Melbourne’s cocktail bars hold a hidden treasure trove of drinks to explore. It could be a preferred staff cocktail no longer on the menu, or maybe never even made it on. Perhaps you have to know where to sit to be eligible to order it. Perhaps you just need to ask.
In partnership with World Class, we uncover some secrets of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars to try next time you’re out.
The Attic at Black Pearl
Off-menu cocktail: you’ll need to sit at table no. 2.
To those milling around the upstairs Attic at the Black Pearl on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, the specials board behind the bar looks unassuming. But regulars to the bar – recently voted the best international cocktail bar in the world at the 2017 Spirited Awards in New Orleans – might have heard there’s more here than meets the eye.
Guests seated at table no. 2 will notice something different about the specials menu. Visible only to them is an off-menu cocktail still in its development stages, often possessing a rare ingredient or extra level of theatre to add to its mystery.
For example, a recent inclusion saw a rare bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Scotch whisky mixed with a burnt-butter infusion and sweet sherry. Feedback from the selective group of taste-testers was it tasted much like a bread-and-butter pudding. To get people whispering, sometimes the secret cocktail will feature novel additions such as flaming tiki garnishes or fogs and dry ice.
Off-menu cocktail: Quill
Frequent visitors to The Everleigh will be familiar with its bartenders engaging with patrons to suggest a cocktail to suit the occasion. Many of these suggestions are unknown or forgotten classics that staff have uncovered from cocktail books dating back to the early 1900s.
Next time you visit The Everleigh, beat them to the punch by ordering a Quill. It starts off as a Negroni, with Tanqueray gin, sweet vermouth and herbal aperitif. But a small addition of absinthe transforms the drink almost entirely.
Off-menu cocktail: London is Calling
Only a fellow bartender with a sophisticated palate would know to order Gin Palace’s off-menu London is Calling cocktail. Made with Tanqueray No. TEN gin, fresh lemon, Manzanilla sherry, sugar syrup and orange bitters, it’s shaken, fine-strained and garnished with a grapefruit twist. The cocktail has bitter, sweet and citrus flavour combinations, which positions it as a great pre-dinner drink. Don’t be shy – just ask.
Off-menu cocktail: Averna Menta-Tini
Tucked away on Meyers Place in the CBD, Lily Blacks is where many of Melbourne’s top bartenders end up once they clock off at night. There’s one cocktail here they know to order – a favourite among industry comrades.
The secret creation comprises Ketel One vodka, Amaro Averna, Fernet Branca Menta and fresh Aeropress coffee. The vodka works as a good-quality base spirit with the addition of two different kinds of Amaro: Averna, which is rich and sweet, and herbaceous Branca Menta. Head to Lily Blacks in the early hours and say it’s, "Averna Menta-Tini time".
Off-menu cocktail: Smoky Cherry Cola Old Fashioned
There’s a secret cocktail at CBD rooftop bar Siglo, only available if you know what to ask for. The drink contains whisky, a cola reduction, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters and hickory wood smoke. The reason it’s not featured on the menu? It involves some challenging steps that wouldn’t meet the demands of a busy crowd. Next time you’re at Siglo, try the Smoky Cherry Cola Old Fashioned.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class Drinking.