It can be a daunting thing to walk up to a bar, with its seemingly endless assortments of beers, wines, and specialty cocktails that sound like secret codes used in spy movies. More often than not we settle on the closest beer on tap that sounds vaguely interesting or familiar, or a simple house wine. But now Melbourne, with its seemingly endless array of bars and restaurants, has become a city in the middle of a cocktail renaissance, and we’d be foolish not to embrace it.
It’s hard to go a week in Melbourne without hearing about a collection of new bars opening in Melbourne. From the inner north to Southbank, bar openings are happening seemingly ever week, which makes it challenging for these new venues to stand out from the pack. The Melbourne cocktail boom has bars and restaurants beginning to specialise in cocktails that are unique to the venue, from Bad Frankie, who use only Australian spirits which they pair with homemade Jaffles, to LadyBoy Dining and Bar in Richmond, a Thai restaurant that puts a lot of attention into their cocktail menu. We are moving into an age in Melbourne where patrons are no longer satisfied with the ordinary on a night out, we want to be wowed and have every night out feel like an event.
Making cocktails is also a great way for bartenders to express themselves creatively through experimentation. These drinks have become less about an alternative to beers and wines and more about creating a drink to remember. Bartenders are using this cocktail boom to leave their mark on Melbourne and we are embracing their creativity with open arms, as Albert Chan of the Brunswick Mess Hall says, “People here love culture, the arts and creativity. Cocktails are artisanal and a creative expression, so it’s natural to attract like-minded people together to want to add to the city’s culture.”
Much like seeing a great live music act, a delicious, creative cocktail is enjoyed most with the community of our friends and family. There are few feelings in a bar more exciting than ordering an interesting sounding cocktail, the anticipation building, an aura of mystery surrounding what is about to come flying out from behind the bar, only to have your mind blown by a G&T infused with elderflower and green tea! (I don’t remember where in Melbourne this was but it is my life’s mission to find it again!)
What is great about cocktails is that they don’t have to be limited to a bar or restaurant, they can be made at home too. Wouldn’t homemade espresso martinis really liven up your next game night or family dinner? One of the unexpected joys of being able to make your own cocktails is that it’s incredibly easy to customise it to your liking, making it a true artistic expression just like the very best bartenders in Melbourne.
With the information we have access to nowadays, learning how to create your own cocktails has never been easier. With websites like The Cocktail Shop and Melbourne Cocktails giving us all the tools we would ever need to impress our friends, as well as an endless array of cocktail recipes that can be found with a click of a button. The community around Melbourne’s drinking culture doesn’t come purely from our venues, it stems from our love of having a great experience with friends and family, and with a few learned skills we can bring that amazing atmosphere into our homes.
A great thing about mixing your own cocktails is that you’re free to do anything you want, the amount of experimentation available to us is endless and really gets the creative juices flowing, all in the name of artistic expression and simply what looks and tastes the best! The addition of something like elderflower or a smoked cinnamon stick can liven up any cocktail, and are things that you don’t need to seek out late at night in the city if you’re making it yourself with friends for a night in.
It’s the perfect time now to explore the many unique and interesting locations Melbourne has to offer in this cocktail renaissance. But it is also a great time to be bringing this renewed love for cocktails into our own homes. With just a few utensils that can be easily bought locally, maybe a class or two in cocktail making or mulled wine, we’ll be able to bring the Melbourne cocktail experience into our homes.
Darcy Read is a final year Media student at RMIT. He is currently working on multiple short films, working in both sound design and music, two areas he loves and hopes to venture into after graduating. Darcy is a massive film and music buff, who loves nothing more than sharing his discoveries in both fields with others.
This article was written and produced as part of the CREATE Media Arts Internship Program.
Laneway Learning has partnered with The Mentorship to deliver this exciting new program to support young people aspiring to work within the creative media and arts sectors.