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Gemima Cody selects the city's best new places to drink on high and the classic hits for 2016.
More rooftop bars have sprung up in the past six months than in the previous six years in Melbourne. Which expands the list beyond the same five or so bars you already have hard-wired in, ready to be texted out as a bat signal whenever the sun shines. Here's a rundown.
Marquis of Lorne
Small but mighty, the stripey umbrella and tinnie-equipped deck at the top of the renovated Marquis of Lorne pub is one of the best of the new bunch. There's beer and charcuterie among the taxidermy downstairs, hanger steaks and grain salads in the dining room and finally the rooftop for craft tinnies from a bathtub, vinyl and a couple of easy-drinking cocktails.
411 George Street, Fitzroy, 03 9417 5001, marquisoflorne.com.au
Kirk's Wine Bar rooftop
Technically it's a terrace, and it's only open for private parties until it becomes part of the French Saloon in March, but make that party a priority when you get access to the Euro-leaning food and wines of downstairs and exclusive run of the star-gazing deck overlooking Hardware Lane.
Cnr Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Streets, Melbourne, 03 9600 4550, kirkswinebar.com
You might have only seen the inside of the Imperial during rugby matches, but now you can see a lot more of both it and the city from the giant upper decks. It has 20 beers from the world's big players on tap and the booziest of snacks – onion rings, burgers and cubanos. Bonus: it's smoke free.
2-8 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9810 0062, bourkestreetimperial.com
It's hard to talk about Easey's seriously – it's cheeseburgers and Melbourne Bitters served in professionally graffiti-covered train carriages on a Collingwood rooftop – but the novelty works, and it's hard to mess up a Dark and Stormy.
3/48 Easey Street, Collingwood, 03 9079 5942, easeys.com.au
The Crafty Squire
Part of the recent makeover of the James Squire brewhouse involved lifting the lid off. It's a rustic job maintaining the original brick archways and pink-hued bricks, so it's somewhat like drinking your brews from within the ribcage of a giant salmon. Further updates: the menu has gone contemporary and hops have been planted around the edges to complete the brew pub feel. The beer flights remain.
127 Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 9810 0064, thecraftysquire.com.au
Still the best option in the city for cocktails and food that match the height of the actual bar. The terrace is surrounded by glittering city towers, the negronis tight and the snacks Spanish. Stay tuned for renovations.
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 03 9077 0451, bombabar.com.au
As long as Siglo lives, it gets a place on this list. It's the perfect storm – classic bones, wicker chairs and parliamentary views meet a high-end drinks list that judges no-one, deals with everyone from your Old World wine swillers to the European beer fans and the Bacardi-and-Coke crowd who cluster in smoke-shrouded groups late into the night.
Level 2, 161 Spring Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 6300, theeuropean.com.au
The cinema in summer; the Astroturf, the deck chairs and the million stairs: you know what to expect at this second obvious and eternal entrant on this list, including simple drinks at comes-with-a-view prices.
252 Swanston St, Melbourne, 03 9654 5394, rooftopcinema.com.au
Naked in the Sky
There's a caveat. You face two lines to get in – first to the downstairs pintxos bar where snacks on bread and flavoured vodkas rule, and then another for the lift to the roof, where the cocktails, while ambitious, can be a little loose on execution beyond a negroni. But there's no arguing with views all the way to the Dandenongs and a frosty pint. Can't wait? New bar Upside, further down the road, pulls a similar crowd gagging to get fists wrapped around tropical cocktails while looking east, west and beyond.
85 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 03 9416 2238, nakedforsatan.com.au
The foliage has finally grown-in, making this the garden in the sky it was always meant to be, with fruit-forward cocktails to match – high five, whoever came up with the sloe loris (a sloe gin and ginger situation, built for four). Beers are Boags, Stella and a couple of craftier options and the food is tailored for drinking (including a few sliders and a calamari salad), but the city views, and daytime sessions on weekends, put it ahead of the pack.
L3, 23 Meyers Place, Melbourne, 03 9654 0500, looprooftopbar.com.au
The bamboo-lined rooftop makes this mod-Vietnamese bar and diner in Balaclava. You'll have to fight for space in summer when everyone's smashing through banh mi, giant Beerlao and some well-made cocktails filled with spice, herbs and coconut foams, but you can book for groups of six plus and the Local Taphouse next door also has an upstairs deck as a solid fall back (or plan A if you're into craft beer).
188 Carlisle Street, Melbourne 03 9041 2668, unclestkilda.com.au
Long live Madame Brussels and her army in tiny shorts. The Astroturfed country club look of this classic bar (sitting above a mysterious hostess lounge on Bourke Street) has been much imitated, along with the gin-leaning cocktail menu backed by high tea snacks such as cupcakes and sausage rolls, but the Madame stands alone in having the moxie to pull it off.
3, 59 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9662 2775, madamebrussels.com
Feast of Merit
Richmond's community-minded restaurant with ties to YGAP is moving onwards and upwards. The rooftop area featuring a huge mural of Nagaland is open for functions and will run as a bar from February.
117 Swan Street, Richmond, 03 9428 8480, feastofmerit.com