If you don’t regularly head off on a hunt for Melbourne’s best hidden bars, can you really call yourself a Melbourne native? We say no.
To celebrate the cinema release of ‘Live by Night’ on Australia Day—a sweeping ‘20s gangster tale written, directed, and starring Ben Affleck, that’s sure to have you knocking back some prohibition worthy moonshine in your favourite dark Melbourne bar after viewing—we’ve rounded up all of our favourite hidden bars and speakeasies in Melbourne. Because the only thing that makes a great Melbourne bar even better is the smug satisfaction of knowing you discovered it first.
Home to some of Melbourne’s best cocktails, Bar 1806 is hidden behind a single illuminated doorway and among the theatres and Chinese restaurants on Exhibition street. Here, top shelf spirits are king and cocktails are their specialty, with faves like an espresso martini taking pride of place on the menu as well as a classic (and timeless) whisky sour. If you’re in the mood to work for your cocktail, you can learn the tricks of the trade at one of their cocktail masterclasses as well.
Back Alley Sally’s
Back Alley Sally’s is an abandoned warehouse turned Westside watering hole and is basically Melbourne’s answer to great bar without the commute. The bar is perched on top of sister shop Slice Girls West, which serves—you guessed it—fab pizza. Once you’ve treated yo’self to an apple pie pizza, head upstairs for the main event and order yourself a Bulldog’s Bark (Kraken spiced rum, ginger beer and lime) or Cider Collada (Monteith’s apple cider, 1800 coconut tequila, pineapple juice and lime). Go on, you know you’ve earned it.
The Attic At Black Pearl
The Attic is a not-so-secret Fitzroy bar, tucked upstairs from another bar, Black Pearl. Inspired by the speakeasies in America’s deep south, the decor at The Attic definitely fits the bill, with deep wood and dark leather accents, hanging antique lighting and of course, top notch liquor. Our hot tip is to keep things clean with a whisky tasting or go all out with a Death Flip cocktail—they won’t even tell you what’s in it, so you know it’s going to be good.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
Huge New York style pizzas are ALWAYS a good idea, but throw in a hidden bar and you’ll have us coming back week after week. Pizza Pizza Pizza is exactly that and behind the scenes is a sneaky retro-inspired bar serving hard liquor and a mean negroni. The secret is to ask for the ‘secret menu’, try not to sound like a total creep, and hope they bless you with entry.
Technically Sister Bella is sitting on Drewery Place, but you’ll have to scoot around the side and enter via the roller door on Sniders Lane—thus the whole ‘hidden bar’ thing. To find the roller door, you’ll have to walk down to the very end of the laneway and keep an eye out for the huge Kimmy K mural, enter through the roller door and head up the stairs into the lofty, wood clad bar. By now, you’ve earned a cocktail or two and a competitive game of connect four, Jenga or UNO because they’ve got those too.
Head through the freezer door at Boston Sub to find Jungle Boy. As the name suggests, it’s a hidden bar with a jungle feel and an impressive collection of tiki glasses to match. This bar isn’t just for the boys though, with a wall to wall exposed brick fit out and an impressive selection Jungle-themed fruity cocktails with cute names. Our top picks are the Nuclear Colada and Bird Is The Word No.2. Enough said, really.
The Croft Institute
The clinical feel at The Croft Institute goes further than the name and fit out, with cocktails served straight from syringes and science experiments as decoration. The clinical theme carries all the way through to the—terrifying—bathroom, complete with old school hospital beds and intense metal sink to match. Don’t let all this put you off though, because there’s also top level gymnasium-style dance floor and the drinks are damn good.
Loch and Key
Hidden behind a bookcase at Melbourne’s oldest pub, Captain Melville, Loch and Key is a dimly lit bar with slight gentleman’s club vibes happening. If you don’t consider yourself a gentleman, then still head here for The Thistle cocktail (Amaro Montenegro, rye, calvados, PX sherry, Angostura bitters, lemon juice) or keep it simple with a boutique beer, of which they have an impressive selection. It’ll be oh-so-worth it.
Berlin Bar is a timeless encapsulation of postmodern culture, with a double-barreled bar, divided by—you guessed it—a wall, separating the opulent West, from gritty East. On the West side, you’ll find plush booths and on the East, war-stricken crates and grenades. This is a cocktail bar where all drinks are cleverly named and Berlin themed, as expected. Go for the The Split States (house sangria) for a chilled night, or fully commit and order a Brandenburg Gate; passion fruit and Rhubarb with sweet bourbon, citrus fruit and subtle notes of Absinthe and Carrot.
The sister bar to NYC’s Milk and Honey, The Everleigh is tucked away on Gertrude Street, serving some of the city's best cocktails. You’ll enter through the American diner at the front and will be whisked straight into the golden era, complete with old school cash register and an impressive collection of spirits. These guys are true cocktail purists, so you can bet your bourbon that their Manhattan and Old Fashioned are the goods.
Glamp Cocktail Bar
Glamp Cocktail Bar is a double whammy venue that’s part cocktail bar, part African restaurant. Hidden above street level, you’ll find Glamp hiding behind a neon lit doorway on Little Collins street and once you walk in, you’ll understand the name. Think hanging lanterns, carved wooden seating, and an impressive selection of African beers. In case you need further persuasion, they also serve $10 cocktails, DAILY. Yep.
Goldilocks is the bar hidden above a cottage on Swanston Street and they are single-handedly keeping the fairy tale dream alive. Case in point is the killer view over the city. They not only serve a mean tiki cocktail, but the food is worth a look in as well. The menu is on constant rotation, but you can expect to find winners like ‘three little pig’ pork belly sliders and truffled popcorn on the menu.
Hidden behind an alleyway, behind an alleyway, you’ll know when you find Bar Americano once you spot the blue TABACCHI sign. The effort will be well worth it once you hit the bar and start making your way through their drinks list, which is cocktails only and strictly specialises in the classic (sorry espresso martini lovers). Head here for a Pisco Sour that’s well worth writing home about, trust us.
'Live by Night' is hitting cinemas on Australia day, so our hot tip is to head off and see the movie, before sneaking into one of these hidden bars to live the movie for yourself. Head here for all of the 'Live by Night' deets (including session times) so you can start planning your night out.
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Image credit: Josie Withers at The Attic at Black Pearl