Melbourne's already robust wine-bar scene has been boosted by the arrival of Marion (53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 03 94196262), Andrew McConnell's ode to Paris writ with sharp, wine-friendly food and voluminous drinks lists, and Embla (122 Russell St, Melbourne, 03 9654 5923), the CBD outpost of the Town Mouse, where minimal-intervention wines and Dave Verheul's wood-fired menu found an instant fan base.
Then there's Smalls (20-22 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne), a beautiful, pint-sized joint with a constantly changing list of small, artisan wine producers, and Bar Liberty (234 Johnston St, Fitzroy) where Attica and Rockwell & Sons lineages have resulted in a witty, noisy mix of big flavours and off-the-wall drinks.
The other heroes of the natural wine scene, Clever Polly's (313 Victoria St, West Melbourne, 03 9077 9294) and Persillade (150 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne, 03 9078 4056) impress with thoughtful lists that defy preconceptions of the genre, while Bellota (181 Bank St, South Melbourne, 03 9078 8381), Gertrude Street Enoteca (229 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 03 9415 8262) and Harry & Frankie (317 Bay St, Port Melbourne, 03 9645 4414) show an admirable commitment to booze-friendly flavours and wide-ranging vino lists.
Fans of perfectly built cocktails, attention to detail and charming service should visit Romeo Lane (1a Crossley St, Melbourne, 03 9639 8095) and The Everleigh (Level 1, 150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 03 9416 2229). Revellers seeking something more raucous should venture to The Everleigh's CBD sibling, Heartbreaker (234a Russell St, Melbourne, 03 9041 0856), for its red neon, bottled cocktails and '70s-focused jukebox, or Union Electric (13 Heffernan La, Melbourne, 0450 186 466) for a brassy Latin jazz soundtrack, thrilling cocktails and Chinese bar snacks from next door's New Kum Den.
Those who like to drink to a theme might opt for a night of whisky exploration at Boilermaker House (209-211 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 0424 270 082) or take the rum trail at Pretty Mama (220 Spencer St, Melbourne, 03 9034 4355) where former Brooks bartender Shae Silvestro mixes killer cocktails to go with wood-fired fare from Caribbean Grill. Bar Di Stasio (31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9525 3999) impresses with its elegant, eccentric take on Venice-meets-Melbourne, while Gerald's Bar (386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, 03 9349 4748) is the benchmark for neighbourhood drinking. Bar Americano (20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne) ticks all the laneway boxes, from obscure location to dark good looks and quality drinks.