Bars & Pubs

The Best Cocktail Bars Melbourne 2023

By Simon Cassar
25th Oct 2023

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When the clock hits cocktail hour you don't want to be messing around with watery espresso martinis or a heavy-handed Negroni. Thanks to Melbourne/Naarm's stellar culinary and bar scene there are some seriously good spots around the city to get a glass in hand.
 
From hidden watering holes to some serious first-class swank, there are several spots worth pulling up a stool at. Here are Urban List's picks for the best cocktail bars Melbourne (Naarm) has to offer in 2023:

Apollo Inn 

165 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 

A heavy curtain leading into one of best cocktail bars Melbourne.Image credit: Apollo Inn | Earl Carter 

The newest cocktail bar to ingratiate itself in Melbourne, Apollo Inn is the very swish sister venue to Gimlet on Flinders Lane. With space for 30 the somewhat clandestine bar provides a prohibition-era feel as you enter through the doorway and heavy curtain revealing an intimately spaced and dimly lit New York speakeasy-style bar. 

Inside the white-jacketed bar staff shave ice by hand, mix cocktails from established classics including four types of martini to more contemporary numbers, and speciality aperitifs like the French Picon Biere (Chinotto, blood orange and beer). While not a complete diner, an array of snacks and plates including hand-shucked oysters, prawn cocktail, potato focaccia and even a revelatory creme caramel. 

Bar Jayda 

19 Bond Street, Melbourne

A shopfront with a large red awning lit up at night, one of the best cocktail bars Melbourne. Image credit: Bar Jayda | Kristoffer Paulsen 

Bar Jayda is the latest venture from Shane Delia, an elevated cocktail bar adjoined to Shane's foremost diner, Maha. The all-new venue is an extension of the acclaimed restaurant, differing in aesthetics but undoubtedly linked. 

On the cocktail menu, there's a slew of seasonal mixtures all designed by award-winning mixologist and bartender Orlando Marzo including an old fashion with a spicy Ras El Hanout twist or the red Aleppo pepper margarita—a bridge between the middle-eastern flavours of Maha and the contemporary cocktail bar. If you're heading in ensure that a serving of the focaccia with za'atar and whipped ricotta is involved. 

Caretaker's Cottage

139-141 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

You'll find Caretaker's Cottage nestled comfortably behind Wesley Place Church in the CBD, and staying true to the label, this pot-sized watering hole was in fact once a Caretaker's Cottage. Come 2023, the spot resembles something not too dissimilar to a (very small) pub with what could be considered one of Melbourne's most dialled cocktail lists—and with the calibre of the team, it makes sense. 

Owners Ryan Noreiks, Rob Uldis Libecan and Matthew Stirling have come from Carlton Wine Room, Pipi's Kiosk and Above Board respectively, so you can understand why the drinks lists covers a full spectrum of classics to the more adventurous. At its heart, however, it's still a pub, and that's why you can always grab yourself a Guinness on tap, too.

Above Board

Chopper Lane, 1/306 Smith Street, Collingwood

When Above Board opened at the end of 2016, there was a feeling that, maybe, the best bar in Melbourne’s bar was here. Hayden Lambert’s Above Board arguably accomplished the impossible: it took Melbourne by surprise. The first trick was finding the damn thing. 

You had to go down the stairs at Beermash and follow the discreet signage or find the unmarked door on Chopper Lane (just off Perry Street). And when you finally get to Above Board, you’re met with a long timber island bar in a moody basement with 20 signature cocktails on offer. That’s it. No real gimmicks or architectural flourishes, just good times. 

Navi Lounge

83b Gamon Street, Yarraville

A sleek concrete and wood interior of a cocktail bar Melbourne.Image credit: Navi (supplied)

Attached to the acclaimed fine diner in Yarraville, Navi Lounge is more of a laid-back space to commune and congregate. Channelling the same slick dark-toned and concrete-accented aesthetic of the restaurant, the bar is a smaller-scale space with 18 seats. You can elect to park up along the bar or opt for the cushioned leather couch that lines the wall of the venue with the thick spherical marble slab tables. 

On the menu is a more paired-back offering from the restaurant eight-course degustation with a select array of smaller sharing-style plates and snacks. 

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Nick & Nora's

80 Collins Street via, 11 Benson Walk, Melbourne

Bringing that early 19th-century glamour to the cocktail bars Melbourne community, Nick & Nora's is the more ostentatious cocktail and champagne outpost from the team behind Boilermaker and Eau de Vie. Inside the Gatsby-era aesthetic of the bar, a myriad of art deco-style furnishings fills the space alongside glass display cabinets filled with bubbles, charcuterie and more. 

There are over 50 different champagne and bubbles on the list and The bar is lined with bottles of practically every booze you could think of. The range of signature cocktails here has all broken down into select flavour profile segments of the menu from dialled-up standards, bubble-infused numbers, sours and party starters. 

The Everleigh 

Level 1/150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

A large long bar lined with bottles at a top cocktail bar melbourne. Image credit: The Everleigh | Gareth Sobey

Melbourne’s unofficial home of olde-worlde drinking charm. No list of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars would be complete without the city’s Grand Dame: The Everleigh

This place started back in 2011 when Melbourne’s cocktail scene was really starting to percolate, perched high above Fitzroy's Gertrude Street, and watched over by owners Michael and Zara Madrusan. Ten years later, having won Australian Bartender Cocktail Bar of the Year (2018) and Best Victorian Bar of the Year (2019), after two renovations and forays into bottling, books and even hand-cut ice, it’s still arguably the city’s finest cocktail bar. 

Dom’s Social Club

1/301 Swanston Street, Melbourne

A table with pizza and wine at a best cocktail bar melbourne venue. Image credit: Dom's Social Club | Kate Shanasy 

Run by some of Melbourne’s premier hospitalitarians, including Tom Peansell of Nico’sDexter and The Keys. The CBD-based Dom’s Social Club was an instant success. With three levels with three very distinct styles, you can spend an entire night at Dom’s and have a change of scenery all in the one spot. 

The first level of the CBD cocktail destination is the diner, with serious early 20th-century charm, tiled floors, and dark stained wooden tables. Here you can sink back a cocktail alongside some of Melbourne's best pizzas. The second floor is the public bar, adorned with yesteryear memorabilia and a pool table it’s a laid-back space. Finally, the rooftop, where summer negronis and starlit Melbourne skylines go down a treat. An easy inclusion on the best cocktail bars Melbourne round up. 

Black Pearl 

304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

A bartender preparing drinks at a top cocktail bar in MelbourneImage credit: Black Pearl (supplied) 

This place arguably kick-started Melbourne’s entire modern-day drinking culture. It literally won the world’s Best International Cocktail Bar in 2017, and it’s churned out more famous bartenders than any other institution in Australia, all nurtured under the eye of owner, Tash Conte. 

There’s no point in giving you drink recommendations because the Pearl changes seasonally. Bartenders here are encouraged to experiment. One night you’ll find a frozen cosmopolitan, the next it’ll be bourbon and bananas. Just sit up at that gorgeous old bar and drink whatever they put in front of you. 

Eau di Vie 

1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne

A person smiling while serving cocktails and one of the best cocktails bars Melbourne cbdImage credit: Eau di Vie (supplied)

One of Melbourne’s former best-kept secretsEau De Vie has handfuls of swank. The semi-prohibition-style bar with its difficult-to-find and strong speakeasy aesthetic has cemented it as one of the top cocktail bars Melbourne has. The trick with Eau de Vie is getting there early and carving out your space: maybe a comfy chair in the whisky lounge, or some prize stools up near the bar. 

Alongside a hefty selection of classic cocktails, there’s also a sizeable food menu with duck rillettes, charcuterie boards and more, helping you keep your wits about you. Eau de Vie might not be a secret anymore, but its secret sauce remains intact. 

Gimlet 

33 Russell Street, Melbourne 

A bartender in a white shirt pouring a bottle at a cocktail bar Melbourne cbd. Image credit: Gimlet | Jo McGann

Poised with enough early 20th-century charm to transport right back in time to a New York or Paris of yesteryear, Gimlet is a cocktail destination like no other. The Andrew McConnell diner is famed as a Melbourne eatery but also serves as one of the best cocktail bars in Melbourne. 

Adorned in checkered tiles, dark-stained wood, booth seating and a wrap-around bar. On the cocktail front, you can expect a refined selection with several inventive options like the white negroni, with Tanqueray gin and Suze (French bitter Aperitif).

Bar Margaux 

Basement/111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

A bar with a yellow board filled with bottles at a cocktail bar in Melbourne.Image credit: Bar Margaux | Annika Kafcouldis 

Paris meets New York in this subterranean bar on Lonsdale Street. Think classic French cuisine, then add some art deco tiles and mirrors, leather couches, a timber bar and super sophisticated cocktails, and you get Bar Margaux

Anything on the menu is sure to be a winner, but if you’re a bit on the indecisive side, then the bartenders are there to help you decide—they’ll even make you a custom off-menu drink to suit your cravings.

Siglo 

 2/161 Spring Street, Melbourne

A rooftop bar with a colour sign, a top cocktail bar in Melbourne CBD.Image credit: Siglo (supplied) 

Siglo absolutely beams with class. The rooftop bar on Spring Street looks out onto Victoria’s Parliament House and is housed in one of the most culturally rich pockets of the CBD with the Supper Club, and The European below. 

Heading to Siglo is a Melbourne rite of passage—sampling some of the best cocktails in Melbourne amongst the varied crowds which often includes celebrities, Melbourne icons, and hospitality veterans of the CBD. Designed as an open-air cigar bar you’ll find an extensive list of cocktails, whiskeys, wine as well as cigars straight from the humidor. 

Poodle 

81-83 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

A person standing at a green marble bar, a best cocktail bar melbourne contenderImage credit: Poodle | Derek Swalwell 

One of the biggest openings of 2020, Poodle Bar & Bistro has become one of the hottest spots in Melbourne. The two-level diner on Gertrude Street is bolstered by its fanciful upstairs cocktail bar—a tidy yet intimate space with a chic art-deco design. 

With a dark green marble bar and painted brick walls and open fireplace, it’s a perfect spot for knocking back a few. On the drinks front, the varied and extensive list of cocktails ranges from wildcards like the ‘White Ferrari’, with Cocchi Americano (a sweet and spiced wine), Tanqueray gin, and Lilet Blanc. To our personal favourite, the ‘Pineapple Gimmiez’ with gin pineapple and lime— a classic in its own right. 

1806

169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

A red curtain bar, a shelves lined with bottles a top cocktail bar Melbourne. Image credit: 1806 (supplied)

Bar 1806 (named after the year in which ‘cocktails’ first appeared) sits alongside Gin Palace and Black Pearl as one of Melbourne’s OG renaissance bars. It opened back in 2007, when most Victorians considered a dirty martini pretty avant-garde. It was exciting and different and even a little decadent. 

The cocktail list was a decade-by-decade tour through the history of alcohol. The bartenders were allowed to experiment and push the envelope. And the mood was just right: low lighting, low music, and plenty of space for conversation. To this day, not much has changed. If you want something more private, check out The Understudy—a private drinking room with its own menu.

Byrdi 

211 La Trobe Street, Tenancy GD075, Melbourne

A person mixing a cocktail at one of Melbourne's best cocktail bars CBD. Image credit: Byrdi | Hayden Cattach

Simple. Refined. Elegant. In just three words you know all you need to know about Byrdi. The CBD bar has a unique approach to its menu, integrating local and native ingredients. Drinks-wise, you’ll find experimental cocktails and highballs with dynamic blends including the fermented, fortified, and smoked Yarra Valley Pear, with Strangelove pear soda. 

As well as the drinks, Byrdi also has a spanking food menu which has helped cement it as one of the best cocktail bars in Melbourne. The food menu features several tasty dishes that pair perfectly with whatever is in your glass. Check out the prawn toast with pepper berry mayo or the stracciatella with Baker Bleu sourdough. 

Have we forgotten your favourite saloon? Let us know. 

Looking for more of Melbourne's best: 

Main Image Credit: Gimlet | Sharyn Cairns

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