These days, top bars are more reminiscent of kitchens. Menus can change week-to-week depending on the availability of fresh ingredients, intelligent experimentation is encouraged and good knife skills are a must. That same rigour means classic cocktails are also better than they've ever been.

It’s good news for drinkers, whether you love a Negroni, Old Fashioned or an of-the-moment creation. Better news still: Melbourne has some of the best bars in the world.

These are our favourites, ranging from casual spots, to table service venues where the staff wears waistcoats. But without fail, they all know how to mix an excellent drink.

Related guides:
Best Hidden Bars in Melbourne
Best Whisky Bars in Melbourne
Best Wine Bars in Melbourne
Best Beer Bars in Melbourne

Nick and Nora’s

Across five rooms and three balconies, indulge in theatrical cocktails bubbling with liquid nitrogen, tropical boozy yuzu-pineapple punch bowls for four (served in a huge bronze swan), champagne towers, ridiculously large 15-litre bottles of Mumm, and fancy canapés.

80 Collins Street, Melbourne

The Everleigh

You won't find a greater attention to detail anywhere. The venue even has its own ice company.

1 150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Black Pearl

After a 2015 refurb, this old classic is looking better than ever.

304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Above Board

Finding this secretive, 16-seat cocktail bar is half the fun.

Level 1 306 Smith Street (access through Chopper Lane), Collingwood

1806

1806: the year the word "cocktail" was first defined in print.

169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Bar Americano

Matt Bax's aperitif-focussed bar.

20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne

Bad Frankie

Excepting three tequilas, every spirit here is Australian. Go on, be a patriot.

141 Greeves Street, Fitzroy

Eau De Vie

Before the EDV team opened Boilermaker House, this classy bar was the focal point for its whisky obsession.

1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne
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Mjølner

A retro-futurist Viking dining hall filled with handmade axes and whole-beast cooking.

106-112 Hardware Street, Melbourne
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Mono-XO

Submerged in a warm white glow, this 22 seat Japanese-influenced diner and natural wine bar serves small shareable plates and a host of natural wines by the bottle and glass.

Rear 191A Smith Street, Fitzroy
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Byrdi

Drinks here include a boozy smoked-pear soda, and gin with jasmine and plum. Get yours alongside hibachi-grilled seafood.

Ella, Melbourne Central Corner Latrobe and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne

Cookie

If you haven't had a drink here, you're barely a Melburnian.

First Floor, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Gimlet at Cavendish House

Star chef Andrew McConnell's signature is evident on every Eurocentric plate here, from the clam-topped flatbread to the anchovy Danish to the wood-fired rhubarb cheesecake. You’ll find us at the black-and-gold marble bar, Martini in hand.

33 Russell Street, Melbourne

Poodle Bar & Bistro

This double-decker spot is full of cosy nooks. Sink into a leather banquette or one of the gold velvet couches and order zhooshed-up hotel classics (thinly sliced beetroot-dill cured trout, pan-roasted chicken topped with truffle) from a former Cumulus Inc and Marion chef.

81-83 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
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Bar Margaux

Walk down the nondescript staircase and let your eyes adjust. There’s no natural light at this bistro – that’s why it’s so easy to lose track of time.

Basement 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Berlin

Opulence meets wartime misery at this bar with two faces.

2nd floor (please ring the bell) 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne

Capitano

Killer Italo-American cocktails to match the food.

421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
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Boilermaker House

900 whiskies and counting, with beers to match.

209-211 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
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Lay Low Bar

Expert cocktails and Greek snacks hidden inside a clothing store.

93 Buckley Street, Seddon
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Boston Sub / Jungle Boy

Push through the back freezer door to find this hidden den of top-notch drinks.

96 Chapel Street, Windsor

Goldilocks Bar

At this long-running hidden rooftop bar, there's an emphasis on cocktails and comfort. Unlike many rooftops, this spot is understated; the team here let the cocktails and the view do the talkings. The retractable rooftop means that this a great all-weather option, too.

Level 4 264 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Lily Blacks

Check out the ridiculous wall of flavoured bitters.

12 Meyers Place, Melbourne
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Union Electric Bar

A two-storey, indoor-outdoor cocktail bar with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg.

13 Heffernan Lane, Melbourne

Lui Bar at Vue de Monde

What would you expect from a bar run by Vue de Monde?

Level 55 Rialto Towers 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Mesa Verde

Climb to the top of Curtin House, and you're in another tequila heaven.

Level 6, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
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New Gold Mountain

Another skilful, Asian-themed member of the Lily Blacks family.

21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
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Romeo Lane

Another intimate CBD bolthole.

1A Crossley Street, Melbourne

Gin Palace

This plush drinking den has been running since 1997 and remains at the top of the game.

10 Russell Place, Melbourne

Sweatshop

It's a themed bar, but the drinks are far from gimmicky.

Basement 113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Seamstress Cocktail Bar

The high-class counterpart of downstairs bar Sweatshop.

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Siglo

The Melbourne Supper Club's casual rooftop counterpart.

Level 2 161 Spring Street, Melbourne

The Melbourne Supper Club

Sink into a weathered Chesterfield and order from the incredibly knowledgable staff.

Level 1 161 Spring Street, Melbourne

Whisky and Alement

Melbourne's first great whisky bar.

270 Russell Street, Melbourne

Kitty Somerset

Bring a book, or challenge some mates to a game of Scrabble.

565 High Street, Northcote

Bar None

Good cocktails in Camberwell? Believe it.

72 Auburn Parade, Camberwell

Trouble in Dreams

This surreal bar pays homage to the world's great cocktails and their inventors. It's by Pie Thief's Aaron Donato and cocktail-book author Chad Parkhill; they've created a tiny, 25-seat speakeasy and natural wine spot, slinging eclectic wines, highly original cocktails and more.

297 Barkly Street, Footscray

Joe Taylor

Experience counts, and the staff here has stacks.

7 Errol Street, North Melbourne
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