Embrace the chilly season and head to one of Melbourne’s finest, cosiest places to drink. There are wine bars, classic establishments and brand new restaurants to try. Recurring themes: underground, candlelit, couches and cocktails.
Open late and undeniably romantic, Nieuw Amsterdam is a failsafe option for a drink in the CBD. It has dark leather lounges, chesterfield booths, exposed brick and huge windows. Head to the dimly lit basement cocktail bar and order a Negroni – an entire page of the menu is dedicated to the drink. For something a little more stiff, try the S.A.R.S-ERAC, with Bulleit Bourbon, sarsaparilla liqueur, brown sugar, bitters, and smoked with sarsaparilla root.
With its rustic floorboards, fireplace and furniture (couches, floor lamps, simple wooden tables), Neighbourhood Wine is like your very own lounge room. The emphasis is on wine, but the cocktails are not to be forgotten. Come inside for an Old Fashioned on a cold winter afternoon. Here, it’s made with Bulleit bourbon, sugar, bitters, and finished with an orange twist. To add to the romance there’s rows of ’60s and ’70s jazz and blues records on high rotation. And after you sip your selection, you can have a game of pool. It’s all very neighbourly.
A bar that’s stood the test of time, Black Pearl is perfect for winter because there’s usually a hot cocktail on the menu. Otherwise, nestle into a spot on the sofa or ottoman and order the Panacea: Johnnie Walker Black Label, citrus, turmeric, fig and pepper. Rowdy on weekends, and filled with Fitzroy locals during the week. Ideal for a candlelit sip.
Le Bon Ton
A smokehouse, cocktail bar and absinthe den, Le Bon Ton is New Orleans-inspired with decadent chandeliers, exposed brick and grand archways. Grab a cocktail and match it to something off the barbeque menu – cheeseburgers, chilli fries and meat plates can be ordered right up until 3am. If you’re there on a Friday or Saturday night, beeline for the absinthe, oyster and champagne room and partake in the absinthe ritual. Return the next day for a Bloody Mary, made with house-smoked tomatoes and Ketel One vodka.
Magic Mountain Saloon
This Little Collins Street stalwart has three levels, bright neon lights and a line of cosy wooden booths. It’s a European wine bar, nightclub and lavish loft restaurant at the same time. Order an ingenious Thai dish then grab a cocktail to match – the Snow White, with Tanqueray No. Ten, peach liqueur, bitters and elderflower, will sweeten up a cold night in the CBD. There’s often a DJ spinning tunes in the mezzanine if you’re in need of a little extra movement to warm up.
The cosiest spot in this new High Street bar is the lounge by the fireplace. Get in early to grab it, and then sit back and relax with a delicious cocktail to match your decadent surroundings (black ceilings, dark wooden tables, exposed brick). Try the Rapscallion, made with Talisker 10-year-old, sherry wine and a dash of absinthe. Created as a place for people to go and relax, they’ll even look after your unfinished liquor in a whisky locker upstairs. Buy a bottle and Neptune will keep it safe until your next visit.
A Rathdowne Street institution, Gerald’s is everything you want a neighbourhood bar to be. Even if you aren’t a local, it’s easy to quickly feel like one at this North Carlton gem. Relaxed and old school, the bartenders wear button-up shirts, not suspenders, and music plays from a record player sitting on the bar. Mood lighting is covered – there are candles on dark timber everywhere. Order a cocktail as you settle into the cosiest spot – the tiny foldout table under the stairs.
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