So, what’s all this bottling, barrel-aging and batching about? And where can you get some of the best cocktails in Melbourne that involve very little shaking, stirring or, um, anything other than sipping? Here’s what you should know…
#1: Not all pre-mixed cocktails taste awful.
When it comes to drinks, there’s a massive stigma around anything that’s premixed, largely because everyone’s first encounter with a bottled cocktail is a budget margarita mix that you could easily mistake for industrial disinfectant. When made with good-quality ingredients, mixed in the right proportions, bottled cocktails can be even tastier than freshly mixed ones, due to the ingredients having had time to blend together over time.
#2: No, it’s not cheating.
Unless you’re, like, really, really into all of that bottle-twirling stuff, when you go to a bar, you’re largely there to wrap your lips around a good drink, no? By serving bottled and barrel-aged cocktails, which are made in batches, bartenders can make sure that every drink tastes as delicious as the last, cutting down on error and letting them get recipes exactly right. Which ultimately means you’re less likely to get the dodgy trial run drink made by the trainee mixologist. Winner.
#3: You don’t have to wait around.
Bottled and barrel-aged cocktails let bars serve you a delicious drink faster. All of the work—the preparation of the ingredients, the blending and the tasting—goes into the cocktail before the day that it’s served on, making for slicker bar service that involves less queuing. And anything that means less time waiting around is good in our books.
#4: Got wood? (Yes, what the barrel is made of matters. A lot.)
Much like aging wine or whiskey, barrel aged cocktails take on particular characteristics of the barrel that they are aged in, making for deliciously rich and complex drinks that’ll have you drooling for days. Again, time is a key factor here—a cocktail that’s been aged in a barrel for three days will taste very different to one that’s been aged for three months. Whether it tastes better or worse is in the eye (or mouth?) of the beholder, but as with many whiskies, the older, the smoother the flavour will be.
Where can you find bottle and barrel aged cocktails in Melbourne?
Eau De Vie
Melbourne’s laneway cocktail mecca, Eau De Vie was one of the first bars in the city to begin bottling their delicious cocktails and selling them for at-home sipping. If you’re looking for a great cocktail in Melbourne—bottled, freshly made or otherwise—chances are you’ll find it here.
The Noble Experiment
Triple-threat Collingwood cocktail bar The Noble Experiment is home to the largest selection of bottled and barrel aged cocktails in Melbourne, largely thanks to head bartender Linus Schaxmann. Head to the venue’s top floor and you’ll find an entire drinks menu comprised of aged cocktails, some of which are over 18 months in the making. Our top tip: Ask Linus what he’d recommend and go for one of those.
One of the many hidden gems to be found in North Melbourne, Joe Taylor serves mouth-watering bottled cocktails and light bites in its Errol Street venue. Go for the cocktails, stay for the charcuterie board.
Hidden Fitzroy bar The Everleigh is widely regarded as serving some of the best cocktails in Melbourne when it comes to classic recipes and traditional styles. The table service venue began bottling its cocktails earlier last year which, when combined with their high-grade Navy Strength Ice Co. ice, make for very easy drinking. The perfect cocktail bar for kicking back and sipping a bottle aged drink at a leisurely pace.
Headed up by the team behind The Everleigh, Heartbreaker is the dirtier, more raucous sibling of the Fitzroy institution. In spite of the glaring neons, booming rock’n’roll and general air of debauchery, you’ll find exactly the same calibre of bottled cocktails here as you would in the inner north bar. Our go-to for something fast, fun and highly alcoholic.
The Rum Diary
Hamish Goonetilleke and The Rum Diary team never cease to impress us with their creativity when it comes to a stiff drink. Not only do they serve some impressive bottled and barrel aged drinks, they’re also spicing their own rum. If anyone knows how to get the most out of delicious top-shelf spirits, it’s these guys.
If you’re hankering after a drink, why not go for one of Melbourne’s best Margaritas? Or, if you’re still recovering from last night’s antics, maybe it’s time for one of Melbourne’s best Bloody Marys.
Image credit: Ariana Gillrie for The Urban List