You may know some of the best speakeasies and gin joints in town, but when faced with a comprehensive cocktail list, where do you start? We speak to the bartenders at four of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars for their suggestions on how to navigate the menu – from signature and seasonal creations to classics done well.
Assistant venue manager of 1806 Andy Galloway says the extensive menu at this Exhibition Street cocktail institution means there is a range of drinks to cater to varying moods and tastes. You just need to ask the bartender. “We pride ourselves on finding a drink that best suits you for any occasion,” he says.
Galloway says if you’re looking for something sweet, try their Clover Club (“It’s based on Tanqueray Gin”), or a classic Blue Blazer: “we use a mix of Scotch in Talisker and Johnnie Walker Black Label. This one is always a favourite because we set the alcohol and sugar alight and throw this lit concoction aloft before serving.”
If you’re more into seasonal drinks, Galloway suggests a Brightside. “It’s light and floral, a twist on the classic Aviation and uses Tanqueray No. TEN, herbal liqueur, lemon juice, rosewater and a touch of sage,” he says. “There’s also the Don’s Detox, which is a twist on the classic Tommy’s Margarita and has a slight hint of almond. We take Don Julio Reposado and infuse it with turmeric and finish with a mix of almond syrup, grapefruit and lime juice.”
Eau De Vie
Craving a little theatre with your cocktails? Eau De Vie head bartender Andy Griffiths suggests the bar’s signature creation, the Smoky Rob Roy – a mix of Talisker and Johnnie Walker Black label, Ron Zacapa 23 rum, sweet vermouth and orange bitters, served under a cloud of wood smoke.
“It’s a lively, theatrical drink and extremely popular,” says Griffiths. “Every time one comes out to a table we get more orders. It’s garnished at the table and allows people to really get into the experience.”
For something a little simpler, Griffiths says a basic Pampero Daiquri is an excellent starter. “Pampero is a fantastic rum,” he says. “Instead of adding water during production they use unfermented grape juice, which gives it sherry notes. So to serve we just add sherry and sugar. It’s fresh before dinner and cleanses the palate.”
According to Felix Allsop, bar manager at The Everleigh on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, their “best” drinks are the ones that cater to the customer. “Tell us what you like and we’ll sort it out together,” he says. “Everything we do is a twist on classics. The Martini is probably our house cocktail, but it’s an acquired taste. So for people who like the idea of it, the Astoria Martini is an easy-going, entry-level option. It’s got Tanqueray gin, vermouth, orange bitters and an orange twist on top – a refined drink and a crowd pleaser.”
For another gin-based creation, Allsop suggests the “Cosmopolitan-like” Debutante, which uses Tanqueray gin, homemade grenadine, fresh lime and orange. “It’s sweet, sour and tangy with a Cosmo vibe that everyone can get behind,” he says. “It just tastes good.”
“Zesty styles of cocktails are a great way to go if you’re ever indecisive,” says bartender Trish Brew of the Gin Palace in the CBD. “My personal favourite palate cleanser is the Pegu Club, which uses Tanqueray No. TEN gin, orange liqueur, lime juice, orange bitters and aromatic bitters.”
Another of Brew’s personal favourites on the Gin Palace list is the Vespa Martini. “Controversially it’s a ‘shaken’ Martini, invented by Ian Fleming for James Bond in his 1950 novel Casino Royale. Stiff and ice cold.” For cold nights, she recommends a richer style of cocktail – particularly one using honey and lemon – such as the Bees Knees, using gin, fresh lemon juice and honey water.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class.