1806 is Melbourne's old world gem where cocktail is king. Think 1920s prohibition theatricality to envisage a boozey sanctuary home to approximately 60 cocktails. Red velvet chairs accent the dark wooden decor and from anywhere you sit you'll see strapping bartenders, waistcoat included, shaking and stiring for your viewing pleasure. There's a mezzanine level, too, for those wanting an aerial view. With capable staff, table service and an unassuming entrance, 1806 is a small bar drenched in classic Melbournian charm.
1806, the year that the cocktail was first defined in print, is a fitting name for a bar where cocktails take centre stage. Fast forward to 2012, the year bar manager Nick Reed and bar owner Lisa Kelly released their new cocktail menu and book, and it's clear we've certainly come a long way. The extensive menu is categorised into eras from 1650 to the present. We've the classics, Whisky Toddy, Georgia Julep, Old Fashioned and Negroni all on offer as well as contemporaries like Gin Fizz Tropical, Mai Tai and Cosmopolitan. As you peruse the menu, don't be surprised if you find yourself happily lost in the history of the cocktail itself, forgetting the all-important decision of what to order. If we were to single out just one, it would be the Clover Club, a union of gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, a touch of vermouth, finished with egg white ($18).
While cocktails can take their time when the bar is at capacity every Friday and Saturday night, they are well worth the wait. Book ahead if you know you'll be heading their way. If after a tipple that will be delivered much quicker, opt for a beer or wine from the small but considered selection. Both selections are heavily Australian focused. They also have their own lager style, 1806 Beer, made especially for them by Kooinda in Heidelberg ($8.50).
1806's food offerings are ideal for late night cocktail fuelled snacking or the essential pre-boozing lining of the stomach. Popcorn prawns ($8), battered and served with aioli are a must order, while chunky chips ($9), hot dog quartets ($12) or chicken skewers ($8) will all satisfy your cravings.
1806 is a must visit for cocktail lovers.
Images: Brook James.