Melbourne’s famous for many things. And, we’re sorry but you’re going to have to add cocktails to an ever-growing list of must–dos in this city. Here, you can sip classic cocktails served by some of the world’s best bartenders. Which, anywhere else would teeter on the brink of overstatement. In Melbourne, it’s a given. But the best part of the cocktail scene? There are blending wizards mixing flavours, botanicals and local spirits into exciting new drinks you’ll not see elsewhere. The menus are extensive and your choices of venue are mind-boggling. Drop into these handpicked spots to sample the city’s best work.
One of Melbourne’s best roof top bars is quietly plying its trade in Chinatown. Union Electric is more than just a roof terrace though. Yes, it’s nice to sup a beer in the sun – but you could easily stay vitamin D deficient and sip cocktails in Melbourne in your choice of wine bars. So why here? Well, how long have you got? We could mention the team of firebrands who’ve learned from the best bars in the city and are kicking up a decidedly tasty storm here. Though, if you’re not local, is that really of any interest? We could also point to the fresh and tasty produce that gets whizzed into just about every cocktail they make. Though, are you supping cosmos for the vit C? Unlikely. Then there’s the Cheers style atmosphere – not quite everyone knows your name – but drop by often enough and it’s bound to happen. Like all good recipes, Union Electric excels because every ingredient is on point. A rare find – especially in this part of Melbourne.
Occasionally, over-eager types might throw out the phrase ‘the possibilities are endless’. But Boilermaker House might just be the one bar in Melbourne where that phrase CAN be used accurately. Let’s break it down. A boilermaker is a beer and whiskey pairing. When you consider this joint’s ever-changing selection of beers on tap and a 900 strong whiskey list – the combination numbers really do start to run rampant. So, we’d recommend coming here for a boilermaker. But, if you struggle with decision-making, their cocktail menu is reassuring short and simple. We’d recommend the House Highball.
Fair warning: the huge craft beer and whiskey list will blow your mind. Allow plenty of time for just reading through the options, which include whiskey categories such as Salt & Seaweed and Confectionary. This is definitely not a spot for a swift half – and it’s all the better for it. Expect to pay $20 for a cocktail and up to $125 for a ‘bank buster’ brew. The cheapest craft beer comes in at a more reasonable $10.
Orbzii tip: Melbourne might not be the first choice for a whiskey tasting session – but these guys know their malts. The Whiskey 101 is a great starting point at $75. But our eyes are firmly on the Old and Rare $200 experience.
Cocktail bars that have been in the game for over 18 years tend to have one key ingredient: fantastic bar staff. For four days a week (Thursday – Sunday) the talented mixers are slinging the sort of cocktails you expect from a legendary nightlife spot. Yes, they can whip up a classic cocktail. But we’ll gently nudge you towards their seasonal menu that turn some perhaps predictable favourites on their heads. Bold flavours meet subtle ingredients with tastebud wowing results. They might have been on the Melbourne cocktail scene for a while, but don’t dismiss this bar in favour of a brash new start up. Like most good drinks, this bar’s maturity works in its favour.
Picture an all-American diner. Now try to apply all the cliche-driven nostalgia, but swap the USA details with Aussie culture and you get the interior at Bad Frankie. Everything from the food and drinks to the wallpaper is infused with a love for Oz. Right down to the fact that the only food served is a toasted ‘sanger’. Also known as a jaffle, the options for your sangers are at least numerous. Away from the cheeze-oozing toasties lies a 7 page Australian gin menu. By now, you’ll be picking up on a distinct theme. Come here for the real Australian experience. It sounds tacky, but Bad Frankie’s is anything but. It’s simply created by someone who loves his country.
Expect to pay up to $22 for a cocktail. Though, don’t expect classic cocktails. But you didn’t travel all this way for a cosmopolitan. Try the Golden Flip or No Hat, No Play if you’re feeling really experimental. To balance out the overtly Aussie flavours here, combine it with a visit to the Vivien Anderson Gallery, a Melbourne art gallery that looks at Indigenous culture and art.
Orbzii tip: It looks like bars in Melbourne are clamouring to get into the experiences game. Bad Frankie’s USP? Obviously, it’s the Aussie specialities. Learn about Oz whiskey or local craft gin while you’re here – and try a jaffle while you’re at it.
If you’re going to go out for cocktails in Melbourne, all signs point towards Bar Americano. Whether you go because they claim to serve the world’s best Negroni, or because the bar’s won more than a few awards since opening in 2011, it doesn’t matter. However you find your way here, you can expect nothing but classic cocktails – expertly mixed. Though, don’t necessarily count on your favourite tipple always being available. The bartenders here do like to keep the menu fresh. Seasonal changes are perhaps the only flexible aspect though. The bar has a few strict rules. Standing room only. No photos and no cash. Realistically, those are rules we can live by – if only for the chance to try the world’s best Negroni.
Eau de vie
Trot back in time for a tipple at Melbourne’s Eau de Vie, where the bar very much channels the US prohibition era speakeasies. Their whiskey room is deftly hidden behind a bookcase, for a start. That novelty aside, this is more than just a bar. There’s a degustation menu, in place of gastro pub burgers. And items on the regular menu are served suitably charred, tartare or aioli accompanied. It very much sets a tone. Swish, elegant and refined are all worthy descriptors – and then there’s the cocktail menu. Here, things take a theatrical turn with inspiration from the greats. Who knew Shakespeare liked a Yuzu Mule? Perhaps poetic license has gone a smidge too far there. The burlesque and Vaudeville inspo feels a little more on the nose.
Orbzii tip: At Eau de Vie you’ve yet another chance to sign up for a masterclass. This time we’re talking cocktails. Choose Shaken, Stirred or Built for a $75 crack at creating some of your favourite drinks. There’s a 6–person minimum and 48 hour notice period – so do have a chat with them before expectantly turning up with your own cocktail paraphernalia in-hand.