Melbourne’s bar scene is well and truly alive and kicking, and there’s nothing we love more than a bar that’s supporting locally made booze, as well as serving the best of the worldwide rest. Whether they’re hidden behind secret doors, serving drool-worthy food that’s put the 3000 postcode on the map, or generally shaking up the nightlife scene with cocktails poured into the wee hours, we owe them a hell of a lot of gratitude for dealing with our birthday celebrations/impromptu bar crawls/3am tears (or maybe that’s just me?).
Here are the top 10 most Melbourne bars out there, serving top drinks including our favourite Melbourne-made spirit, a Starward whisky, proudly made in Australia's food capital.
#1: Bad Frankie
JAFFLES! ALCOHOL! GOOD TIMES! Bad Frankie is one of Fitzroy’s best bars that some might say is off the beaten track. The side-street bar serves up incredible cocktails, beers and wines in its small but perfectly formed bar, situated just off Smith Street. These dudes invented the lamington jaffle, so they definitely know what’s up when it comes to bar snacks too.
We’re suckers for the ‘Whatever It Takes’, which mixes whisky, lemon juice, egg whites, sugar and a dash of Mr Bitters’ (yep, another Melbourne producer!) fig and cinnamon bitters—the only thing you should be drinking if you plan on tucking into that lamington bad boy.
#2: Whisky & Alement
Whisky and Alement is a Melbourne institution—in fact, if you haven’t discovered this tiny spirit-lovers’ mecca, we should probably revoke your Melburnian status. With a hearty selection of drinks on offer, you’re sure to find something special here, as well as a cracking bottle shop that’s open late, seven days a week. When we’re staying for a couple, we opt for the New World Sour, a twist on the whisky sour that includes a dash of chocolate bitters.
#3: The Woods Of Windsor
This Windsor cocktail bar has been serving up top-notch drinks to locals for several years now, and we simply can’t knock its commitment to the winning combo of oysters and drinks. The Woods of Windsor are purists when it comes to just about everything here, so you can expect your whisky served in a Melbourne-designed spirit glass by local company Denver & Liely, neat, with a side of water for you softies.
#4: The Black Pearl
If you haven’t heard of The Black Pearl before now, you’d better get back to cocktail school, pronto. This Fitzroy bar combines the best of old-world cocktail culture (read: good service and top-shelf liquor) with Fitzroy’s new-world nightlife vibe. Expect incredible drinks, including classics such as an Old Fashioned with a Melbourne twist, a beautiful velvet and marble interior, and an in-the-know crowd.
Hint: It’s ALWAYS worth sweet talking them to see if they’ll take you upstairs to The Attic. Just make sure you have your credit card to hand…
Lobster rolls, a karaoke room and *that* peanut butter parfait that just keeps us coming back, time and time again. Flinders Lane’s Supernormal has to be on our list—I mean, who doesn’t catch sight of that famous neon signage and immediately begin drooling?! Pull up a seat at the bar and pair your slice of peanut butter heaven with an espresso or, better yet, a neat whisky for a match made in laneway heaven.
#6: Jungle Boy
It’s a bar, hidden behind a sandwich bar, that you access via a fridge. If it was going to exist anywhere in the world, it’d be Melbourne. Jungle Boy serves up some mean cocktails in its secret bar, which comes complete with courtyard. But you’d better get in early if you’re hankering after a dram or two as it tends to fill up at peak times such as weekends. One of Melbourne’s worst kept secrets that’s also one of the city’s best kept bars. Whoudda thunk it?
#7: Joe Taylor
Another bar in Melbourne that’s nailing old school style with some new world flair, we can’t get enough of North Melbourne drinking hole, Joe Taylor. The drinks here are always on point and, better yet, the kitchen serves up some incredible nibbles including charcuterie, house pickles and kipfler potato wedges. Our winter bevvy of choice is their whisky Solera, made with cinnamon stewed apples, Starward whisky and a dash of Applejack brandy. Cheers, Joe!
#8: Pilgrim Bar
Melbourne’s defined by the river that runs through it (c’mon, how many northside vs. southside arguments have you had to weigh in on?!), but when it comes to using those riverbanks wisely, we’re #blessed with a plethora of waterside bars. Our pick of the bunch for an afternoon or evening tipple is Pilgrim. Although famed for breaking the internet with the announcement of their gin festival, they also pour a mean Starward Re-fashioned, which mixes whisky, pecan-infused maple syrup, and bitters. We’ll have eight, thanks.
#9: Brunswick Mess Hall
If you’re bringing your whole posse out for a few jars, you can’t beat Brunswick Mess Hall. This northside bar and eatery is all about pairing your drinks with tasty Thai-inspired food in its high-ceilinged dining hall, complete with banquet table. They don’t scrimp on the servings either. Last time we dropped in here for a Starward, we were pretty much served a bucket of whisky and Montenegro, aka. The Rusty Rodeo cocktail. Which is the answer to all of life’s problems, right?
#10: Boilermaker House
Run by the same team as Melbourne cocktail institution Eau De Vie, Boilermaker House ticks all of our boxes for its truly mind-blowing stock of spirits, and its drool-worthy nibbles that put pretty much every charcuterie plate and cheese board in Melbourne to shame. The venue itself has enough room for your whole crowd (What’s that? You’ve a birthday on the horizon?), and the carefully selected list of boilermakers makes for the best beer and whisky pairings in the city. If you’re going for a smooth Essendon drop, make sure you’re drinking it with something dark—the ultimate in alcohol indulgence.
Keen to try Starward straight form the source? Check out New World Whisky Distillery, where you will find Starward distillery tours, tastings and a fully-stocked bar.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey White and Michelle Jarni for The Urban List, Carmen Zammit
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