The 50 best bars in Victoria, according to bartenders, are right here.
What makes a great bar?
If you look through the list of Victoria’s 50 best bars below, you’ll see that despite the wide range of experiences and aesthetics they offer — we’ve got everything from high-end temples of the art of the cocktail, to down and dirty dives (and everywhere on between) — the thread that brings them all together is passion and an emphasis on hospitality.
How did we get the list? The best way to find bars to visit is to ask the bartender in front of you. In August, we put out the call for nominations, with a view to discovering the best bars across Victoria. These nominations were then voted on by an advisory panel of over 100 Victorian bartenders and bar figures, each voter choosing their seven favourite bars.
The result is the 50 top bars below.
1. Caretaker's Cottage
13-141 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
THE 2023 BEST BAR IN VICTORIA SPONSORED BY OLD YOUNG'S
Caretaker’s is subtle, in its way: the lights, the sound, the timber — everything conveys warmth, just like their hospitality. They don’t shout their pedigree to the world, though they’ve all worked at some of the world’s best bars.
The place is small inside, so you’re up close and personal with the bartenders making your drinks behind the bar, which also functions as a DJ booth: an expensive looking record player setup is embedded along one side of the bar, with stacks of vinyl set on the back bar beneath two large, warm-sounding golden speakers. The drinks are always first class, and it might just be the best bar in Australia right now.
caretakerscottage.bar | @caretakers.cottage
2. Above Board
Chopper Ln, Collingwood
THE 2023 BEST COCKTAIL BAR IN VICTORIA SPONSORED BY GRADA
Located at the end of Chopper Lane, and sitting above a beer bar, you’ll find one of Australia’s best regarded cocktail bars. Helmed by veteran bartender, Hayden Lambert, at Above Board it’s all about old school cocktailing; minimal ingredients, cocktails built in the classic style, an emphasis on banter and hospitality in a small, intimate, beautifully designed space.
aboveboardbar.com | @aboveboardbarmelb
3. Bar Bellamy
4. One Or Two
18 Celestial Ave, Melbourne
Owner and bartender Andy Chu has worked some of the city’s best bars, and knows how to put liquids together in delicious and inventive ways; the 26-seat cocktail bar opposite Chinatown staple Supper Inn is an intimate, dark, minimalist space where Chu and another bartender craft cocktails of the highest standard. Each visit brings something new and delicious to drink, which is perhaps why, on each visit, there's always an off-duty bartender sat at the bar, watching Chu go about his work.
oneortwo.com | @one.or.two.melb
5. Black Pearl
304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
THE ALL TIME GREAT VIC
SPONSORED BY BASIL HAYDEN
Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, Black Pearl is a bar world legend. Some of the country’s best bartending talents have spent time behind the stick here, and Black Pearl practically pioneered the idea of the neighbourhood joint that just happens to be a world renowned cocktail destination. Love live the Pearl.
blackpearlbar.com.au | @blackpearlfitzroy
7. The Elysian Whisky Bar
113 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Owners Kelvin Low and Yao Wong are big fans of whisky, and they’ve cobbled together a collection of hard to find, rare and special whiskies that has made the place a destination for whisky lovers and novices alike. It’s the kind of place where you can sit down at the bar, they’ll open bottles for you to sniff, and talk you through your choices; each visit is an education in deliciousness.
theelysianwhiskybar.com.au | @theelysianwhiskybar
8. Bar Liberty
234 Johnston St, Fitzroy
When Bar Liberty opened on Johnson St Fitzroy in 2016, it was riding a wave of interest in unstuffying wine — laidback service, interesting drops from smaller producers and minimal interventionists, and delicious food. And in recent years, its cocktail list provided more reasons to drop in, with the Uber-talented Nick Tesar behind the bar until he made a move into the brand world earlier this year. Tesar may have moved on, but his legacy remains in drinks like the Japanese Slipper No. Blue: melon liqueur, Marionette blue curaçao, yuzushu and gin, and one of the Boothby Top 50 Drinks of the Year in 2022.
barliberty.com | @bar.liberty
9. Apollo Inn
165 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Despite having opened just this year, Apollo Inn already feels like it’s part of the bar world firmament. It’s an offshoot of the highly regarded restaurant from the Trader House group, Gimlet, with an expert team of bartenders on hand mixing smart takes on classic cocktails, and a chef back there with the bartenders plating up the kind of bar food that’ll have you cancelling dinner plans: think fresh shucked oysters, seafood, and charcuterie and you’re on the right track.
apolloinn.bar | @apolloinn.bar
10. Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters
56 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Pearl Diver is what happens when two of Brisbane’s best bartending talents come to Melbourne and indulge their passions for good eating and drinking; as the name suggests, they do cocktails (their Sea & Shell Martini landed at number six on last year’s Drink of the Year Top 50), and oysters (a number of varieties are on hand at any given time).
pearldiver.com.au | @pearldiverco
11. Mr West
106 Nicholson Street Mall, Footscray
The award-winning Mr West opened in 2017 in Footscray thanks to owners Caleb Baker and Josh Hodges. There’s a healthy selection of 30 taps pour craft beers and funky ciders from across Australia and the globe, and the cocktails here are flavour-forward and fresh; an extensive range of spirits and minimal intervention wines complete the package. And if you’re not quite done when you’re done, you can pick up something from the bottleshop downstairs, too.
mrwest.com.au | @mrwestbar
2/360 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
The debut bar from bartending double act, Tim Pope and Tony Huang, Par. pushes the concept of what a cocktail is; each of their cocktails are built from the ground up using uncommon ingredients and techniques, and designed to drink like wine (hence the uniform stemmed wine glasses every drink comes in). The minimalist space serves as the perfect foil for the duo’s passionate and warm hospitality.
parmelbourne.com | @par.melb
13. The Everleigh
Level 1/150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
All hail the mighty Ev. The Everleigh has been a bastion of proper, adult drinking since opening in 2011, pushing classic cocktails to a grateful public and serving them up in one of the country’s most beautiful rooms.
theverleigh.com | @theeverleigh
14. Whisky & Alement
270 Russell St, Melbourne
Whisky nerds and novices alike are sorted at Whisky & Alement, the award-winning Melbourne whisky bar owned by Brooke Hayman and Julian White. Now in its 14th year of trade, the bar possesses an up-beat and buzzy atmosphere, and whether you’re keen to dive deep into single malts, discover a heretofore unknown dram, or just knock back the whisky and have a good time, Whisky & Alement does it all.
whiskyandale.com.au | @whiskyandalement
122 Russell St, Melbourne
Ever since Embla opened in 2016, bartenders — and hanger-on booze writer types — have been dropping into the place any chance they get. That’s because the wine and food are at a standard you might expect from far grander places, the service is smart and without pretension, the fit out is warm and inviting. Embla always offers something new to admire, whether it’s on the plate or in the glass.
embla.com.au | @embla_melbourne
33 Russell St, Melbourne
To sit at the bar at Gimlet, the restaurant and bar inside Cavendish House, is to get swept up in the bustle and brass of a grand bistro; the patrons are well-heeled, the bartenders swift and sure of movement, the cocktails taken in swift succession. It’s one of the country’s finest arguments for eating at the bar.
gimlet.melbourne | @gimlet.melbourne
18. The 18th Amendment Bar
82A Little Malop St, Geelong
Since opening in 2017, The 18th Amendment Bar has flown the flag for choice cocktails and good times in Geelong — their efforts have seen them become a regular fixture of award ceremonies and ‘best of’ lists around the country.
the18thamendmentbar.com.au/geelong | @the_18th_amendment_bar
19. Hats & Tatts
1/246 Russell St, Melbourne
Hats & Tatts is loud, it’s raucous, it’s a divey — so you know it’s going to be a good time. Since the bar closed up its South Melbourne digs and moved to the big smoke of the CBD, they’ve added in a rooftop, but their play hard drink better ethos remains.
facebook.com/hatsandtatts | @hatsandtatts
20. Black Kite Commune
21. Good Measure
193 Lygon St, Carlton
During the daylight hours, Good Measure trades as a cafe and caffeine is the order of the day; but come the close of business, Good Measure flicks the switch into cocktail hour, becoming the kind of neighbourhood joint where the cocktails are crafted with care from local and seasonal ingredients.
22. Gin Palace
10 Russell Pl, Melbourne
The accolade of ‘institution’ gets thrown around a bit these days; it gets lobbed at bars that have been open a mere five or seven years. Well, Gin Palace has seen those pretenders come and go. Opened in 1997 — we think — and championing gin well before the spirit’s current boom in popularity, Gin Palace was the creation of the late Vernon Chalker, one of the great Australian bar luminaries. Gin Palace continues on, with longtime bartender and manager and now owner Ben Luzz ensuring the old dame remains as vital as ever.
ginpalace.com.au | @ginpalacemelb
23. Gerald's Bar
386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
This North Carlton institution is probably the Platonic ideal of the Melbourne wine bar: it’s a place for locals (despite country-wide renown), it’s lived-in, the kind of place you where you eat well when you drink — somewhere you too want to be a local.
geraldsbar.com.au | @geraldsbarmelbourne
234A Russell St, Melbourne
Inspired by the faded glamour of LA rock and roll rooms, Heartbreaker turns the noise and red neons up to 11, whether you’re a late night pool shark or a vagabond at the bar knocking back cocktails from The Everleigh Bottled Cocktail Co.
heartbreakerbar.com.au | @heartbreakerbar
194 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Out of the depths of the pandemic emerged this little gem of a wine shop; at the top of Russell Place on the corner of Little Collins, Bijou is a beautiful hole in the wall wine store and bar from the folks behind Gin Palace and Black Kite Commune.
bijoubottlestore.com | @bijou_bottle_store
26. Beneath Driver Lane
Shop/3 Driver Ln, Melbourne
At this subterranean basement bar in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD you’ll find a taste of the Mississippi Delta. The stage at the back of the room regularly hosts live blues bands, and the back bar is adorned with loads of whiskey. The bartenders here are a dab hand at cocktails, too.
www.driverlanebar.com | @beneathdriverlane
27. Union Electric
13 Heffernan Ln, Melbourne
Don’t mind the grumpy Bill Murray on the wall. Union Electric looks like a small sliver of a bar that spreads over two floors, but it packs in the good times; there’s a distinct lack of pretension here, the bartenders pour the rum and gin with big fresh flavours, and there’s always an up-tempo atmosphere. Also: hello, Pina Colada.
unionelectric.com.au | @unionelectricbar
166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North
Step into Flaggerdoot, the cocktail bar at Mornington Peninsula hotel, Jackalope, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a gallery — albeit one where the most prized works of art come in liquid form. There’s an experimental approach to the drinks here — the jasmine-infused and clarified Gimlet, we’re told, is a crowd-pleaser.
jackalopehotels.com/drink-dine | @flaggerdoot
29. Whitehart Bar
22 Whitehart Ln, Melbourne
You gotta love what Melbourne can do with a car park and a few shipping containers. Whitehart brings together industrial elements and greenery to create an escape from the CBD outside; there are DJs and regular parties happening here, good eats and great beer on tap, and a admirable cocktail selection that skews towards Australian spirits.
whitehartbar.com.au | @whitehartbar
30. Bar Margaux
Basement/111 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
It’s strange to think that Bar Margaux has been around just since 2019; its New York-inspired French bistro offering, the brassy subterranean room, the escargots and the Black Velvets — all of that feels like Bar Margaux has been a part of our lives a lot longer. It’s timeless.
barmargaux.com.au | @barmargauxmelbourne
32. Naught Distilling Cocktail Bar
2/32 Peel St, Eltham
Many distilleries have a little bar attached to them, but they’re usually little more than large distillery doors; few go all in on offering a space that would befit a cocktail bar in New York or London, but that’s the atmosphere you’ll be in at the bar at Naught Distilling in, of all places, Eltham. Once you’re sat at the Studio Y-designed bar, you’ll want to work your way through the solid list of gin-driven classics — made with Naught’s own gin, naturally.
naughtgin.com.au/cocktail-bar | @naughtgin
153 Weston St, Brunswick
In many good bars, it can feel like the music is something of an afterthought; not so at Brunswick’s Waxflower, where shelves upon shelves are stocked with vinyl records, sleeve to sleeve. The bar is inspired by Japanese listening bars, or kissaten, but it’s not just about the music. Wine is the focus of the drinks here, and they lean towards the natural approach, but if you’re after an aperitif-style cocktail — Martini, anyone? — you’ll be well looked after at Waxflower.
waxflowerbar.com.au | @waxflowerbar
355 Point Nepean Rd, Dromana
On the Mornington Peninsula in Dromana, you’ll find Deadwood — a beachside bar named for the Gold Rush era town in the USA. And what does every beachside suburb need? A bar like Deadwood, drawing upon Americana serving bourbon and rye, with a jukebox that gets a good workout.
deadwooddromana.com.au | @deadwood.dromana
91-93 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
Since opening in November of 2020, the blonde-timbered Chronicles — named for a much loved, local independent bookstore that occupied the site before closing in 2009 — has been watering the locals with its mix of good spirits and craft beer on tap.
36. Ends & Means
79 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Ends & Means in Fitzroy is one of those bars that have put sustainability at the core of what it does, but you might not know it when you walk in — they don’t beat you about the head with it. Instead, whenever we’ve visited their focus has been squarely on hosting a good time. That’s what makes it a good example of a great neighbourhood cocktail bar.
endsandmeans.com.au | @endsandmeansfitzroy
37. Paradise Alley
25 Easey St, Collingwood
Set in a large warehouse space, Paradise Alley, with a food offering that changes over the years (it currently is home to Nama, a Japanese izakaya-style popup). Paradise Alley is a drinker’s promised land, with a pool table, a large beer garden outdoors (and mostly undercover), and an attractive drinks list of cocktails, a healthy beer selection, and wines that lean au naturale.
paradisealley.com.au | @paradisealleycollingwood
38. Leonard's House of Love
3 Wilson St, South Yarra
What happens when you take a South Yarra house and turn it into a space reminiscent of a Canadian log cabin? At Leonard's, the result is a neighbourhood bar with burgers, wings, and a lot of whiskey — like an FM radio station playing the hits of the 70s, there’s a lot of comfort to be found here.
leonardshouseoflove.com.au | @leonardshouseoflove
39. Bar Ampere
2/169 Bourke St, Melbourne
If it feels like the cocktails at Bouvardia are rather modern, that’s because the approach is — the cocktail list (all san serif fonts and bold colour) helpfully lists the Brix, pH and ABV levels of each cocktail (among other things); but the drinks are anything but clinical, with full on flavour delivered in each glass. It’s a bar that’s more than a little different to the other kids, and that’s a good thing.
bouvardia.com.au | @bouvardiamelbourne
42. Bar Clara
87 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
If Bar Clara is known for any one of its signature drinks, it’s probably the Banoffee Special. It’s a clarified banana-infused Whisky Sour, and topped with a toasted merinque — and a thing of beauty. But it’s not just the flavoursome and technique driven cocktails that you’re coming to Bar Clara for, but for the gilded lounge bar feel and bartenders who eschew pretension. What else do you want in a cocktail bar?
barclara.com | @barclaramelbourne
41 Bourke St, Melbourne
In our experience — and perhaps it’s the company we keep — as the night wears on, past the witching hour and unto the early morning, it’s only a matter of time until one in your party suggests the next stop: Spleen. Here, the bar is open until 5am, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the bartenders are saints, such is the good work they do watering the thirsty.
spleenbarmelbourne.com.au | @barspleen
45. Nick & Nora's Melbourne
80 Collins Street via 11 Benson Walk, Melbourne
Nick & Nora’s might be Melbourne’s busiest cocktail bar. The bar comes from the Speakeasy Group, and you can expect their signature style — theatrical serves, a preference for the finer things, and a buzzy, upbeat atmosphere — to be on full display here. Cocktails and champagne are the order of the day — you might even see the odd bottle of champagne being sabred, or better yet, a champagne tower being built.
nickandnoras.com.au/melbourne | @nickandnorasmelbourne
46. The Shady Lady
36 Johnston St, Fitzroy
This Fitzroy bar is part dive bar, part community centre, but it’s no old man bar — it’s a whole lot more grandma thanks to the furnishings, tasseled lamp shades, and framed paintings on the walls. The weekends bring DJs to The Shady Lady, and like any good dive, the drinks don’t cost an arm and a leg.
theshadylady.com.au | @the.shady.lady.bar
47. Manhattan Bar
9 James St, Geelong
At Manhattan Bar, the clue is in the name. The bar comes from the team behind the award-winning Geelong cocktail joint, The 18th Amendment Bar, and is less classic cocktail den than it is blue neon-hued, 90s Lower East Side dive. Cocktails are batched and on tap, but yeah, should you wish, you can get yourself a jelly shot administered with a plastic syringe (we’d rather knock back a Pornstar Martini or two.)
48. Odd Culture Fitzroy
296 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
They’re about all things fermented at the first Victorian outpost of the Newtown-based franchise. They’re pouring natural wine, wild ales, ferment-based cocktails and everything in between. Our suggestion? Get started with the pineapple Tepache, and then stroll the bottled wine aisles (you can takeaway, too) to discover where you want to go next.
oddculture.group/venue/odd-culture-fitzroy | @oddculturefitzroy/
49. Bad Frankie
139-141 Greeves St, Fitzroy
It’s the original all-Australian spirits bar — one that has been shouting about quality Aussie hooch since 2015. That’s good enough reason to step through the doors, although you might find yourself being lured there by the heady aromas wafting from their Breville jafflemakers.
badfrankie.com | @badfrankiebar
209 Mair St, Ballarat Central
Owners Teddy and Louis Powlett have imbued Renard with a very simple mission: to provide good times to the people. And their chosen delivery vehicle for such good times? Cocktails and wine, my friends. Native ingredients and Australian flavours figure on the cocktail list alongside more Continental pleasures; there’s a healthy canned beer list, and a mix of Australian and European drops on the wine list.
renardballarat.com.au | @renardballarat