What better introduction to a new Melbourne bar is there than to submerge oneself in the cocktail list? Open for around a month The Understudy offers a cocktail degustation experience comprising of five set “courses”; all liquid. It’s at this point that I recommend ordering the additional food option of several sharing plates (popcorn prawns never seemed so classy) to aid with keeping your wits about you. The Understudy drinks menu changes every couple of weeks so, like that infamous cinematic box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
Every celebration should begin with something sparkling. The ‘Black Caviar’ sees flutes of Spanish Cava atop gelatinous pearls of Cassis. These drops of black-currant do mimic the look of caviar and will eventually rise, in mesmerising fashion, to the top of the drink just like a lava lamp. The texture is similar to drinking bubble tea.
If I was only going to order one drink here it would be the ‘Szechuan House’. A revelation for a usually non-sweet tooth like me. The salt and pepper rim on this Pisco based drink works magic on the watermelon, somehow making it essentially more watermelon-y.
However, if I was going to order a few of the same drink here it would be the ‘Flying V’. Duck fat-washed cognac, rye whiskey and sherry are softened by maple and 5 spice. Smoking with cherrywood confirms this as a masculine drink, though it certainly doesn’t taste as potent as it must be. The ‘Flying V’ is the drinkable equivalent of sinking into a comfy antique leather armchair.
Bookings for the cocktail degustation at The Understudy are essential. Try for an early sitting; you may find you have the bar and your bartender mostly to yourself and do allow at least two and a half hours to appreciate the experience and the education. Do book a cab.
Some pictures of the whole line-up to whet your appetite below.