No disrespect to our native Sydney, but Melbourne has a staggering amount of great places to get your drink on. Seriously, in putting together this list of Melbourne’s best gin bars, we started to wonder if essentially every other building in the city has a bar tucked down its laneway. Needless to say, if you’re seeking a classic martini or gimlet or just any strong botanical beverage then Melbourne’s best gin bars will duly heed the call.
Likewise, we’re certain the true connoisseurs among you will be delighted to find some rare gin to sip neat, one that you simply never expected to come across in the flesh. Presenting the Best Gin Bars in Melbourne (and then some bars that just make a damn good gin cocktail). Just like a great spirits menu or sprouting juniper plant, this is a list that seems to keep growing and growing with each passing year. Yum.
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.
A staple for locals and tourists, Gin Palace has now been on the scene for 20 years as the one-stop venue for gins of the world, big martinis and a Champagne list that would rival most Bottle-Os. This gin bar in Melbourne is one of those places that made locals start saying ‘the small bar scene here is excellent’ long before it really was, and even longer before Sydney caught on. The best part is the fact they’re open until 3am, every day of the week (none of this flaky ‘till late’ palaver).
10 Russell Pl, Melbourne
From internationally acclaimed bartender (not mixologist, we’re told) Michael Madrusan, of Milk & Honey fame, comes this very grown-up cocktail lounge. With all 30 guests seated, there’s a sense of class and sophistication for you to soak up whilst getting trolleyed on the first-rate cocktails that emerge from behind the small bar top. While they make gin cocktails particularly well, pretty much everything on offer is bang-on and wank-free, especially the tip-top service.
Upstairs, 150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Devoted entirely to Australian made spirits, think of Bad Frankie as the Australian history teacher you wish you’d always had. Named after the sod who banned the small-pot still in Australia, which, for 150 years, stifled any chance of a holistic craft liquor industry, Bad Frankie has a vast range of the excellent white and brown spirits now being produced in the land, and the friendly staff have the knowledge to back it all up. Try something you’ve never heard of and pat yourself on the back for supporting a local.
141 Greeves St, Fitzroy
Named after the year the word ‘cocktail’ was first recorded in use, this bar has been a favourite for many since it first opened its doors back in 2007. While the focus isn’t necessarily on just gin, they sure as hell know what they’re doing with the stuff – both house-cocktails and juniper-heavy classics are made with love and care, and the chaps behind the bar aren’t your regular paying-their-way-through-uni bartenders either. Order a Corpse Reviver #2 and stay for three.
169 Exhibition St Melbourne
Tucked down a Chinatown laneway is the veritably awesome Lily Blacks. Picture a roaring 20s décor with minimalist undertones, joined by classic cocktails and hand-chiseled ice cubes. Naturally, that means some of the finest gin drinks to ever cross your lips. Pair those delectable beverages with a mind-blowing selection of bitters and you won’t stop coming until you’ve tried it all. It will deliver a gin cocktail you’ll never forget.
12 Meyers Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
This distinguished culinary destination serves modern Australian fare (kangaroo tartare, anyone?) in an elegant, open setting. Ably paired with all that remarkable cuisine is a cocktail menu of the highest calibre. Their selection of gin is modest, but formidable, and includes some Australian brands and then one of our personal favourites: Germany’s Monkey 47.
300 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066
The Melbourne bar scene is nothing if not crafty. In fact, a wide variety of the best bars are hidden down laneways or tucked in the corners of heritage buildings. For a prime example, look no further than Berlin Bar. Not only is this one-of-a-kind destination thematically divided between (formerly) destitute East Germany and opulent West Germany, but you need an illustrated map just to find it in the first place. It also happens to be one of the best gin bars in Melbourne.
16 Corrs Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Follow the crowd at the Federation Wharf and you might find yourself at Pilgrim. This waterfront venue couples elevated gastro fare with a boutique selection of wines and spirits. Their gin menu is approachable and affordable, though ultimately not in and of itself able to compete with the best Melbourne gin bars. That said, they do offer up to five incredible gin cocktails and a delicious gin-based Bloody Mary so let’s put them on the list anyway!
Federation Wharf, 15-19 Federation Drive, Melbourne VIC 3000
The Store Room
Here we have another elusive gem (complete with secret door) that does Melbourne proud. The Store Room is a speakeasy style lounge that will definitely give you a night to remember, assuming you can find it. Expect a stellar selection of spirits and gins in particular, since no prohibition-themed joint would have it any other way. Everyone loves this place so get in on the secret as soon as you can!
Deep in the heart of Belgrave is Gin Lane, a supremely popular specialty cocktail bar and live music venue. One glance at their legendary list of spirits tells you know this is easily one of the best gin bars in Melbourne. Also available are gin flights for the true botanical enthusiast.
1641 Burwood Hwy, Belgrave VIC 3160
Yet another concealed laneway gem, Romeo Lane couples masterful cocktails with sophisticated ambiance to stunning effect. Rest assured any gin cocktail you get here might be the best you’ve ever tried. Indeed, Time Out recently declared that Romeo Lane is making “the best drinks in the city right now”. In booze-crazy Melbourne, that’s quite a feat!
1 Crossley St, Melbourne VIC 3000
First things first, Top Paddock is a downright spectacular place for brunch, i.e. the ideal setting for some day drinking so why not mention it. Order a reliably awesome Bloody Mary (with gin) and some late brekkie and pass the time until a late night venue opens.
658 Church St, Richmond VIC 3121
Absinthe and apertifs are the specialty at this hidden tripped out joint, but don’t think that doesn’t mean you can’t find a healthy selection of gins and other spirits. Also known for their signature cocktails, tasty small bites and late hours, Bar Ampere is the perfect place to start your day or cap off your night.
16 Russell Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Eau De Vie
Walk through the door of this underground establishment to enter a world of endless invention and epicurean delight. Eau De Vie easily makes some of the best and most creative cocktails in town. Behind the bookcase is a secret whisky bar of jaw-dropping magnitude and their front-of-the-house gin selection is likewise nothing to scoff at. Needless to say, this is one of Melbourne’s best bars, period. Accordingly, the privilege of visiting will cost you.
1 Malthouse Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Technically more of a wine bar, Bar Liberty does have a rotating menu of gin and tonics and that’s good enough for us. In addition to all that booze is a one-page food menu that tastefully straddles the line between upscale and casual. Come to this hotspot for some brilliant indulgence and leave tipsy, full and happy.
234 Johnston St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Hell of the North
Hell of the North is a hell of a name for a bar. Is it a hell of a gin bar? Eh. It’s really more of a wine and beer joint. But you will find some gin cocktail classics here, made to perfection. If you’re a best of all worlds drinker, the gin-based Corpse Reviver No. 2 has your name written all over it.
135 Greeves St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
The Lui Bar
Nothing enhances an unforgettable juniper cocktail quite like an equally unforgettable high-rise view. For that, The Lui Bar has you covered to the tune of 55 stories. Engorge in their extensive selection of gin martinis (and small bites) while staring out across the epic Melbourne skyline. Sometimes the best Melbourne gin bars aren’t just about the gin.
Level 55, Rialto Tower, 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.