From sky-high cocktails and a pre-theatre meeting place in Southbank, to two Fitzroy newcomers and a secret bar in a South Yarra basement, here's what's new on the city's drinks scene.
What isn't there to love about a 360-degree view of Melbourne from the 40th floor of Melbourne's newest bar? Sky Bar dials up the glamour and riffs with big city energy – where velvet seats and cosy corners are sure to generate plenty of Instagram-worthy moments. Situated on the same floor as Strato, a luxe new restaurant, the emphasis is on being chaperoned through cocktail and wine lists from bartenders who know their stuff. Don't let the Southbank location throw you, it's worth the trip.
Level 40/202 Normanby Street, Southbank
A martini glass neon sign gives you the heads up there's a bar down a laneway that runs alongside Ovolo South Yarra. It's here you'll find Backroom – also accessible via the basement of the hip hotel. It's a chic diversion from the feverish pace of Chapel Street; less about being seen and more about being discreet. The menu boasts a slew of vegan snacks and top-notch Australian-ingredient cocktails. A great soundtrack is always blaring – think Tom Petty, Queen and Guns'n'Roses. Mood lighting and mid-century inspired velvet decor caters for 45 guests at a time.
234 Toorak Road, South Yarra
Backroom in the Ovolo's basement. Photo: Supplied
Sugar Glider is the newest addition to Johnston Street; a late-night bar which leans into a Louisiana swamp decor and comes kitted in French-washed walls and a custom-built bar for a rollicking good time. It's run by Paul Hannigan, founder of music streaming platform Moshcam, his daughter and former Cherry Bar manager Corwen, and their friend Will Mason (another Melbourne bar scene veteran from Yah Yahs). Enjoy a Cajun/Creole inspired menu in a booth down the back before the dancefloor opens. It's all about funky soulful beats and bluesy jazz, and is sure to become a pitstop for late night party-goers given it's licensed until 3am.
56 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
Sugar Glider glides onto Johnston Steet. Photo: Supplied
Miss Pearl at Southbank Theatre is a welcome addition to the precinct that lacks options when it comes to late-night bars. Head here for a pre-theatre cocktail (booking recommended) or live a little and turn up once the shows have started, when walk-ins are off-peak. There's a decent variety of cocktails and wines on offer, pitching to a varied demographic. Why not tap into a bit of theatre at the bar when you order a cocktail? A smoky old-fashioned is made using a smoking gun to deliver the final brown-sugared blow.
140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Sleek surfaces inside Miss Pearl. Photo: Supplied
Par Bar Fitzroy
Small batch cocktails made on site are treated like wines at Par Bar on Brunswick Street, where a rotating list of 12 drinks makes the cocktail experience anything but ordinary. Owners Tony Huang and Tim Pope, along with his sommelier wife Aimee, run the 28-seat table service-only venue and fuse their love of cocktails with a wine philosophy. There's no ice or garnishes to be found, and that's intentional. Instead, the team bottle their cocktails over a three-day process from cold infusing a hero flavour on day one, to filtering and putting it in bottles on day two (so the sediment separates), to more filtering for cocktail perfection on the final day. Think of it like this: a cocktail that won't dilute and whose flavour gets better as it adjusts to room temperature – yep – just like a fine wine. The minimalist bar also beams digital artworks from Japanese contemporary to animation while you go avant-garde with your tastebuds. The bar snacks menu is expanding, too.
2/360 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy