Opening a bar tends to generate a lot of attention in Melbourne. We love having somewhere new to socialise, drink and forget our troubles. But for those of us who like to focus on doing these things with an appreciation of just a little more quality in the preparation of our drinks, the opening of The Everleigh is little short of a phantasmagorical moment.
A collaboration between Sasha Petraske (the architect behind New York’s Milk and Honey) and long time employees Michael Madrusan and Lauren Schell, The Everleigh brings a new style of bar and bartending to our door.
Let’s not confuse anything here, the concept is not to bring Milk and Honey to Melbourne. For those of you familiar with the New York and London institutions, you will know how notoriously hard it can be to get inside, and once in there, the rigorous standards by which one must hold themselves at all times. It’s also not the arrival of any new drinks outside the realm of those available at any of the city’s current finer drinking establishments. It is, however, a style of bartending so refined and methodical that no single drink from behind the bar will be wanting for improvement. While this is the Milk and Honey way, The Everleigh’s décor, atmosphere and slightly more lax rules are akin to NYC sister bars Dutch Kills and Little Branch (where Michael spent the majority of his tenure under Sasha).
‘Classic cocktails from the golden era’ is a phrase that has been misused in many forms. But it belongs more appropriately here than any other bar in the city. Daisies, fixes, fizzes, old fashioneds, sours and sazeracs form the basis of the pinnacle of the elusive ‘golden era’ and are made to standards at The Everleigh that are beyond anything you’ve likely ever experienced. If you have doubts, take these measures into consideration: all juice is squeezed fresh, not that day, not that hour, but as your drink is made; there’s no ice machine because they freeze and hand cut all the ice that is used for shaking and serving drinks; speed pourers are omitted for fear of tainting the drinks. They’re little things that maybe only the best bartenders will appreciate, and as such, are baseline standards at The Everleigh.
Challenging but not impossible to find in its Gertrude Street home (above the site of the forgotten Dante’s restaurant), its entrance belies its interior refinements. A stunning long marble bar accommodates drinkers keen on engaging the bartenders while the rest of us retreat to leather bound booths to reinforce old friendships. Groups of any more than six will defeat the purpose of this notion and you’ll most likely find yourself with nowhere to sit.
Glass cabinets house old cocktail tomes and the tools of bartenders past (in many cases, a long time past). Rustic floorboards, a piano as old as time itself and intriguing taxidermy all blend together to provide a setting that effortlessly makes you feel at ease. It somehow feels perfectly balanced, so you can get on with the business of drinking and socialising without feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. It’s an exciting time for the commerce of cocktails, setting new standards and providing a space for interaction that Melbourne has sorely been missing until now. It won’t be long however, until we question how we ever got along without The Everleigh.