Best New Bars in Melbourne | Top 5 Winter 2024 Edition

The Bon Vivant's Companion bar in mornington

DrinkMelbourne’s choice: The Bon Vivant’s Companion

Named after a book (a.k.a Bar-Tender’s Guide a.k.a How to Mix Drinks) by New York bartending icon Jerry Thomas, this new out-of-town bar has a self-imposed lot to live up to. First impressions? It’s worth the coastal road trip… or the chauffeured chariot ride if you’re smart about it! 

Step into Bon Vivant’s lavish art deco interior and peruse the drinks list over a platter of coconut ceviche or more-ish smoked trout rillette with roe. While the name and fit-out nod to significant points in cocktailing history, the signature libations are thoroughly modern. There’s a luscious take on the having-a-moment Pornstar Martini. It’s called Belle Delphine and is shaken up with Mezcal, passionfruit and vanilla liqueur, lacto-fermented passionfruit and kiwi, lime and froth. If the mood hits for something simpler in your glass, there are about 100 Australian whiskies and 100 Australian gins to taste (yes, we counted). 

Speaking of whisky, if you ask to see “Jane” you’ll find a not-so-secret speakeasy at the back of Bon Vivant. It continues with the glamourous mood of the main bar but with a vintage Japanese twist complete with shoji screens and chandeliers that we would like to steal very much. Here you can sink into “the expensive stuff” via whisky flights plus more picky snacks.

150 Main Street, Mornington

Lola Belle bar in Fitzroy

Lola Belle

It’s all about “Champagne and sugarcane” at Lola Belle. From the makers of trusty CBD bar Union Electric, this new venue is inspired by Melbourne’s prosperous gold rush era; a time when we quaffed more bottles of bubbly than the entirety of France! On the “sugarcane” side of things they have composed an extensive selection of rum and there’s a focus on Daiquiris – with three expressions to choose from. The Belles will even be releasing their very own rum in future. On the side choose from sumptuous cheeses, sliced-on-the-spot charcuterie or even a Cuban (the sandwich, not the cigars). Photograph by Kristoffer Paulsen.

233 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Moon Dog Wild West brewery bar in Footscray

Moon Dog Wild West

After a shaky (false) start Moon Dog’s new western outpost got back into the saddle – or rather onto the bucking bronco – with style. The late, great Franco Cozzo’s furniture showroom is now a multi-faceted saloon featuring a cactus-spiked rooftop, Utahan murals and Americana everywhere. Also: line-dancing! To wet your whistle after a long day out on the range, there are jugs of Catfish Blues (it’s tequila, it’s mezcal, it’s blue), hard iced tea further fortified with a slosh of American whiskey, and picklebacks aside from the brewery’s signature beers and fizzer seltzers. Plus shots served in dainty cowboy boots, of course. Wild West’s inaugural Fourth of July party this week is sure to go off like fireworks. Photography by Arianna Leggiero.

54 Hopkins Street, Footscray

Mill Place Merchants

Mill Place Merchants Melbourne bar

Step back in time and enter this speakeasy via a “dressing room” – that full-length mirror is actually a door. Surrounded by blue stone walls dating back to the 1840’s, sip classic cocktails from the 1800s and 1900s like El Presidentes, Millionaires and Old Fashioneds. We can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of a martini with peach bitters. With vintage fabrications and furnishings – as well as the menu – the makers of Mill Place Merchants are leaning heavily into the heritage of the space: the milliners, the purveyors of candles and soap who once took up residence here. Now, this is our idea of “going antiquing”. Photograph by Bonnie Savage.

2 Mill Place, Melbourne

Enter via Laundry bar

Enter Via Laundry

Take your tongue on a trip to Southern Asia; this popular Indian (or Bhartiya) restaurant now has its own immersive bar. Tom McHugh has created a cocktail menu that fuses Australian ingredients with nostalgic Indian flavours.  For example, a spritz might be spiked with Ceylon tea. They have a signature Indian tonic and subcontinental spices are sprinkled in liberally. And, of course, there’s a boozy take on a Mango Lassi to cool you off. The bar snacks are next level (who can resist Bataka na Bhajiya, spiced potato cakes with pineapple ketchup, after a couple of gins?); so enter peckish at a minimum.

507 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

Arlechin Mebourne bar

Another round: Arlechin

Like many industries right now, hospo is feeling the cost of living crisis. My fellow media – for valid reasons – are obsessed with what’s new. But it’s stalwart venues that really make Melbourne marvellous. So, in each New Bars column, I’ll be holding space to highlight an established venue that’s worth another sip. First up – Arlechin.

Having been in hibernation for a couple of years, chef Guy Grossi‚Äôs bar is once again a pot of gold at the end of the mural-splashed Mornane Place. It feels like a subterranean wine cellar with unexpected accents like a cork ceiling and harlequin-esque stained glass detailing. Situated behind Grossi Florentino, the liquid tastes here also skew Mediterranean; so expect plenty of Vermouth and bittersweet, herbacious things on the menu to get the appetite whetted. As a die-hard savoury-tooth, I can’t go past the salty and the spicy. So I could never pass up their Puttanesca Martinez should it pass within my orbit: chilli-infused gin, vermouth rosso, black olive reduction and hellfire bitters. Same goes for Arlechin’s delightfully-named midnight spaghetti or bolognese-stuffed jaffles. Photograph by Mark Chew.

Mornane Place, Melbourne


Also new to try: Brewmanity rooftop brewery bar (South Melbourne), Fleet rooftop hotel bar (Melbourne), Santana Latin rooftop cigar bar (Melbourne), Bianchetto Euro Americano bar (Kew), Aster cocktail and wine bar (Melbourne), Misfits (Footscray), Pirate Life brewery bar (South Melbourne), The Brass Monkey Victorian-focused basement bar (Melbourne), Champagne Problems: Evie’s Disco Diner’s sister venue (Melbourne), Viva cabaret lounge (North Melbourne), Bar Mexico tequila bar (Preston), and Olympia Greek rooftop wine bar (Oakleigh). And leave a comment to let us know your thoughts.

Want to nominate a beloved established spot for a shout-out? Did we miss anywhere new and wonderful? Or got a hot tip on a new Melbourne bar opening in time for Spring 2024? Contact sarah@drinkmelbourne.com.au

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