17 Casselden Pl Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Thu-Fri 3pm-late; Sat 5pm-late|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||0408 773 087|
It's comforting to drink gin just metres from the still that made it. For starters, the still's presence implies there's plenty more where that came from. It also displays confidence. You'd hardly set up your tiny bar right next to your still and serve little else but your own gin if you didn't think the booze was up to scratch. And so the folk at Little Lon Distillery Co, the CBD's only craft gin distillery and bar, tick the quantity and confidence boxes from the get go.
Little Lon's pretty good with the history stuff, too. The heritage-listed cottage down a lane on the edge of the CBD is the last single-storey building of its kind in the city with, surely, one of its only surviving outdoor dunnies sitting in one corner of the tiny courtyard that serves as entrance and holding area to the bar.
Inside the cottage, the cosy (minuscule) single-room bar holds a maximum of 20 people and has a standard issue speakeasy vibe – dark-stained timber, gilt framed mirror, Edison globes, cut crystal glassware – that benefits from the steampunk presence of the copper and steel still in the adjacent room. It's a great space with a genuine intimacy and sense of history that becomes more pronounced as the night – and the gin – progresses. A soundtrack of hissing gas lamps wouldn't go astray.
Little Lon distils four kinds of gin from a base spirit they make themselves. There's the London Dry-style Proudfoot, a juniper forward gin that's the go-to here for a martini or a gin and tonic. It's busier than a standard London dry with its back notes of rosemary and pepper but its density and clarity aids its martini credentials.
Then there's a Dutch-style jenever, used to great effect in The Martinez, a precursor to the martini that combines jenever with red vermouth and a maraschino cherry garnish.
Two more gins, one infused with lychees, the other with ginger and citrus, are used throughout the double-page cocktail list that includes the Little Collins, a thirst-quenching mix of Ginger Mick gin, lemon juice, soda and a lemongrass and ginger syrup.
Little Lon has limited opening hours – Thursday to Saturday – and those are often curtailed with regular gin masterclasses that take over the entire space, so it's wise to call ahead to see if the bar is taking all comers or, to book a spot at one of the tasting sessions.
There's limited snackage, too, but what is available – charcuterie and cheese boards and steamed or fried dumplings from nearby Grandma's Dumplings – works well with the compact surrounds and drinks list.
With a still sharing the quirky space and with nothing but gin to drink, Little Lon is the definition of a niche bar. Good news, then, that the CBD's only craft distillery does its niche proud.
Martini meter 4/5
Made with Little Lon's London dry-ish Proudfoot gin and Dolin Dry vermouth, the entry-level martini is a well-wrought version of the classic, nicely chilled, a little viscous but still light on its feet, $20.
Go-to bar snack
The tiny space precludes elaborate snacking but the cheese and charcuterie boards provide a generous pile of cured meat (including grilled chorizo), decent cheese and dips, $25/$45.