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10 Melbourne bars for 10 occasions
Whether you want to schmooze or experiment, Melbourne has a bar to float your mood
Melbourne is full of bar secrets.
Its bar scene is as diverse of as its culture. Whether it’s sipping a cocktail in a bar or having a pot in a heritage pub, this city has a bar to accommodate just about every mood.
There is a bar – and a drink – for every occasion.
Here are 10 to choose from, depending on your mood.
Enjoy the passion of the north side at The Black Cat
Nowhere quite sums up the understated, bohemian style of funky Fitzroy like The Black Cat.
By day it's a coffee shop, with its retro lounges and patio-style tables and chairs spilling out onto Brunswick Street. It turns into a groovy bar at night.
An assortment of empty, years-old beer bottles and canvas decorate the bar's walls.
Grunge is cool here. Punters can go retro, playing the old-school video game, Galaga.
Decks are alternatively owned by DJs of hip-hop, garage, dub-step and Latino-salsa nights.
May as well celebrate with a Northside Passion: gin shaken with passionfruit pulp, lemon juice, sugar and mint leaves, strained into that old classic, the martini glass ($16).
The Black Cat, 252 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9419 6230
Go on the schmooze at Dirty Secrets
Just on the Collingwood side tram tracks that border Fitzroy on Smith Street, Dirty Secrets is a bar of Victorian-era style.
With mirrors, lamps, statues and stained glass, drinkers can choose private room with red loungers, and stare at the chandeliers hoping to meet that special someone.
Or try a sexy cocktail seated at the hardwood bar. May as well be that girls’ favorite, a Nobody’s Sweetheart ($15). Medos Honey Vodka, Aperol and Cointreau are smashed with cardamom, and balanced with lemon and cranberry. Served martini-style with a zest of orange.
Get it for $10 during the "Prohibition ends at last" happy hour, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Dirty Secrets, 80 Smith St., Collingwood, +61 (0)3 9415 8876, Wednesday-Thursday 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Friday 5 p.m.-3 a.m., Saturday 6 p.m.-3 a.m., www.crds.com.au
Sip on Asian video games at Golden Monkey
The mashed-up, Oriental interior at Golden Monkey features antique furniture, low-lying lamps, as well statues of fortune cats, lucky pigs and Buddha.
The drinks menu is inspired by Chinese, Japanese and Korean ingredients -- wasabi, kimchi, green tea and coriander are all on high rotation.
The herb-flavoured Assassins on the Grass ($17) contains Feijoa 42 Below Vodka, Pure 42 Below Vodka, Zen green tea liqueur muddled with lemongrass and served with lemon juice and rock candy syrup.
Gamers might know Assassins on the Grass -- or other drinks such as Green Ninja, Grape Balls of Monkey and Kung Fu Pandan. They're all named after video game characters.
389 Lonsdale St. (enter from Hardware Lane), Monday–Friday, 5 p.m. – 1.30 a.m., Saturday-Sunday, 7 p.m. – 1.30 a.m., +61 (0)3 9602 2055, www.goldenmonkey.com.au
Forget about work at Campari House
Hardware Lane is Melbourne’s laneway dining destination. Tables and chairs hug the thin laneway through the city center. This urban escape from offices is full of after-workers getting their fill.
Up an art-lined stairwell in Campari House, suits can take a load off their minds. This rooftop has a festive feel -- after-workers sit around oak-barrel tables on green synthetic grass, a movable red marquee means you have can have views of the city skyline, even in the rain.
A place to take your tie off and be confused about the many old doors on outside walls that lead to nowhere, rather than your job.
A local red is a Rufus Stone Shiraz ($8/43) from Heathcoate, Victoria. The dark berry and white pepper flavors are balanced by three percent of that white grape, Viogner, and aged in oak. This glass is a good meat companion, so the Spezzantino pizza ($18) -- ground beef, tomato, chili, yogurt, lemon and mint -- served on a chopping board, could satisfy after all those hours at the computer.
Campari House, 23-25 Hardware Lane, +61 (0)3 9600 1574, www.camparihouse.com.au
Wonder what's downstairs at Madame Brussels
This bar is named after a famed 19th-century city brothel owner, Madame Brussels, and it still feels sexy.
Expect pink walls, heart-shaped garden chaises and paisley-printed sofas in what can be a noisy bar. If it weren’t on a rooftop, such a setting would have you wondering what’s upstairs.
Anyone wishing to stick to the quaint feel often go for a jug of Pimm's ($30/50). The gin is topped with lemonade, dry ginger ale, oranges, strawberries, mint and cucumber.
Smile and feel salubrious.
Madame Brussels, Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St., Monday-Sunday noon-1 a.m. +61 (0)3 9662 2775, www.madamebrussels.com
History lesson in the year 1806
In 1806, the word "cocktail" was first defined in print -- and this bar is a journey back to that time.
This nostalgic place lets you go back a few years. Red velvet curtains frame an array of aged spirits and wine bottles. It matches the classical music in this mature bar.
The cocktail list is also historical, a chronological catalogue of the history of cocktails. The cocktail bartenders are even encyclopedias of alcohol.
For a journey in between 1806 and the present, a 20th Century costs $18, and is made of gin and lemon with a hint of chocolate.
169 Exhibition St., +61 (0)3 9663 7722, Monday –Thursday, 5 p.m. –5 a.m., Friday–Sunday, 7 p.m. – 2 a.m., www.1806.com.au
Experiment with alcohol at Der Raum
This bar is hidden on a quiet street in Richmond. Der Raum is found behind a locked door with a buzzer.
Inside, alcohol is treated like a science. It’s the lab of the Melbourne bar scene, with a gigantic tank of liquid nitrogen behind the bar to prove it.
Drink preparations lasting 15 minutes lay emphasis on the physics and chemistry of each ingredient. The Ben Shewry ($22) is an Absinthe-based drink with star anise umeshu, cold smoked rosemary and basil.
All drinks are served in medical jars with syringes and tablets –- the only thing missing is the mice.
Der Raum, 438 Church St., Richmond, +61 (0)3 9428 0055, www.derraum.com.au
Think about life without cigars at the Gin Palace
Gin Palace oozes opulence -- the baroque-style bar is perfect alcohol-induced meditation. The dimly lit gray walls surround the arena of contemporary poets and thinkers.
More than 60 varieties of gin are available in this bar –- three-quarters of them exclusive to the country. It's the place where serious, thinking men come to drink.
It has cigar-puffers cursing anti-smoking laws, but enjoying a three-shot Martini ($22), with a dash of Noilly Prat and olives, of course.
Gin Palace, 190 Little Collins St., Melbourne, daily 4 p.m. – 3 a.m. +61 (0)3 9654 0533, www.ginpalace.com.au
Rock on at the Esplanade Hotel
The white, heritage façade of the bay side Esplanade Hotel (“Espy” to the locals) stands out from the high rises either side of it in St Kilda.
The famous 20th-century theater inside has long been the local jam favorite of poet Paul Kelly. The music inside now still has up-and-coming bands early in the week to hip-hop, blues, reggae and rock acts in the Gershwin Room on weekends.
The venue is huge and has black leather couches in its booths. Vintage rock posters line the walls.
But there’s still plenty of room on that dance floor for a groove, or even some head banging. If you don’t have the courage, you could turn to quick liquid. A shot of Sambucca is even more tantalizing when topped with Baileys in a Slippery Nipple ($9.50).
The Esplanade Hotel, 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, Victoria +61 (0)3 9534 0211, www.espy.com.au
Go full circle at the Labor in Vain
This pub was one of the city’s first, the land being bought by community-minded activist George Hyde in the 1840s. He then built it in the Fitzroy slums to be. It took its place among the tailors and embroiderers along Brunswick Street.
A string of publicans owned it (including one who bled to death after being bitten by a dog) before becoming shops in 1927.
It was lost to the drinking public until 1998, when it reopened with Hyde’s original features.
The classic Melbourne pub has bluestone walls, fittingly stained carpet and vintage posters advertising cocaine-infused Cigares de Joy.
Have a pot of the city’s drink, Carlton Draught, upstairs or enjoy it in the surrounds of the nicotine-stained walls. Play a game of pool to live acoustic music. Because sometimes things go full circle.
Labor In Vain, 197 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9417 5955, www.laborinvain.com.au