Barman and owner Max Ware always knew he wanted to open a bar after years of experience in other prominent Melbourne destinations. He just wasn’t sure what kind of bar.
“We didn’t want to open and be like, ‘Hey, this is what we are,’” he says. “Instead we opened and let Richmond tell us what they wanted. Turns out they wanted gin.”
Bowerbird is the city’s newest gin saloon—a beautiful little operation on Bridge Rd, just near the Church St intersection. Max has been running it softly softly for a little while, just feeling out the local crowd, testing his cocktail list, honing the concept. And now, it’s settled on a path: local spirits, local wine and plenty of gin.
The fit-out is...refreshing. We drop by on a sweltering Melbourne afternoon, sweat trickling down our spine, but inside Bowerbird the A/C is cranked. A shady little oasis, with some regulars sitting up at the bar, shooting the sh*t with Max. Architecturally designed by Max’s fiancé Victoria, the wood in here is all salvaged Victorian Ash and the bar top, a ridiculously smooth bluestone. Exposed Richmond brick, blue bar stools, a few mid-century pieces and protruding Mark Douglass pendants round out the aesthetic nicely. One word struts to mind: ‘confident’.
Bowerbird will be slinging mezze-style share plates from January (Max is torn on calling it ‘tapas’, but what the hell). Think little bar nibbles and appetizers, sourced from Spain, the Mediterranean and northern Africa. In the meantime, it’s cocktail hour, and Bowerbird’s bar is something pretty special.
“We want to stock as much local Victorian spirits, beer and wine as we can,” Max says. “Everything local. The bar is currently home to 36 Victorian gins from 16 distilleries and they’ve “got a few new Victorian gins coming in next week, actually.”
What does that mean? It means tap ales from Barrow Boys, Wolf of the Willows and a Bodriggy Chuckaboo-White IPA from Abbotsford. Wines come coursed from King Valley, Avoca, Yarra Valley and Coldstream—the cellar is curated, rather than exhaustive.
And then there’s the gin...Patient Wolf, Anther, Fossey’s, Balcombe, Death Gin and Alchemy bottlings. Gin nerds, you can geek out here to your heart’s content.
Gin lovers, there's one more thing you need to know. Bowerbird has just teamed up with Patient Wolf to host a series of distiller events in 2018. The first one kicks off on Feb 4. There's gonna be gin masterclasses, boutique tastings, $6 G&Ts and a live DJ set. If you enjoy things like gin and happiness, get down there and check it out.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis