Welcome back, dear imbibers, to the continuation of my adventures in Australia. In my last entry, I shared my experience in Sydney, as well as some information about the drinking culture in Australia. This time, I’ll tell you about my visit to Melbourne.
But first, a side note. One drinking custom that is markedly Australian is the “shout.” It basically means buying a round for your group, and once everyone has finished his drink, another one from the group will get a round and so on until everyone has bought a round. “Shouting” may seem like just your regular run-of-the-mill thing of buying rounds for your group, but there are rules that need to be followed. It is considered bad form if you do not “shout” when it’s your turn to buy the round or if you buy cheaper drinks than what people in your group are already drinking without asking them first. In a way, “shouting” also curbs binge drinking, as the rate of the entire drinking group hinges on the pace of the slowest person. It’s nice to know this when drinking in a big group.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am impressed by the food and drinks in Australia. The people know how to do things well. The places I went to had both vision and execution. This is evident when I visited Magic Mountain Saloon where, bathed in red light, I enjoyed my first cocktail in Melbourne: The Armistice. This crisp gin-based drink, described as “delicately balanced as a peace treaty between nations,” has strong notes of muscat grape liqueur and cherry bitters. I also tried The Matador, a chilli-topped spicy tequila drink that is guaranteed to give you a swift kick or two.
The next bar I had the pleasure of visiting is now easily in my top three favorite bars ever: The Black Pearl. This bar, which has been around for nearly a decade and a half, has a very casual and laidback feel. It is considered one of the best bars in the world and has won a multitude of awards (it has a shelf of plaques and trophies to prove it) and I can see why. Their in-house creations have been carefully curated and they are all spectacular. I also loved their menu, which is designed like an album of a baseball card collection.
The place was packed so I ordered a Bulliet and Briar (smooth, with just a perfect amount of tartness from the berries) from the bar and took them past the trademark arch and upstairs to the second floor bar, called The Attic. Here, the ambiance was more formal, a traditional speakeasy. The bartenders were cool and controlled the music. I had the Dos Hermanos (Calle 23 tequila, mezcal, and agave; well-balanced and smoky) and 28th Century (gin, lemon, white chocolate). This is definitely one of the places where I woud park myself and try all the drinks all day long. (Disclaimer: I am not an alcoholic, just a cocktail lover!)
Eu De Vie is another speakeasy I went to. True to form, it didn’t have a sign and I had difficulty finding it, even with the aid of the Google Maps. (I spent 30 minutes walking up and down the street staring into my phone’s GPS like a freak, till someone decided to go home and exited the secret door.) It is also a multi-awarded bar and its drinks are definitely up there in terms of quality. The Elk’s Own Horn (Rittenhouse, brandied cherries) is a dream.
I mentioned in the last column that I went to this continent to watch the Australian Open. And you’d think that this sport would be less fun than say, baseball or football, where spectators are drinking and loud. I’m going to burst your bubble because while of course during the matches people are respectfully quiet, there are food and beverage stalls in and around the stadium where you can drink before, during, in-between and after the games. I was fortunate enough to have access to the Kia Tent (one of the sponsors of the tournament), where there were free-flowing standards you could drink to your little heart’s delight: champagne, sparkling, red, and white wine, beers and ciders. It was great that people could have the pleasure of watching the game while drinking their favorite spirits.
I need to give a shout out to the other kind of liquid elixir: coffee. Melbourne seems to be the epicenter of the coffee craze and like all the things I tried there, the coffee was fantastic. I had the coffee at Madamimadam, the palindrome brand that has an inkblot test as its logo. I had the Madam Reviver, which is described using words that hipsters love: handcrafted and small batch.
Australians love to drink and it is such a way of life that you can find great drinks wherever you go. A burger joint called Grill’d paired craft beers, wines and ciders with its burgers and schnitzel. I had Moet with ice at the Sheraton Melbourne, which was definitely a new experience. All around town, there were places to drink that would stretch your imagination. There were Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails as well (loved the lemon-lime-bitters flavor). The list goes on and on.
Join me next week for the last installment of my Australian adventures. I will take you to a few wine estates and a distillery in the Yarra Valley area. Cheers!
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