Ich bin ein Berliner. Inspired by the city once divided by an iron wall, separating the capitalist bloc and the communist bloc – Berlin Bar is equal parts utilitarian and opulent. Once you’ve found the front door, you’ll need to ring the doorbell to gain admittance to the stow-away first floor. Inside, you’ll find a combination of repurposed grenade crates and luxurious leather booths. East meets West on the cocktail list too, serving up a range of eclectic brews.
2, 16 Corrs Lane, CBD. (03) 9639 3396.
What’s in a name? Roughly translated from Japanese, Hihou means ‘secret treasure’. That’s exactly what you’ll think when walking it into it’s zen-like minimalism, a nocturnal hangout seemingly lifted straight from a Tokyo back-alley. Any Japanese inspired bar worth its miso will have a quality range of whiskey and saki, and Hihou doesn’t disappoint. Kick back on reclining ottomans with candle lit stone tables while enjoying some chilli edamame or trout sashimi.
First Floor, 1 Flinders Lane, CBD. (03) 9654 5465.
The entry to Fall from Grace is straight out of a Harry Potter book. Which is fitting, because to find it you’ll need to pull a secret book off a shelf to unlock a revolving door that will lead you into its hazy underbelly. Trust me, there is no better way to make an entrance than through a revolving bookshelf. Follow the winding marble staircase to unveil a den of old world panache and experimental cocktails.
477 Collins Street, CBD. (03) 8644 7110.
Let me set the scene. It’s late at night, everything is winding up and you’ve dropped into Boston Sub for a meatball sandwich. You scan the small room and notice the faint sound of music coming from behind the cool room door. Only it’s not the cool room door – it’s a gateway to tropicana paradise where tiki culture reigns supreme and the booze is flowing. Congratulations, you’ve made it to Jungle Boy.
96 Chapel Street, Windsor. (03) 9943 7653.
Sister Bella is a classic Melbourne laneway bar. The type that put alleyway culture on the map, making Sydneysiders forever jealous. Keep your beaches, we’ll take hole in the wall hideaways like Sister Bella any day of the week. Hidden behind a smattering of bins, you’ll see nothing but a few steps towards an equally unassuming door. Inside is a dimly lit bar filled with nooks and crannies that makes it feel like an undiscovered clubhouse.
22 Drewery Place, CBD (enter via Sniders Lane).
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble – I’ll take a whiskey, let’s make it a double. The Alchemist is tucked away, quietly perfecting their alcoholic potions. Rumour has it, their concoctions can make you dance five times harder and feel increasingly confident. Side effects include potent hangovers the next day. Decked out with low hanging chandeliers, wax candles and ominous skulls, the inside feels like a haunted mansion. Try their signature take on an espresso martini, complete with chilli and chocolate.
361 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. (03) 9419 8250.
Tucked down a winding Chinatown alley, getting to The Croft Institute is part of your experience. Set over two floors, the first level is inspired by an old school science lab complete with a full kit of test tubes and other curious glassware. If you forgot to bring your Bunsen burner license, head upstairs to the gymnasium based level, boasting a real turf bar. Cocktails are custom designed to fit the mood, and DJs spin the weekend out with heady grooves.
21 Croft Alley, CBD. (03) 9671 4399.
The only signifier to let you know Eau De Vie is near is the dull glow of an old street lamp, affixed upon the top of a hidden door – just teetering on conspicuousness. Stepping inside is like walking into time machine, straight back to somewhere between the ’20s and ’50s. The only thing that flows more than the rickety jazz music is the alcohol, with a collection of over 700 spirits. Winner of Australia’s Best Bar Team, Best Cocktail List and Best Bartender, Eau De Vie has to be seen to be believed.
1 Malthouse Lane, CBD. 0412 825 441.
You wouldn’t always expect to find a first class bar stacked on top of a Noodle Kingdom, but then again – this is Melbourne we’re talking about. We thrive off that shit. Venture up the stairs to discover Goldilocks, a light hearted haven that feels a world away from Swanston Street. The drinks list is capped to six rotating, seasonal cocktails while adventurous flavour matching can be chosen that brings together fruit and vegetables. Rounded out with a cottage theme, the whimsical menu features hot fried chicken and truffled popcorn.
Fourth Floor, 264 Swanston St, CBD.
Open until 5am on weekends, Loch and Key is perfect for a bleary eyed nightcap. An outdoors beer garden overlooks the city street, while a backroom features private booths so you can realise you’ve got absolutely nothing in common with that person you’re on a second date with. Never mind though, take your mind off it with their bespoke beverage list, with drinks created to your own personal taste.
34 Franklin St, CBD.
BY JAMES DI FABRIZIO