Best Cocktail Bars in Melbourne

Updated 4 weeks ago

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

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.

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  • Walk down a dodgy alleyway, enter an unmarked door and ascend a flight of stairs. Congratulations, you've found Above Board, an exacting cocktail bar with big echoes of Japan. There are no requests and no reservations here – just boozy signatures and updated classics.

  • Squeeze into this tiny, 100-year-old caretaker’s quarters for what may be Victoria’s smallest pub. Behind Tassie oak bar you’ll find Guinness on tap, a short cocktail list and British pub snacks to keep you mint.

  • Black Pearl is where Melbourne’s best bartenders go to either cut their teeth or grab a Martini after they knock off elsewhere. And after 20 years on the scene, it’s still unfazed about its world renown. Book in at the tiny six-seater attic upstairs for an up-close experience with the best in the drinks business.

  • When it comes to making classic drinks, Michael Madrusan’s love letter to the golden age of bartending is second to none. It even uses an in-house ice company to ensure every drink gets the perfect block. Down your daisies, sours and sazeracs at the marble bar and watch the dapper bartenders in action.

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  • In a timber-panelled room that feels of another time, get ready for four types of Martini, a daily menu of shellfish on ice, and a stand-out crème caramel dessert.

  • It’s not the theatrical cocktails, world-beating whisky list or European-inspired snacks that put Eau de Vie up there among the world’s best bars. It’s the laser-like attention to detail at every turn, and the fact that someone here knows what you want to drink – even if you don’t.

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  • Two world-class drinks innovators are behind Byrdi, who work with native Australian ingredients in an on-site lab to create their peerless, Australian-inspired cocktails. The food here is no less inventive – come for small plates with a big focus on seasonality. Either way, you’ll never have the same experience twice.

  • Descend a dark spiral staircase into this theatrical basement cocktail bar. Wrapped in a cocoon of timber, it’s the recipient of some major international design awards. But don’t let the incredible space distract you from the drinks – expect smoke, bubbles and plenty of flair.

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  • With an enormous whisky list and knowledgeable bartenders to guide you, this mood-lit den has the goods to rival some of the world’s best whisky bars. Real enthusiasts can book in for a tasting session led by top distillers.

  • Andrew McConnell's signature flair is all over this grand bar and dining room, from the exacting service to the comforting European dishes. It’s named after the classic cocktail, and the calibre of drinks here speaks to that. You’ll find us at the marble bar, Gimlet in hand.

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  • The name says it all. Come to this swish, nautical-themed cocktail bar for oysters served at least eight ways, and Martinis with spherified olives in tiny oyster shells, among other creative cocktails.

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  • Across five rooms and three balconies, this opulent bar channels old-world glitz and glamour with champagne towers, fancy canapés and theatrical cocktails bubbling with liquid nitrogen. To really start the party, order the pineapple punch – served inside a huge bronze swan.

  • A bar experience that’s part-theatre, part-history lesson and all class. Its menu begins in 1806 (when "cocktail" first appeared in print), and there's a classic libation to represent each decade since.

  • One of the first bars in town to truly embrace Australian spirits and the massive potential of another locally made hero, the jaffle. Cocktails double down on the Australian theme and highlight native ingredients – they’re easy-drinking and will match your cheesy snack to a tee.

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  • Up a discreet staircase in the CBD, this beautiful and boundary-pushing cocktail bar takes a scientific approach to its drinks – some of which take days to prepare. But the results are palate-awakening, not polarising.

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  • Behind the heavy carved door lies this retro-futurist dining hall for modern-day vikings. Choose your weapon from the selection of handmade knives, then conquer beasts of every kind on the protein-heavy menu. Given this place is by the same group behind Eau de Vie, cocktails are a natural strength.

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  • Cookie combines rowdy European beer hall with standout Thai food that beckons to be shared. It’s fun, versatile and subtly influential, preceding similar restaurants like Chin Chin. Bring a crew, order the banquet and plan to drink.

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  • Follow the sound of hip-hop to find this fun laneway cocktail bar. Fresh, modern tiki drinks await you inside, named after many of the heavy-hitters featuring on the soundtrack. If you’re hungry, you can bring in takeaway from one of the excellent neighbouring restaurants.

  • Walk down the nondescript staircase and let your eyes adjust. There’s no natural light at this New York-inspired French bistro – that’s why it’s so easy to lose track of time here. It's also home to one of Melbourne's most famous late-night burgers.

  • Opulence meets wartime misery at this hidden cocktail bar. It’s split into East and West Berlin; fancy on one side and grungy on the other. No matter where you sit, the drinks are world-class – just ring the doorbell to get in.

  • You won’t find another bar in the country like Boilermaker House. It’s devoted to the timeless pairing of whisky and beer, and with more than 700 drams on the wall and a constant rotation of beers on tap, the flavour combinations are seemingly endless here.

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  • There are few surprises in a place called Gin Palace. This specialist basement bar has been shaking since ’97, with a page of its extensive menu devoted to Martinis. Its combo of velvet, dim lights and plush seating hasn’t aged a day.

  • At this long-running rooftop bar, there's an emphasis on cocktails and comfort. The team lets the cocktails, snacks and view do the talking. And the retractable rooftop makes it a great all-weather option.

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  • Lily Blacks is more than just another art deco Melbourne bar. It’s a cocktail aficionado destination, mixing precisely diluted classics as well as inventive house creations. Come early on a Friday to grab prime position before the post-work crowd files in.

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  • Try the full range of Naught's award-winning gins at this dim, swanky cocktail bar on par with those in the inner city. Classic gin cocktails are the draws here, and a concise snack menu adds top-quality charcuterie and tinned seafood to the equation.

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  • The cocktails and snacks at Vue de Monde’s adjoining bar are served with all the creative flair you’d expect from one of the country’s finest diners. Walk-ins are always welcome here, which means you don’t have to pay high-end degustation prices to experience the sparkling city view. It’s the best in Melbourne, hands down.

  • Curtin House’s resident Mexican diner and bar is all about agave-based spirits. In fact, it boasts one of the country’s largest collections of the stuff. And while you could go on a tequila or mezcal flight, the food here also goes dangerously well with a Tommy’s Margarita or a spicy riff on a pina colada.

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  • Housed in a converted tailor’s shop in Chinatown, this moody cocktail den takes inspiration from the 1850s Victorian gold rush. But the old-world Shanghai theme feels like a red herring when the cocktails have names like “The Blinky Bill” and use all Australian spirits and ingredients.

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  • The “mischievous little brother” to Seamstress upstairs is so small and dimly lit, it feels like it could be anywhere in the world. Rest assured, the bartenders know what they’re doing here – and they do it with a total lack of pretension.

  • This rooftop bar above the Melbourne Supper Club has unrivalled views over Spring Street. It’s also one of the few CBD spots with a cigar menu (and humidor with hard-to-find Cubans). If smoking’s not your style, the cocktails will be.

  • Lay Low is doing just that, hiding quietly out the back of a suburban clothing store. But this plush bar also does world-class cocktails like you’d find in the city, and snacks courtesy of the Greek restaurant next door.

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  • Shane Delia’s cocktail bar, right next to his flagship Maha restaurant. Enter for classic cocktails turned on their head by a world-class bartender and a cracking bar menu of beefy borek buns, taramasalata tarts and a saucy lamb sanga.

  • Can’t get a booking at the Yarraville fine diner? Want an alternative to the stellar tasting menu? Go next door for salt-and-vinegar fish skins and “ducklava”, or small-batch aperitivi poured by their maker.

  • This dark and moody spot celebrates a bygone era of late-night drinking and dining. Come for an inventive cocktail menu inspired by Beethoven’s fifth symphony, rare spirits and wild boar croquettes.

  • This sky-high bar – adjoining Atria in The Ritz-Carlton – harks back to the days when hotel bars were at their most fashionable. The elegant 30-seat spot shakes up antique cocktails using 100-year-old spirits.

  • This tranquil bolthole amid the bustle of Chinatown is built on the motto “drink less, drink better”. It’s pouring small-batch whiskies and a tight list of cocktails. Why not stay for just one – or two?

  • Head to this subterranean basement bar for cocktails by one of Melbourne’s best bartenders, and snacks that let the drinks shine. We’re fans of the Big Mac-inspired calzone served with pickles, lettuce and onions.

  • Enter via the front door for this low-key bar, attached to 20-seat Indian fine diner Enter Via Laundry. Helly Raichura and her team are serving more-ish snacks from past menus and “nostalgic Indian cocktails”.

  • Whether it’s bolognaise jaffles, midnight spaghetti, or tiramisu, the Grossi family’s revived bar will keep you eating (and drinking) in style, post midnight. Don’t miss the cocktail that puts puttanesca in a glass.