There was an unusually long collective breath at the beginning of our shiny, new decade and all around seem poised for what the year has to offer. With all the trend and hubbub that went on last year with its events, openings, closures, fashions and drinks, the bar’s been set pretty high on the nightlife expectation in our lively city. We’ll probably have to have our own Carnivalé!

Nevertheless, as Melburnians it is our duty, if not part of our genetic coding, to have a very good go at making 2010 the biggest and best year ever. But what’s going to be hot, and where are we going to be imbibing? Allow me to tentatively dip my toes into the predictive pool, and have a look at what’s going to keep our fickle attention this year.

Some pretty slick joints opened their doors in 2009, from the small, quirky and quality driven – notably the recent 24 Moons, or The Galley Room – to more expansive adventures like The Royal Saxon Hotel, the ever-improving and lush Palmz rooftop at the Carlton Hotel or Leftbank. This year, however, even though it’s still a baby, things have been very quiet in terms of venue openings. Perhaps so much has been done in the last couple of years, with high traffic areas bulging and punters spilling into the sidewalks, that folk out there are scratching their heads for the next wave of bar trends.

I can’t help feeling that what does open in ’10 is going to lean towards clean lines, and green comfortable spaces with, hopefully (come on, pray with me!), just a splash of minimalism. Let’s call this Utopian joint a combination of Von Haus and Trunk, with drinks by Seamstress. Sadly, however, this year’s new venues are more likely to be large thanks to the government putting the kibosh on new licenses. We’re trying to convert the Westgate into the Harbour Bridge; let’s hope it doesn’t happen to our nightlife culture too.

Regardless of the pews that keep our posteriors however, refreshment is guaranteed. Vodka, lime and soda? Check. Low carb beer? Check. The masses will slake themselves on the usual fare, but for those with a bit more adventure in their heels what will we be discovering this year? In a nutshell: sherry, dark spirits, simple mixes and, although it may sound a bit strange, champagne.

Sherry is emerging from nana’s doily-clad dressing table (sorry nan, I’ll replace it!), and into sharper focus with the dining set. It’s a fantastic session tipple, but can be an acquired taste; I recommend you get into some dryer aperitif action – look for names like Manzanilla, Amontillado or Oloroso – which are perfect for whetting the appetite. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s Pedro Ximinez after dinner all the way. If you can get into any of the fantastic Spanish eateries we have (MoVida, Anãda, Bar Lourinha etc), and take a recommendation; it’ll be well worth the trouble.

With the modern Australian palate becoming bolder by the season, it’s my guess that many-a-stomach will be kept warm and satisfied with some dark spirits in the cooler months. It is particularly refreshing for me to see a remarkable increase in the amount of ladies partaking, particularly in the whiskey realm (that’s like catnip for bartenders by the way). Rum, cognac and tequila should also enjoy plenty of indulgence, particularly as we move towards quality-based consumption... bless you all for that!

The spirit and mixer set will be glad to know that some seasonal fruits are now available year-round in a juice format – like blood orange, mandarin and white grapefruit soda. They’re all amazing, particularly when they’re mixed with gin, vodka or tequila and complimented by a squeeze of fresh citrus. Demand it of your barkeep, and if he or she isn’t forthcoming – get your home mix on.

As a closing thought, when it comes to that special occasion champagne is the one we typically turn to – but there have been big price wars recently on the known brands and they’re losing their edge a little as prices come down. It no longer has quite that buzz of “rare treat” expectancy. Regain that little tingle again this year by stepping off the beaten path and tucking into some less well-known French kit, or premium local sparkling wines.

My biggest prediction, however, is that we’ll have a great year – not because we’re going to get loaded, but because we’re going to seek excitement in something new, and find it.

Bon chance!