For travellers partial to a cocktail or two, Australia is the land of plenty. With a strong culinary and coffee-loving culture, it’s also home to some of the world’s best bartenders and mixologists, and a refined drinking palate has developed alongside many impressive watering holes.
For the finest of cocktails – served in carefully-curated spaces – head to any one of these five top bars.
Above Board, Melbourne
Above Board is an intimate experience, with twelve seats and only one bartender
The brainchild of award-winning bartender Hayden Lambert, Melbourne's Above Board is not your usual cocktail bar. For starters, entry is via an unmarked door at the back of Beermash, a craft beer bar in Collingwood, or out the back by Chopper Lane. Once you’re in, you’ll notice that instead of cocktail bar booths, there’s one large timber island in the middle of the room. It’s an intimate experience, with twelve seats and Lambert as the only bartender, so you can sample his dry sense of humour while also admiring his cocktail mastery. Sophisticated yet unpretentious, Above Board uses house spirits that are decanted into reused Hibiki whisky bottles, hand-cracked ice cubes, only displays a select few cocktails on the menu and tucks anything with a label away in a drawer. Enjoy the prime Fitzroy location and outdoor swimming pool at Melbourne Metropole Central, a 15-minute walk from Above Board.
The Gresham, Brisbane
Sample the Gresham's 'Death and Taxes' (Irish whiskey, ginger, honey, apple, pineapple and walnut)
Occupying the heritage-listed, former National Australia Bank building, the Gresham is as grand on the inside as its sandstone facade suggests. The selection of over 100 whiskeys is superb – as are the cocktails – including favourites like the Gresham Lane (rye whisky, cherry cola, lime and vanilla ice cream) or the Death and Taxes (Irish whiskey, ginger, honey, apple, pineapple and walnut, served in a cloud of smoke). Recline on a custom-made Chesterfield sofa, in front of wooden shelves and cabinets stuffed with curiosities. Stay at the Manor Apartment Hotel in Brisbane, just a 1-minute walk from the Gresham.
Bulletin Place, Sydney
Bulletin Place favourites include the Strawberry Bee, with gin, smashed strawberries, montenegro, lemon and honey
In an intimate little attic space above a café in Sydney’s CBD, Bulletin Place serves up a menu of constantly-changing cocktails depending on the freshest market produce of each day. The interior is low-key but sharp, with dark wooden floors, pot plants, botanical prints and rolls of brown butcher paper on the walls for noting down the day’s drinks. The maestros behind the bar whip up many a mean cocktail; try the Raspberry Calling, with gin, dry sherry, lemon juice, bitters, and fresh berries, or the Strawberry Bee, with gin, smashed strawberries, montenegro, lemon and honey. Check into a modern suite at the Establishment Hotel and try the cocktails at the in-house Ivy Bar and Gin Garden.
Lobo Plantation, Sydney
This subterranean Sydney bar is a veritable tribute to all things rum and Cuba
This subterranean Sydney bar is named after Cuban sugar baron, Julio Lobo, and is a veritable tribute to all things rum and Cuba. It's decked out with rattan chairs, bentwood bar stools, banana palms, patterned, emerald green wallpaper and wooden shutters (a superfluous but nice touch, given the lack of natural light). The choice of rums is quite something, as are the expertly-prepared cocktails; try favourites like the Jamaican Julep, the White Negroni Daiquiri or the Treacle, where dark rum, cane syrup and Angostura bitters are stirred together before an apple juice float is planted on top. Stay a 4-minute walk from the Lobo Plantation at playful design hotel, QT Sydney.
Try sophisticated cocktails in a low-lit, seductive space at the Everleigh
The Everleigh is a low-lit, seductive space in Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighbourhood that encapsulates Great Gatsby-esque glamour. The decor is opulent; think leather-bound booths, glass cabinets containing curious taxidermy and trinkets, wood panelled walls and black-and-white tiled floors. Beneath a vintage chandelier lighting up the long marble bar, staples are mixed to perfection, including the Honeysuckle (light rum, lime and honey). You can also ask for The Bartender’s Choice, stating your favourite flavours or the mood you’re in and letting the experts create a personalised concoction. Enjoy contemporary design and an outdoor swimming pool just a short walk from the Everleigh, staying at Tribeca Serviced Apartments.