The term ‘cocktail’ is all too frequently thrown around Melbourne’s bar scene. While some venues call anything with a mint leaf or slice of cucumber tossed into it by this hallowed name, others twin it with some horrible premixed gunk served in a fancy-ish glass. And don’t even get me started on the price tag. But if there’s one Melbourne bar that’s doing cocktails right—and that’s shaking up its foodie offering, thanks to an ex-elBulli chef—it’s CBD drinking institution Bar 1806.
Having been serving Melbourne’s most discerning drinkers with delicious cocktails for the past nine years—something that only a handful of inner city bars can lay claim to—Bar 1806’s mysterious Exhibition Street doorway has introduced many a thirsty visitor to a new favourite drink or a rediscovered classic. Unless you’ve dared to venture through its illuminated doorway (yep, it’s the one with the light bulbs perched around its awning), you’d probably never guess that hidden away amongst the CBD’s theatres and Asian eateries is one of Melboune’s top cocktail meccas. Here, top-shelf booze is king, and comes served to you while sitting at a luxe cocktail table, or while seated on a Chesterfield lounge.
The secret to 1806’s wizardry lies in the hands of its staff. The team here are bona fide enthusiasts when it comes to what goes into your glass, which means not only can they make a damn tasty Espresso Martini, they’re also not afraid to introduce you to new flavor combos that will have you drooling for days. Whether it’s rare Japanese whisky that floats your boat, or a minty-fresh mojito that you’re keen to wrap your mouth around, you’ll definitely walk out of hear having learned a thing or two about the drink in hand, *and* about your own tastes.
Keen to learn more than just a few tid-bits of knowledge? The Bar 1806 team are champing at the bit to teach budding cocktail enthusiasts exactly how its done, starting with classic drinks that, in an ideal world, everyone should be able to whip up at a moment’s notice. Their cocktail master classes—run for groups of two, right up to 25—are part bar school, part social event, all-round deliciousness, and include hands-on tuition when it comes to learning to make (and drink) two classic cocktails. Naturally, we tried making an Espresso Martini—AKA our lifeblood—and a whisky sour, both of which we’d mastered by the end of our session and got to enjoy with a cheeseboard once the learning was over.
And the cheeseboard isn’t the only thing worth eating on the venue’s latest reworking of the menu. With the help of Nuno Mendes Gabriel, a world-renowned chef who’s worked at a host of internationally acclaimed restaurants, Bar 1806 has ditched the bar snacks and is now serving some of the best ‘eat with a vino, beer or cocktail’ plates in the city. Think traditional dishes that have been turned up to eleven in terms of quality and decadence.
We’re talking Scotch eggs served with black garlic aioli, buttery pork hock sausage rolls, juicy spiced lamb cutlets and the most mouth-watering garlic and chilli king prawns that we’ve had this year—no joke. If you’re a foodie with a penchant for drinks that are on par with what’s on your fork, this is one under-the-radar menu that you need to add to your must-try list, before tables start booking out.
Like any self-respecting Melbourne hot-spot, the degustation is a sure-fire way to guarantee you’ll be stuffed to the gills with every tasty morsel, we’re also huuuuuge fans of the a la carte options—perfect for snacking on during those evenings when you’re not sure how late you’ll be out, but inevitably end up catching an Uber at 1:07am and spend the ride home thanking the nightlife gods that you actually had something to eat.
Whether you’re looking for a venue that’s got food AND drink clout, hunting for a date spot that’s intimate enough for a chat but spacious enough that the table next to you won’t Tweet your convo, or keen for a bar that’ll cater to your next group shindig, not a fruit punch in sight, this cocktail institution keeps on coming up with the goods, over a decade since its conception. Bar 1806, we’re looking forward to sharing the next decade with you.
To book a table, degustation or cocktail masterclass at Bar 1806, visit the website.
Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by Bar 1806 and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.
Image credit: Griffin Simm for The Urban List