Bahar is a freelance writer and a wanderer who is determined to uncover all the secrets of Melbourne and share them the only way she knows how, through writing.
Published November 7th 2012
A little glamour and sophistication is needed on certain night-outs. Whether you are going on a date, an outing with friends after a long day at work, celebrating a special occasion or just want to wind down with a few drinks, 1806 (Eighteen-O-Six) will provide you with a cocktail experience that you will not forget easily.
First of all, like all the best establishments in Melbourne, you have to find it. The address seems pretty straightforward, yet when you arrive at the door of 169 Exhibition Street, the only sight awaiting you is a closed door, with flashing red lights. Don't be discouraged by the almost tacky appearance of the entrance, because upon opening it, that door will transport you to an entirely different world, kind of like the wardrobe that opens to Narnia. Here, instead of magical talking animals, you will witness one of the CBD's most lavish cocktail bars adorned with velvet curtains, big and heavy chandeliers, mirrored surfaces and leather couches. Be sure to get a good seat where you can watch the bartenders working their charms and transforming the bar into a stage where they will be creating hundreds of cocktails all night.
Once you are seated, wait for the knowledgeable and efficient waiting staff to bring you the cocktail menu (more like an encyclopaedia) which will dazzle you and, if you are the least like me, leave you staring at the pages not quite knowing what to order. The menu, or the book of history of cocktails, is designed to educate and impress.
All the cocktails are listed in chronological order, starting from year 1806, which effectively is the year that the word 'cocktail' was first defined in print (hence the name of the bar) to present day. Each cocktail is presented with a little history lesson, which includes not just the ingredients but its origins, who first invented it and how it's changed over the years.
With a list that innovative and extensive you are sure to find something that you like, from the classics such as the Blue Blazer to '90s most popular cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan to more unique cocktails such as the Lemon Custard Margarita. If you feel a bit thunderstruck by the information overload from the menu, make sure you speak to one of the wait staff or better yet sit at the bar and have a little chat with the bartenders.
Still feeling undereducated or just want to learn more and broaden your cocktail knowledge, why not attend one of the "Cocktail Degustation" sessions or a cocktail making course? The Cocktail Degustation will walk you through 5 courses of cocktails (with or without food) which will not only tantalise your taste buds but also leave you craving for more.
Now, I know I said that cocktails are at the heart of 1806 but don't despair if you or your drinking friends are not so much for cocktails and would rather have a good old beer or a simple red wine. 1806 has a small (tiny compared to the cocktail menu) but effective list of beers and wines that will sure to please any non-cocktail drinker.
So, give 1806 a shot and enjoy your night of comfortable luxury.