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Melbourne is at the forefront of Australia’s drinking culture, all thanks to its world class bars; you’re definitely spoilt for choice. So here’s our favourite cocktail bars to make the decision a little easier.
Enjoy some of Melbourne's best cocktails at this award-winning, underground French bar and brasserie
We've whiled away many evenings at Bar Margaux; it's an instant escape from the outside world.
Their cocktails are expertly concocted. Michael Madruson, the owner, honed his craft at Milk & Honey, a well-renowned cocktail bar in New York City.
The same team is also behind The Everleigh and Heartbreaker; both venues you'll find on this list.
Bar Margaux offer the classics; Manhattans and martinis - which you can also order as a 'snack-size.' But you'll also find their own creations on the menu.
Inspired by the French bistros of New York, you'll find a food menu with escargot (snails smothered in butter,) duck frites and a giant two-patty burger (The MGX Burger.)
Down a nondescript laneway - and with close to no signage - is Arlechin, a late-night Italian cocktail bar.
This space was initially used as wine storage for Grossi Florentino, a long-standing Italian restaurant on Bourke Street, but they decided to turn it into a cocktail bar instead.
The cocktail menu is diverse; there's the Champagne Julep (champagne, mint and sugar) and the Jungle Bird (dark rum, Campari, pineapple, lime and sugar.)
Open most nights until around 3am, it's a popular late-night haunt. There's an Italian focus on the food menu - think bolognese jaffles, oysters and 'Midnight Spaghetti.'
Find more hidden gems read our guide to the best secret bars in Melbourne.
Meyers Place is one of the city's best laneways, and home to several incredible venues, including Lily Blacks. This art-deco style bar celebrates the golden era of cocktails: libations from before the prohibition area.
The bar is the centerpiece, backed by a towering pyramid of bottles. Surrounded by several seats to settle into and watch the world-class bartenders do their thing.
Eau De Vie is a bar straight out of the 1920’s.
This hidden bar is down a very ordinary-looking laneway; the only giveaway is the vintage lamp above the wooden doorway.
Pull open the heavy door and you'll be thrust straight into the world of prohibition America.
The cocktails at Eau de Vie all feature an element of theatrics. The Espresso Zabaione is a favourite; espresso martini topped with cream and then covered in liquid nitrogen. While their Yuzu Mule features housemade ginger beer and fresh yuzu.
The cocktail menu is massive, to the point of being overwhelming. But chat with the very knowledgable staff and they can make some recommendations.
The Everleigh has taken out a spate of awards, including 'The Best Victorian Bar of 2019', and for good reason. This upstairs speakeasy takes its ethos from its world-renowned big sister, Milk and Honey in New York.
The interior and menu are inspired by the times of prohibition - think oakwood and dim lights - while the staff wear suspenders.
Come here for expertly made cocktails - our go-to cocktail is an amaretto sour, and the Everleigh makes the best we've had.
This family-run bar has been operating since 2002 and has become a local institute.
Taking out 22nd place in the 'World's 50 Best Bars' in 2017, the Black Pearl continues to go from strength to strength.
Come the weekend it's hard to secure a seat. But once you do you'll be treated to a menu of perfectly crafted cocktails. There's also a somewhat hidden bar upstairs, appropriately called The Attic.
Bar Americano is 'Melbourne' in a nutshell. This mini cocktail bar is one of the city's best hidden laneway bars and fits just ten people.
They pay homage to the 'Golden Age' of drinking - the time of the American Bar. From the small menu, you can order a negroni that they claim 'is the best in the world.'
It's standing room only, so big groups are not recommended, nor do they take bookings.
Bar Americano can be a challenge to find, but it guarantees a true Melbourne experience: sipping delicious cocktails down a random laneway.
1806 celebrates the year that the word 'cocktail' was first in print. Since opening in 2007, 1806 has firmly cemented itself in Melbourne's cocktail scene.
The venue was previously a theatre restaurant, with the stage having being converted into the bar, however the mezzanine seating still remains.
They offer a selection of classic cocktails, all split in the era in which they were invented.
There is a small nibbles menu available, and if you're looking for a fun activity, 1806 also offers cocktail making masterclasses.
New Gold Mountain gets its name from the Victorian gold rush of the early 1850’s.
by 1851, many Chinese settlers had fled to Melbourne in the hopes of striking it rich in the gold mines, with many referring to Victoria as 'New Gold Mountain.'
NGM - the cocktail bar - took over a converted tailor's shop and fitted itself out with a modern opium-den-like interior.
The Asian element is obvious, but the Australian touch can be found on the cocktail menu, with a focus on Australian spirits.
This tiny cocktail bar is unassuming, but it's taken out a spate of awards, including 'best cocktail bar of 2020.'
Romeo Lane takes its name from the previous incarnation of Crossley St, when it was the city's red-light district and a hive of debauchery.
You'll find the classics on the menu, but also a lot of European style cocktails - think gin, sherry, and cognac. Both owners previously worked at Lily Blacks, where they perfected their craft.
Little Lon is the only distillery in the city centre. This tiny gin distillery operates inside a three-bedroom cottage built in 1877, once a brothel and the only building of its kind in Melbourne.
Little Lon produces three gin varieties, all of which can be enjoyed at their 20-seater bar. And if you love it, you can take a bottle home with you.
Little Lon also offers gin & cocktail masterclasses, if you'd like a more hands-on experience.
Bar Ampre sits in an operational electrical sub-station - but don't worry, you're in good hands.
Take a seat at this impressive circular bar, and settle in for a night of electric drinks. Out the back is the 'Swamp Room' - a secret escape covered in swampy greenery with an old-time piano.
The sister venue to Gin Palace, there's also a back passage that will take you straight next door - should you fancy a gin cocktail or two.
Juliet is an underground cocktail bar that showcases goods from local makers.
Descend the winding stairs into the dimly lit space, and select from mix of classic and modern cocktails.
You'll find espresso martinis, Americanos, and whiskey sours, as well as seven variations on the much-loved gin and tonic.
The kitchen is streets ahead of many other cocktail bars, with a selection of sharable nibbles, charcuterie, and melted raclette cheese served over baby kipfler potatoes.
Berlin takes themed bars to the next level.
One half represents East Berlin, under the regime of dictator Joseph Stalin; it's wartorn and dishevelled. The other side represents the West and runs under capitalism; it's covered in gems and oozes opulence.
Regardless of which side you pick, you can enjoy some delicious cocktails. They also have a large range of gin & tonic variations.
Berlin can be a little hard to find. Look for the glowing sign of a bear, then take the stairs and ring the doorbell. The staff will let you in when they're ready.
This cavernous bar is hiding underground, down the unassuming Driver Lane.
Appropriately named Beneath Driver Lane, this whisky and cocktail bar combines the old world with the new; arched ceiling, brick walls and marble pillars.
Originally the space was the vault to the nearby General Post Office.
Their cocktails are intricately crafted, using housemade ingredients and some featuring a topping of liquid nitrogen.
If you are a whisky fan, there's also a tasting vault that allows you to try some of their 160 whiskies.
Above Board is one of a kind.
There's no back-bar lined with bottles, in fact aside from the wooden bar, there's hardly anything to be seen at all. And there are only 12 seats; absolutely no standing allowed.
And yet, Above Board been recognised as one of the top 100 bars in the world.
To find this gem, head past Beer Mash, down Chopper Lane (it's not listed on Google Maps) and up the stairs.
There's a no booking policy, so best not to come with a large group.
Byrdi comes from the couple behind Singapore bar Operation Dagger - voted within the world's top 50 bars in both 2018 and 2019.
The setting is modern, minimal and allows the food and drinks to take centre stage.
Uniquely Australian ingredients are the focus at Byrdi; the cocktails feature seasonal ingredients and change regularly. It's impressive the amount of care that goes into each drink.
This cocktail bar is all about opulence.
Nick & Nora's is a cocktail and champagne bar inspired by the swanky, swinging times of the 1930's. The art deco styled space is massive, with a capacity of 240 people, across five separate rooms and two balconies.
It's from the same team as Eau de Vie, Boilermaker, and Mjølner - so expect expertly made cocktails with an element of flair.
If you want to sip champagne, a glass starts at around $17 and goes up to $2200 for a bottle of Salon Cuvée ‘S’ Blanc de Blancs.
Read our guide to the best themed bars in Melbourne.
Polly is a Fitzroy institution, shaking cocktails since 1999.
Inspired by the Paris of the 1920's, this plush lounge offers cocktails, absinthe, and cigars. You'll enter through their small courtyard, passing several statues of naked women. While inside you'll find red velvet couches and old oil paintings.
The cocktail menu has variety. There's the Melbourne Weather, a twist on a dark 'n stormy made with tea-infused gin. And the Hot Buttered Banana, served hot with banana rum.
There are over twenty other cocktails to choose from and a large portion can be made vegan, a welcome option for the Fitzroy crowd.
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