lane, 1A Crossley Lane (opposite laneway Pellegrini’s Espresso bar), City.

This is a lovely expression of the contemporary Melbourne bar. Minimalist decor, well spoken + tainted tastefully good looking inked & coiffed team, with thoughtful touches about the space to give it warmth that is a lovely small space for perfectly executed cocktails.

The bar consists of a single room with high benches and stools of wood, some jazz in the background, table service, all the stock being presented in old decanters, with a courtyard to enjoy as well.  Bar snacks are available too.

Without specifying which Gin, I asked for just a Dry Martini I was served up a stirred Sipsmith Gin (plus Dolin Vermouth), noting everything had been kept chilled or frozen appropriately ($20). Perfect.   Website here



IMG_9589_21806, 169 Exhibition Street, City

Once a theatre, this vibe continues on at this long established bar that quietly gets on with its business of making great cocktails.  The large space offers lounges, table service and high ceilings, some blues as a soundtrack and a friendly team looking to guide you on the path of good times.

Some 12 Gins are available and their cocktail menu provides some interesting reading as a cocktail history as well. Tanqueray is their house pour for a Martini, but they made one for meet off piste with Beefeater medium dry with a twist using Cocchi Americano vermouth ($18) which was quite delicious and made deftly and some showmanship.

The bar also offers various classes on cocktails and spirits, and on the night I was there 90% of the clientele were women, so they must be doing something right!  Website here.




Bitters + Vermouths at the Black Pearl.


A perfectly executed Martini at the Everleigh.


A good Martini needs a decent view to set it off don’t you think? Liu Bar.


Besides 1806 being the year of the French victory at the Battle of Jena, it is also one of the earliest references to cocktails.


A very fine Martini at Romeo Lane.