Some flights take you to amazing new places. Other flights—the kind you get at a bar—take your tastebuds to amazing new places. These flights comprise sample sizes of several types of a particular food or beverage; a wine flight, for example, might contain four shirazes from four different vineyards or vintages, while a beer flight might include three different brands of lager. They're a great way to try a few variations on a theme and work out which one you like best. Melbourne's best bars offer flights of everything from gin to cheese—with flights like these, you won't need a boarding pass to put your tastebuds on a higher plane.
Milk the Cow
St Kilda & Carlton
If you're taking selfies here, don't say cheese—say chevre. Or Roquefort. Or any of the other 150-odd cheeses stocked at this delightful fromagerie, where you can indulge in a cheese and booze flight so good you'll wonder why you don't eat here every night. At Milk the Cow’s St Kilda and Carlton outposts, four cheeses are paired with four wines—or four beers, whiskies, ciders, sakes or fortified wines, depending on which flight you've chosen—and a brief explanation of each is given before you tuck in. If you really give edam about cheese, ask the staff for more info—they could milk the subject until the cows come home.
With its classy Chesterfields, dramatic red velvet curtains framing a well-stocked bar and a drinks menu spanning the past few centuries of cocktails, 1806 has a well-earned rep as one of Melbourne's best cocktail bars. But did you know it also offers five different whisky flights, including a selection from Ardbeg, a flight of the good stuff from various Islay distilleries, and even a range of rare American whiskies? Well, now you know—so go forth and try some whisky business.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor! Or should that be one flight of tequila, thanks, to get you acquainted with three types of tequila—blanco ('silver' or unaged tequila), reposado (aged in oak barrels for at least two months) and anejo (vintage). Over the years tequila's reputation has changed from ‘that drink with the worm’ to that of a premium liquor, and it's fast becoming one of the coolest drinks around. Still don't know the difference between what you got wasted on at a uni party and the small-batch, 100% agave tequilas on offer at hip Melbourne Mexican restaurant, Touché Hombre? Order the flight—and please, don't ask for a lime wedge and salt. The lick, shot and suck thing is only for low-grade tequila. Touché!
Wanna try three top-notch Yarra Valley wines for $20? Get out of town. Specifically, get out to Healesville and try either a red or white wine flight at the massive, modern Innocent Bystander restaurant/wine bar/providore. This lively spot offers moreish tapas and flavoursome pizzas, plus—of course—a huge range of local and international wines. Pro tip: have a wine flight with a few tapas for entree, then choose which one you like best and order a glass (or bottle) of it to have with your main. They're all ‘I'll take a case’-worthy, though, so you might want to keep drinking and check into a nearby B&B to avoid the long drive home. It's a bit of a trek out here, but with gorgeous pastoral scenery and several cellar doors along the way, we reckon it's worth it.
After the Tears
Ever wondered why this Polish restaurant and vodka bar has such an odd name? Logic dictates it's because it was opened after its sister venue, Borsch Vodka & Tears in Windsor, had been around for a while. But the more drunkenly romantic notion says it's because vodka enthusiasts will be crying with happiness when they read the phone-book-length vodka menu—and that after the tears have dried up, they'll be doing some serious drinking. Choose a flight from the myriad options available at After the Tears, and three shots will be delivered in overflowing, thimble-size crystal glasses. Not sure where to start? The menu's divided into such categories as ‘honey and spice and all things nuts’, ‘herbal’ and ‘fruit’– why not try three from each section and see which one's your favourite. It's a surefire way to turn tears into cheers at this awesome Melbourne bar.
You're after a gin flight. Your friend craves a whisky flight. And you both want to try Australian-made spirits. Don’t fret—Bad Frankie’s got you covered. This cosy Fitzroy bar, which specialises in locally made spirits and mouthwatering jaffles galore, offers flights of five 10ml pours—so you can mix and match from the menu and sample everything in sight. If only they offered jaffle flights, too…
Polly wants a cracker of a night out. As one of Melbourne’s most beloved cocktail bars, she offers decadent drinks in a baroque setting. And on Sundays, she goes all out with absinthe tastings conducted by her good friends, All Things Absinthe (www.allthingsabsinthe.com). Strictly speaking, these are classes about absinthe, not just flights of the green stuff. But with four types of absinthe on offer plus a fascinating look at the history and myths surrounding this much-maligned drink, we couldn't resist including it on this list of Melbourne’s best booze flights.
With five craft beers and a cider on tap, it can be hard to choose what to drink at Blackmans. So when you're handed the drinks menu, let your fight-or-flight response kick in and go for the flight, which allows you to taste ‘em all for a measly $16. Every drink here is named after a family member; the friendly staff will explain that you should start with the palest drink, Winnie (a refreshing, slightly tart cider), and finish with the darkest, Arthur (a full-on smoked porter). In between you'll try lagers and ales—and we recommend you try the gastropub-style food here, too.
Whether you're just be-gin-ning your love affair with gin or you're ginuinely passionate about it, Gin Palace is the Melbourne bar to go for some ginspired drinking. The martinis are legendary; trying every cocktail on the lengthy list should be every gin buff's life goal; and the staff know the nuances of every type of gin in the house. That's no mean feat, since there's a few hundred gins on offer. If you're not sure which one you'll like best in your g & t, ask for a gin flight to help you choose your favourite. After a long day, it might be just the tonic you need.
Sake flights more your thing? Read on...
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