While on our cocktail tour of Melbourne the lovely folks at Aesop head office recommended we try Bar Americano, located down a lane way, and another lane way at 20 Presgrave Street in the city. Designed like a true European walk up espresso bar with standing room only for about a dozen people, Bar Americano centres on traditional cocktails, currently pulling excerpts directly from Hugo Ensslin’s prolific 1917 cocktail book Recipes for Mixed Drinks (changing seasonally), as well as brewing superb coffee by Melbourne / New Zealand based roasters Coffee Supreme.
While you can walk up starting at 8:30am to take away your morning flat white, the vibe at night is quiet and cozy, with a side of cheekiness depending on who’s manning the bar; a bartender on their night off would not be out of place in this elegant intimate space. A chalkboard denotes the Apertif or Amaro of the week and all spirits and bitters are housed inside unlabelled ornate decanter bottles. There are no photos and no booking at this bar, (unless you’re lucky enough to snag a spot at one of their masterclasses), you’ll find it’s so small they have to play an instructional Italian language tape in the bathroom (featuring Aesop Skincare products), to mask the sounds from carrying.
Their menus is and has always been simple since they opened back in 2011, nodding towards the great recipes from which this whole cocktail culture was born roughly a century ago. For instance their winter menu back in 2013 was based on Robert Vermeire’s iconic book COCKTAILS-How To Mix Them from 1922, and copies of these books are generally available for purchase unless they sell out (we’re told by bartender Hayden Lambert they often do).
The cocktails themselves we tasted off the highly perfected menu from Ensslin’s 1917 publication were simple and delicious. A super crisp slightly minty South Side topped with powdered sugar, a long sipping Aviation (which is owner Matt Bax’s favourite drink), a fresh fruity Chappelle Cocktail, and a traditional Absinthe Cocktail.
We wish we were able to show you some photos, but that would have violated their “no photos, no shoes, no service” policy, and we wouldn’t want to risk not being served one of their super tasty cocktails again.
Take a look at some of the interior and exterior shots of the space and pop by soon, if you can manage to find this elegant hole in the wall.