Australia's second city, Melbourne blazed a cocktail culture trail ahead of Sydney for many years. And not just because it’s home to Der Raum, Matthew Bax’s experimental cocktail temple and a place of pilgrimage for visiting bar folk.
Waves of immigration, notably Vietnamese and Greek, have brought a diverse food culture to the city. Foodies flourish here, and the city's long established Food & Wine Festival and vibrant café culture means folk have long cared about what they eat.
And, where folk care about the stuff they ingest, they'll care about the liquids they imbibe, too. Which means that, while Sydneysiders are polishing up their closed-toe shoes, plenty of Melbourne folk are flopping their quiffs and ambling around the Central Business District (CBD), ducking and diving into one discreet doorway after another in search of fine drinks.
The vast majority of Melbourne's cocktail action happens in the CBD, a neat grid that's perfect for walking on foot. Black Pearl and a vibrant restaurant scene pulls punters to the boho inner suburb of Fitzroy, while Der Raum draws folk out to Richmond. For relaxed, pubby drinking, bayside St. Kilda has the edge, even if the beach is more Brighton than Bondi. On a summer evening, a live band at the Espy is a quintessentially Melbourne experience and the city's relaxed rooftop bars really come into their own.