New Melbourne bars to put on your dance card

Pork scratchings, beer battered mussels and sticky pork at Magic Mountain Saloon.
Pork scratchings, beer battered mussels and sticky pork at Magic Mountain Saloon. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Apparently, we're not sufficiently soaked yet, Melbourne. New bars are coming at you from every angle pouring a bucketload of whisky, craft beers and gin. Here are the new places to put on your dance card. 

Union Electric

A sign near Bill Murray's portrait says "Commit no nuisance". But everything else about the slender alleyway-turned-bar space – juiced-up highballs, bitter cocktails for seasoned palates and  Blackalicious over the speakers – says otherwise. Look for the lightning bolt in Heffernan Lane and come early. It's a tight fit, and after 11pm it gets tighter – the open air part of the space is outside of their liquor license. Pushing local beers and liquors as well as the cocktail recipes of some of Melbourne's best bartenders has proved a smart way to get a lot of the trade through the door. Beer and spirit professionals are on both sides of this fruit-laden bar. The man actually making your Charlie Chaplains and insistently refreshing your apple, elderflower, cucumber and gin drink, and doing it well, is co-owner and ex-Le Bon Ton bartender Huw Griffiths. Hungry? Food in the form of pan-fried pork dumplings and Peking duck pancakes comes from New Kum Den restaurant. Join the fun.

13 Heffernan Lane, Melbourne, unionelectric.com.au; Open daily 5pm-late.

Belleville

Don't call it a bar. The team who brought you Section 8 and Ferdydurke have gone with a "derelicte" bohemian village angle for their new heritage-listed Globe Alley space, which overlooks the gates of Chinatown from above the Swanston Street ANZ. The focus is on wine, cocktails, rotisserie chicken and art. Inside you'll find crumbling paint juxtaposing hanging plants, a huge mural by Mike Giant of Rebel8 and a small circular cocktail bar where you might see bartender Sean Hastings throwing liquor in wide arcs into glasses while anchoring himself with an old school flare pole. Another bar focuses on wine while an elevated stage is being regularly occupied by artists, speakers and acts like DJ duo Strictly Vinyl and Coco Noire. B.East chef Jarrod Moore is serving san choi bao, slow-roasted lamb shoulder and kim-chi quesadillas from 11am-1am, but the main focus is on quarter, half and whole rotisserie chickens with your choice of sauce and a side.

Globe Alley, Melbourne, 9663 4041, belleville-Melbourne.com; Open daily 11am-1am.

Bar Exuberante

Based on the fictitious Imperial Exuberante Palace Hotel, this new cocktail bar by booze wizard and artist Matt Bax makes you feel like you're stepping into the private guest bar of a once-fancy Havana hotel circa 1962: dodgy menu typos, champagne crustas and all. The cocktail menu focuses on Bax-style versions of timeless rum classics (think next-level zombies, mojitos and pina coladas – some of which get the molecular treatment via sous-vide and liquid nitrogen) with a handful of not-rum options for those who need them. Bax loves himself a bit of an exclusive feel, so let's just say that if you can manage to get a seat, there's a fair dash of quirky fun and surprise to be had, along with some of the best cocktails in town. No bookings – walk-ins only.

A wee dram at New World Whisky Distillery.
A wee dram at New World Whisky Distillery. Photo: Richard Cornish

Bar Exuberante, 438 Church Street, Richmond, 9428 0055; Open Tue-Thu 6pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 6pm-1am.

Whisky bar at the New World Whisky Distillery

For the last five years, David Vitale has been proving that the quality of a whisky isn't necessarily linked to its age (nor proximity to a Scottish loch). He's the man behind the ballsy and young yet elegant Starward Whisky, which he produces in his distillery out at Essendon Airport. Vitale has recently expanded that operation, opening a cellar door and bar, similar to the set-up you might have seen at Lark Distillery in Hobart. The bar has a capacity for 100 and features a bar top made from a 75-year-old repurposed French Oak brandy vat. It's here you can taste your way through nips of the Starward whisky range including single cask releases (right now they're showcasing a batch aged in ginger beer barrels) as well as their own gin, and a pale ale which they also make on site and are only available at the bar. 

New World Whisky Distillery, Larkin Street, Essendon Fields, 9005 4420; Open Fri 4-11pm; Sat noon-5pm.   

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Magic Mountain Saloon 

Magic Mountain has taken over a former Irish theme pub on Little Collins Street (and its super-rare 24-hour licence) and turned it from tired old cliche to an uncluttered, atmospheric, warehouse-channelling three levels of red neon, stencilled murals, multiple seating options (booths, bar, tables, benches, balcony), clandestine nooks and crannies, DJs playing seven nights a week and generous lists of everything from cocktails and draught beer to successful but kind of bonkers Thai food that's been seeded with American barbecue and given a good shake. Good times guaranteed from the same team who have proved themselves with slam dunk bars Cookie and the Toff in Town. 

62 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, 9078 0078, magicmountainsaloon.com.au; Open Mon-Fri 7am-3am; Sat-Sun 8am-3am.

Boilermaker House

The EDV team are about to swing open doors to a new late night bar on Lonsdale Street, only this time, it's all about straight whiskies, craft beers and meats rather than tricked-up cocktails, the focus of their Malthouse Lane speakeasy. Boilermaker House is taking a run at the title of Melbourne's biggest whisky collection, with a list of over 700 Scottish, Australian, Japanese and lesser-seen Indian, Taiwanese, and South African whiskies, matched to craft beers. (Ordering a whisky with a beer chaser is known as a boilermaker, hence the bar's name, in case you were wondering.) A second bar will be dedicated to serving cured meats and cheeses of the world until close every night. From Thursday to Sunday, they will also be selling sandwiches and ploughman's boards at lunch, while at dinner you can get a steak, ribs and slow-cooked shanks. Carnivores rejoice! Boilermaker House is slated to open at the beginning of April.

Travel back to Havana circa 1962 courtesy of artist Matt Bax at Bar Exuberante.
Travel back to Havana circa 1962 courtesy of artist Matt Bax at Bar Exuberante. Photo: Carmen Zammit

209 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne; Open Mon-Wed 5pm-3am, Thu-Sun noon-3am.