The Best Hidden Bars in Melbourne

Every street in the grid of Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) is connected by quaint cobblestone lanes, designed to allow rear access to businesses. In these dark, graffiti-covered alleyways, bars are hidden from plain sight. Not so much deliberate speakeasies as they are products of Melbourne’s odd architectural infrastructure, many of the bars that are the most difficult to find also happen to be among the city’s best. Below is a short list of the Melbourne bars worth hunting for. —Fred Siggins

  • 1

    Bar Americano

    Off a side street, down an alley and then down another alley, you’ll find Bar Americano, a tiny space with no seating and only enough room for about ten to stand and one of the best bartenders in Melbourne. The space gets packed quickly, but it's worth the wait to be able to lean on the tiny wood and copper bar, surrounded by frosted glass drinking what is somehow the best combination of vermouth and Campari you’ve ever tasted in your life.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 2

    Eau de Vie

    Down an alley that leads to a downtown parking structure and behind and unmarked door lies what is perhaps the perfect summation of the modern Australian cocktail bar. Eau de Vie is a serious affair with full table service and a long list of creative and theatrical cocktails that meld classic inspiration with modern technique. Liquid nitrogen mist and huge flames can often be seen rising from behind the bar, but don't let the scene fool you—these guys are suited and booted like the bartenders of yore and have the banter to match.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • bottle service
    • bar food
    • lots of whiskey
  • 3

    HiHou

    Ring the buzzer on the unmarked door near Parliament House, at the eastern edge of the Central Business District (CBD), and you’ll be escorted into HiHou—a perfect little slice of Japan in Melbourne. Hot towels are doled out upon arrival and a great selection of Japanese whisky, sake, umeshu, shochu and odd but surprisingly successful cocktails are all dispatched in a peaceful, hideaway atmosphere with flawless service. This is easily one of the classiest drinking experiences Melbourne has to offer.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of whiskey
    • bar food
  • 4

    New Gold Mountain

    It’s easy enough to miss Double Happiness, the Chinese-themed bar on the ground level, let alone find your way to New Gold Mountain on the third level. But once you do, you’ll be greeted by a quiet, semi-formal space decked out like a Chinese emperor's boudoir. With a serious cocktail program and a backbar to match, New Gold is a secret even most Melburnians haven’t yet discovered.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
  • 5

    Section 8

    Section 8 is essentially an outdoor bar built into a holed-out shipping container filled with recycled materials all crammed into a parking lot at the end of a CBD alleyway. Surrounded by six stories of brick and covered in monumental graffiti, the place always feels as though it's playing host to a kickoff party for some impending revolution. The ultra-cool staff sling beers and basics without much chat, but it’s not about the drinks or the banter here—it's about the atmosphere. The DJs do their thing all day and well into the night and dancing is practically mandatory after dark.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • day drinking
    • outdoor / patio
    • dancing
  • 6

    Thomas Olive

    Out the back and up the stairs behind the excellent Collingwood eatery Saint Crispin, is Thomas Olive, a tiny bar wedged into a stately Victorian building (think hardwood floors and very high ceilings). Here you’ll get the great service and even better cured meats without the commitment of booking for dinner, while creative but direct twists on classic cocktails, a solid list of vermouths and a 1920s-salon vibe help to make this little room one of the best bars in town.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • bar food
    • craft beer
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