From sleek wine bars and classy cocktail places to hole-in-the-wall student dives,Melbourne has a buffet of choices when it comes to drinking spots. We’ve got the lowdown on the best venues to experience the city’s vibrant bar scene to suit every mood and budget.
Tucked in the heart of Fitzroy, Black Pearl is a haven for those who appreciate quality cocktails more than worrying about wearing the ‘wrong’ shirt or shoes to a venue. Consistently named as one of the best bars in the world, it boasts an upbeat vibe that buzzes late into the night, where guests can sip on in-house creations prepared by talented and knowledgeable bartenders. The hip but unpretentious decor is understated, with lots of comfy couches and recycled furniture that welcomes a mixed crowd.
Step into The Everleigh and be transported back to a 1920s American-style speakeasy, with glinting vintage chandeliers, tiled floors and lots of wood panelling. The establishment boasts the same blend of killer cocktails and seductive atmosphere as its sister bar in New York, Milk & Honey, and has scooped numerous awards. Try the signature Honeysuckle, a smooth mix of light rum, lime and a dash of honey, as well as the Professor, a potent blend of gin, pomegranate, lime and absinthe.
Themed around fantasy and fairy tales, Lonsdale Street’s latest bar, Storyville has a whimsical interior design and a colourful cocktail menu influenced by classic literature and all-time favourite children’s books. Experience sitting beneath towering toadstools in the Mushroom Palace while sipping on one of their artisan cocktails, such as Through the Looking Glass – a smoking pot of vanilla tea spiked with three-year-old Havana rum and served with a side of cream. Cinderella might have a midnight curfew, but at Storyville the dancing lasts throughout the night with a selection of music from Melbourne’s best DJs.
Named for a mythical creature said to live in the Yarra River, Ponyfish Island is easily one of the coolest locations in town and promises an amazing night out. Discreetly located underneath the pedestrian bridge in Southbank, the bar offers exquisitely crafted cocktails and bar snacks for guests to enjoy while taking in the surrounding river views. Specimens and diagrams of exotic flora and fauna decorate the venue, paying tribute to explorers and adventurers who dare to venture above and beyond to discover hidden gems and new experiences.
Play bartender for the night at Hopscotch, where they hook you up with a DIY cocktail kit. That, or have the bartenders whip up their signature concoctions such as the Bearded Sailor: a mix of Havana, pale ale, lemon bitters and maple syrup. The promenade brew bar is all about tapping tasty beers, with over 30 different options on tap. Fancy a bite? Head chef Adam Baughan has just the right menu of worldly flavours that pack a punch and make for perfect snacking.
Transit Rooftop Bar
There’s no better place to take in Melbourne’s expansive views than at Transit, a cheeky rooftop jazz bar overlooking the cityscape. With live, soul-popping Jazz, this candlelit locale will calm those first-date jitters and keep you swinging til 3 a.m. Choose from a variety of savoury-style cocktails, prepared using a mix of fresh herbs picked straight from the kitchen garden as well as a broad range of spirits.
Harry & Frankie
Wine takes centerstage at Harry & Frankie, a beautiful wine bar and shop in Port Melbourne that encourages its patrons to drink better and be more adventurous. Shelves, cabinets and fridges are packed with over 600 wines, beers and ciders, and the place serves top quality charcuterie and cheese, wine-friendly sharing dishes as well as regularly changing mains. The space is canopied by a curved, cork-inlayed ceiling decorated with grape vine silhouettes. Friendly staff offering wine recommendations make solo expeditions feel as convivial as hanging out with friends.
Whisky and beer loving enthusiasts should make a beeline for Boilermaker House, dedicated to all things whisky, craft beer and artisanal meats and cheeses. A boilermaker is a pairing of beer and whisky, and here they are served on rustic slabs of natural wood in elegant glassware, accompanied by cheese or meat to enhance the flavours. With over 900 whiskies and an ever rotating tap list, the combinations are endless
Bar Josephine is an unassuming, shabby brick exterior and graffitied, dog-friendly beer garden. Lending a cosy vibe to Barkly Street in Footscray, upcycled furnishings, well-worn books, red leather-backed booths and exposed brick interiors make it a popular haunt of local creatives. The menu is a 12-tap rotation of craft beers, including Victorian favourites like the Cavalier Brewing, Old Wives Ales and Hargreaves Hill, as well as a small cocktail and wine list.
Heartbreaker’s rowdy vibe is the antithesis of a sophisticated joint. Dimly lit and always party-ready, spontaneous dances are prone to break out over at the corner next to the cherry-red neon sign. Take control of a jukebox loaded with rock albums blasting nostalgic hits from the 1960s to 1980s, then refresh with local and American craft beers along with an enticing selection of whisky mezcal and tequila. The real stars, though, are their pre-batched bottled cocktails, which can be bought and taken home from their ‘Liquor to Go’ bottle shop until 11 p.m.