25 Bennetts Lane
Tel: 61 3 9663 2856
With little more than a gaggle of smokers to give away its dark-alley location in City Centre, this barely lit club is a haunt for serious jazz buffs. Every night, a different live lineup gets grooving at 8:30 pm, with edgier outfits and up-and-comers earlier in the week, and established artists and international names on weekends. Many regard this as Australia's finest jazz venue, and you'll often spot big-name musicians in the crowd. Prince did a "secret" gig here on his last Aussie tour, and visiting jazz masters sometimes hook up with local luminaries for electrifying jams. It's best to book ahead of time for big-name acts and weekend sessions.
134 Greville Street
Tel: 61 3 9525 2322
Elegant ambience, beautiful people, and the requisite sprinkling of VIPs make Boutique the place to be seen, especially on Fridays, when DJs spin '80s classics to a dressy, upbeat crowd (and lines can stretch halfway down the street). If you can make it past the doormen's stringent style test, you'll ascend the stairs to the club, with its animal-print upholstered sofas, mod lamps, and sprung-wood dance floor. Boogie with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and then head to nearby Revolver to keep the party going.
Closed Sundays through Wednesdays.
21 Liverpool Street
Tel: 61 3 9650 4488
Double Happiness, an auspicious mini watering hole in Chinatown with fab feng shui, takes its name from the Chinese character for good fortune—and indeed, happiness comes easily after a few Communist regime–inspired cocktails. Try a Dictatorship of the Proletariat (fennel vodka with paprika and Chinese spices), or take a Great Leap Forward (sake with Cointreau, coriander, and lemon) while you peruse the retro-Maoist decor. Or, climb the neighboring stairs to the bar's sister space, New Gold Mountain. The look here is part opium den, part Austin Powers set—a riot of textured wallpaper, beaded curtains, and paper lanterns—and the drink list rivals its downstairs neighbor in both quirkiness and flavor (61-3-9650-8859; www.newgoldmountain.org).
233 Lonsdale Street
Tel: 61 3 9654 8680
The après-office crowdfashionably casual and none too suityflock to the Emerald Peacock to display their plumage. The moniker theme is carried throughout the bar. An impressive avian mural greets patrons before they enter the lounge area, which has peacock-adorned wallpaper above the cozy booth spaces, but it's the rooftop area where most head at day's end. Roosting up here, guests enjoy an impressive city skyline view and drinks aplenty. The list will have you crowing with its Big Cocks page, featuring jugs of mixed drinks such as the Taj Iced TeaBombay Sapphire, crème de pêche, lemon juice, sugar, and tea.
161 Spring Street
Tel: 61 3 9654 6300
A perpetually closed, unmarked door hides what could be the country's best wine bar. The 94-page drink list leaves little room for criticism, though rival barmen snipe that the club doesn't stock enough of the pricier vintages. The menu is subdivided by grape type and blend, with an array of special vintages, plus boutique beers and spirits. The best plan is to throw some plastic on the bar, settle into one of the worn chesterfields, and prepare for a long night in. That Grange Hermitage might set you back a few thousand, but hey, who's counting? Lounge-y music underscores a steady hum of conversation that rarely abates before dawn. The lines on weekends may look daunting, but they move fast.
401 Brunswick Street
Tel: 61 3 9417 0880
This is boho luxe at its best, a Moulin Rouge world of burgundy velvet chaise longues, gilt-edged mirrors, and crystal chandeliers. Wicked little cocktails with names like Dominatrix (Kahlúa, Havana Adjo, crème de cacao, fresh chocolate, and milk) and French Harlot (Drambuie, Mandarin Napoleon, Kahlúa, and orange) complement a menu of aphrodisiac bar snacks. Intimate seating arrangements encourage tête-à-têtes, jazz and lounge music underscore the sexy salon ambience, and rose-tinged lighting makes everyone look fabulous. On weekends, the cavernous interior is crowded with flirty young things downing shots named after the seven deadly sins. During the week, it's low-key sophisticated.
229 Chapel Street
Tel: 61 3 9521 5985
A 24-hour weekend license and a hugely eclectic crowd keep this long-running, pretension-free club in everyone's little black book, despite its slightly faded decor. But the roughed-up, retro rock feel complements the live funk, electro, and hip-hop acts; fashion shows; and art events in the cavernous band room. Or play pool and get your groove on with everyone from touring celebs to arty teens in the main bar. Here, aisles double as dance floors, and dozens of '70s-style lounge settings fill the space between. The place is generally jumping from 10 p.m. till well after daybreak on weekends (post-dawn, the bar serves a decent espresso). By day, the volume's turned down and a Thai restaurant opens.
590 Little Bourke Street
Tel: 61 3 9670 7493
Melbourne nightlife vets still mourn the 2006 demise of Honkytonks, one of the city's landmark laneway venues. Hence the collective sigh of relief when the man behind the legend, Michael Delany, opened Sorry Grandma! with DJ Andee Frost. The weekends-only club has quirky styling (retro furnishings in private nooks, Tiffany lamps that flash to the dance floor beat), excellent cocktails, and a roster of the best local and international DJs. It attracts models and music industry typesGood Charlotte's Joel Madden has dropped in; the Presets and Ksubi designer Dan Single are regularsbut you'll have to get through the door to join in. It's all about attitude, so do your hip, devil-may-care best.
2 Convention Centre Place
Tel: 61 3 9027 2000
The seats at the bar surrounding the cheese and charcuterie "tower" (in reality, a 13-foot-tall glass cabinet) are the most sought-after at Sotano, a stylish new bodega gracing the Hilton South Wharf. The large, lofty room, with warm natural timber and terra-cotta tones, is a far cry from your average hotel lobby lounge. The name is Spanish for cellar, which gives you an indication of its intentions: More than 2,000 bottles of wine are housed in a climate-controlled cage over the bar, and the Catalan snackssalted cod fritters and meatballs with cuttlefish, from Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramon Frexiaare highly recommended.