If you listen to us (why wouldn't you?), and completely ignore your mum/nutritionist, freakshakes are having a moment. These pimped-up thick-shake monstrosities are piled high with what seems like the entirety of a kids 5th birthday party. Yet sometimes a sugar rush alone just doesn't cut it and when Friday night rolls around a rather more grown up tipple than chocolate milk is required. Bartenders have been experimenting with fun finishes forever; we're not talking about your standard martini olive or stray citrus twist now. Here are 8 of the most inventive, outlandish or just drop dead gorgeous cocktail garnishes from some of the best bars in Melbourne.
1. The Noble Experiment's Bathtub Gin
The Noble Experiment's brand new cocktail applies the Melbourne bar's usual experimental approach to the prohibition era concept of bathtub gin. Served in a miniature bathtub with a rubber ducky floating on top of spiced rhubarb "soap suds", this cocktail might just be the most amusing take on a G&T that you'll ever try! Creator Linus Schaxmann encourages drinkers to slurp this one up with a Japanese soup spoon rather than sip through a straw.
2. Bar Exuberante's Airmail
When does a garnish cross the line to becoming a social experiment? When you're at one of Matt Bax's bars of course. Despite the $30 price tag (worth it) Matt reckons Bar Exuberante pours at least 20 Airmail cocktails a night. The drink itself is made up of local rooftop honey, lemon, Champagne, and "a secret blend of very, very old rum". Your "garnish" comes in the form of a letter from an international bar and stationery to send your own back. Thousands of letters have been exchanged with Le Lion (Hamburg), The Artesian (London), Attaboy (New York) and Goldene Bar (Munich) so far and Singapore's 28 Hong Kong Street will join in the new year. Because boozy pen pals are the best pens pals.
3. Eau de Vie's The Aviator
Eau de Vie have just overhauled their entire cocktail menu –consider this your heads up for the weekend ahead—but The Aviator will definitely be staying. A play on the classic Aviation cocktail, The Aviator swaps rhubarb and juniper for the traditional cherry and violet flavours. It's topped with an adorable fairy floss cloud and a tiny paper plane (aiming it at that cute barfly nearby is one way to start a conversation).
4. Lady Carolina's Inca Punch
As the new Latino kid on the block, Lady Carolina is serving up some fresh-looking "cocteles" from its rum and pisco bar. Their Inca Punch looks particularly spectacular as its combo of pisco, fruit, and chicha morada syrup plus incaberries (what your grandma would know as gooseberries) comes served in hollowed out cocoa pod.
5. The Mill House's Stories from the Sea The Kraken Vs White Whale
The ultimate drink garnish? Another drink! The Mill House's entry on this list has an epic name in ode to an epic fictional battle. The drink features Kraken black spiced rum plus maple and cinnamon and to finish a Murray's Whale Ale beer—bottle and all –upended into it.
6. Hanoi Hannah's Vietnamese Bloody Mary
Making the best-looking Bloody Mary in town is a hard-fought category as they are often garnished with a kitchen sink of crispy bacon, mini-burgers, or even fried pickles these days. Shouts-out to Dr Morse and Mr Scruff's, but we're tipping the Vietnamese Bloody Mary at Hanoi Hannah as today's victor. It's finished with a trio of house-made spring rolls. Bar snacks sorted. Hanoi Hannah's Simon Blacher says "add heaps of Sriracha as it's better than tabasco!"
7. Toko's Sashimi Tini
Another in the bar-snacks-turned-garnish category is Toko's Sashimi Tini. comprising vodka's Japanese cousin shochu, Australian gin and a bite of ginger liqueur this 'tini is topped with bonus sashimi in the form of a skewer of salmon dipped in wasabi.
8. Press Club Saganaki Martini
Dish or drink? We're not sure which category this love child of gazpacho soup and a martini falls into. But who really cares when you can get delicious fried saganaki cheese as a garnish (and all that gin goodness too)! Recently dubbed one of Melbourne's most influential dishes, we salt-tooths have to give George Calombaris some love for this savoury invention which is dished up at Press Club. Yes, you still get your martini olives, only not as you'd expect.
Looking for something a little less challenging? Check out Melbourne's Best Margaritas.
Image credit: Toko, Hanoi Hannah, The Mill House, Lady Carolina, The Noble Experiment