1 Amelia Shaw
Sitting above the earthy band- and beer-loving Retreat Hotel, Amelia Shaw is an exotic warren of chandelier- and mural-laden rooms, smart table service and excellently constructed cocktails demonstrating a penchant for Aussie spirits and lovely glassware.
Upstairs, 280 Sydney Road, Brunswick 0412 907 847 ameliashawbar.com.au Open Thurs 6pm−1am; Fri−Sat 6pm−2.30am
2 The Aylesbury Rooftop
With its excellent terrace, copper-topped bar and pint-sized dedicated kitchen churning out Spanish-influenced snacks, the Aylesbury Rooftop is like a dream space-age bachelor pad made real. Add some fine cocktail skills and a compact list of craft beers and you may want to move in.
Level 5, 103 Lonsdale Street, City 9077 0451 theaylesbury.com.au Open Sat−Thurs 3pm−late; Fri noon−late
3 Bar Americano
This tucked away beauty channels Italy, from its blue Tabacchi sign, and lack of seating inside the tiny space, to the drink and food lists. The cocktail menu here may not be the longest, but the drinks themselves are among the finest crafted in town.
20 Presgrave Place, City (no phone) baramericano.com Open Mon 7am−4pm; Tues−Sat 7am−11pm
4 The Beaufort
A dim, neon-lit dive bar, the Beaufort offers up Americana bar food, a timber bar carved with people’s names, a goodnatured, smart-mouthed attitude and a drinks list that runs from root beer and rye to hefty classic concoctions like the Boulevardier.
421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton 9347 8171 thebeaufort.com.au Open Tues−Sat 5pm−1am; Sun 3−11pm
5 Black Pearl
Blending laid-back comfort and ease with amazing cocktail know-how and brilliant quality ingredients, Black Pearl could qualify as Melbourne’s most accessible cocktail bar. The upstairs bar, the Attic, puts a more upmarket, table-service spin on things.
304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 9417 0455 Open Daily 5pm−3am (Attic Thurs–Sat 7pm–3am)
6 The Everleigh
With its wood panelling, vintage glassware, dim lighting, booth seating and table service from formally attired staff, the Everleigh felt as if it had been around forever from the moment it opened. After sampling the meticulous drinks, you’ll be hoping it stays around forever.
Level 1, 150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy 9416 2229 theeverleigh.com Open Daily 5.30pm−1am
7 Gerald’s Bar
Every neighbourhood should have a local bar like Gerald’s. It’s a place that’s interested in quality over quantity, music via turntable, food that encourages another glass of wine and dimensions that encourage conversation.
386 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North 9349 4748 Open Mon−Sat 5−11pm
8 Hannah’s Bar at Epocha
The top floor of a beautiful Victorian terrace house is now a flatteringly lit oasis with tables inlaid with backgammon boards, murals from local artists, a short list of European-influenced cocktails and a lovely balcony overlooking the Exhibition Gardens.
Upstairs, 49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton 9036 4949 epocha.com.au Open Tues–Wed 3pm−late; Thurs–Sat noon−late; Sun noon−4pm
9 Kid Boston
It’s all about balance at Kid Boston. From the friendly ‘70s-inspired timber and hanging-plant fitout, to the deceptively simple bar food (the grilled octopus is a cracker), and cocktails that are as much about flavour and thirst quenching as they are about packing a punch, everything’s in place.
44 Chapel Street, Windsor 9939 5256 kidboston.com.au Open Mon−Thurs 5pm−late; Fri 5pm−1am; Sat 3pm−1am; Sun 3pm−late
10 The Woods of Windsor
Dark and moody with a taxidermy-led eccentricity, the Woods is also a serious bar with a love of classic cocktails and brilliant whiskey. There are smart beer and wine lists too, and a flexible food menu that allows you to snack or make a meal of it.
108 Chapel Street, Windsor 9521 1900 thewoodsofwindsor.com Open Mon–Sat noon−1am; Sun noon−11pm
The Age Good Food Under $30 guide is available in bookshops and The Age online shop for $10.