Bar Sabbatico

Fri 15th April, 2022 – Thu 22nd December, 2022
20 Presgrave Place Melbourne 3000
Bar Americano has closed for the rest of the year. Instead it’s being taken over by an experimental new concept by founder Matt Bax and bartender Matty Packham.

Tucked at the end of Presgrave Place, the pint-sized Bar Americano is undeniably one of Melbourne’s best bars, taking its cues from Italian aperitivo culture and American hustle. But founder Matt Bax is calling time on the intimate drinking den – just until the end of the year.

He and bartender Matty Packham are launching a new concept in the space. While Bar Americano’s on sabbatical, instead we get Bar Sabbatico: an avant-garde takeover where the pair plans on unleashing “their most experimental drink ideas” and guests can “rejoice in historical recreations from the Bax-catalogue”.

That means old cocktails from Bax’s former venues, such as the world-famous Der Raum (including signature drink The Pharmacy, served in a medical jar with an Aperol-filled syringe and sherbet pill), its European counterpart Gamsei, and Singapore’s The Tippling Club, which he opened in 2008.

Bar Sabbatico is split in two. Inside, there’s a reservation-only drinks tasting menu drawing on themes of play, redux and archival. It’s $95 for three courses or $165 for five, with a reduced “jump seat” that’s just $85 for solo guests. The debut service included honey champagne with nitro citrus rum; black champagne with absinthe and an anise cloud; Samu matcha with Nikka whisky; The Pharmacy; and hot ice-cream with cold coffee rye, toasted and spiced bourbon, and amaro.

There’s also a playful new offering exclusively for the laneway, with no bookings. Sydney wine expert Giorgio De Maria – who effectively changed how and what wine the city drank– has curated a tight list of chilled Italian natural reds, while spirits lean towards drops from local distilleries. Cocktails are more communal, with shared options including a Negroni hip flask. The team is particularly keen on a number called Shit Pour and Shot that involves heady beer and some liquor.

Bax has also created a series of art installations for the bar’s interior (he’s an artist and runs Clifton Hill art gallery Grau Projekt). The first, Vacant, explores the empty streets and shopfronts of the CBD.