Cameron McMillan discovers some of Melbournes’s best watering holes, with the help of a new drinking buddy.

There are moments when travelling alone has its benefits but a table for one can often be a lonely experience. So the prospect of a one-man bar crawl in Melbourne didn't sound ideal and a two-man bar crawl didn't seem that much better.

Having a one-on-one tour guide can be like a blind date you can't ditch.

Thankfully, Dan from just happened to be a great drinking buddy (even if he was getting paid to be). He led us to his pick of the best bars in the city, hidden in Melbourne's lanes, where I discovered the city doesn't just produce the best coffee in Australia, but also a few other drinks as well.

Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place


Hidden down little Presgrave Lane, off Little Collins St, this tiny bar has a licence for just 10 people and is standing room only, so you have to get your timing right. Bar Americano is a homage to the "American Bar", created in prohibition-time Chicago and New York.

It's far from a novelty, though. The bar staff - there were two so you won't wait long to be served - were knowledgeable and friendly.

A possible blow for the classic Aussie beer-drinker: Bar Americano only serves classic cocktails and Italian wines. The limitations on clientele certainly adds to the experience as you begin talking to the other patrons, because they are right there. It's what bars are meant to be about - great drinks and great conversation. A good spot to pop in for one drink and start your night on the right note. Check out the quirky street art right outside, on the lane walls.

My drink: A superb whisky sour.

Bar Ampere, 16 Russell Place

Sitting on an operational electrical sub-station off Bourke St is the inviting Bar Ampere - the perfect spot to walk straight off the laneway and sit down at street level. Art on the walls effortlessly merges the bar into the rest of the lane, while the exposed power cords are a nice nod towards the former use of the building. The guide's recommended "best chicken sandwiches in Melbourne" certainly held up to the title. The steak tartare was also delightful bar food.

This is another busy spot with plenty of talking and laughter.

For a different vibe, akin to the southern states of America, you can walk to the Swamp Room, which has a working piano turned into a bar.

My drink: Queen Vic Market cocktail: Havana 3 White Rum, cantaloupe puree, fresh lemon, orgeat and Vietnamese mint. The wide range of ingredients, all found at the famed Queen Vic Market, might sound like they've come out of an expensive cookbook but they combined for a delightful, refreshing rum cocktail.

Gin Palace, 10 Russell Place

Right next door to Bar Ampere is Melbourne's famed Gin Palace - a must visit if you're wanting to check into the best bars in Melbourne. It's a bit more exclusive than Bar Ampere as you move off the street and into a basement lounge.

The inviting decor of comfortable chairs and couches lit by chandeliers offers a perfect place to sit, relax and enjoy your drink. There's also a bathtub in the middle of bar. A great place to finish your night and begin your early morning.

My drink: An Aussie Negroni. When in Gin Palace, you have to have a gin right? Well, you should probably have a Martini but I wasn't disappointed with this decision. I've had bad experiences with gin in the past, but this Negroni might make me change my mind. Made with gin, Vermouth and Campari, all produced in Australia, it was the best drink of the night.

Rooftop at QT 1/133 Russell St

Around the corner is the Melbourne QT, which opened in September and with it one of the best bar views in the city. There were plenty of cocktails on the menu but since I was cocktailed out, I thought I would enjoy the view with a nice cold beer. The bar menu is almost as impressive as the view with the likes of minced Thai beef on toast, scotch quail eggs wrapped in wagyu beef and polenta crumbed onion rings.

If you like rooftop bars, then you should also check out Good Heavens (1/79 Bourke St), The Hills (Flaningan Lane) and The Imperial (2-8 Bourke St).

My drink: James Squire 150 Lashes Pale Ale. Impressive Australian-style cloudy Pale Ale.

Boilermaker House, 209/211 Lonsdale St

Malt whisky and craft beer. My kind of bar. They have a lot, and I mean a lot, of whisky on offer along with a huge beer list. The rustic brick interior and whisky bottles along the wall behind the bar enhance the look, along with the spade-handle beer taps. The bar staff are at the top of their game with plenty of knowledge and advice on what drink will suit your tastes. The only downside is its popularity, and on a Friday night, it was very busy. Standing room only.

My drink: Lagavulin 12-year-old CS 2014 on the rocks. Or was it the 16-year-old? That's the trouble with visiting five bars in succession. Either way it was a smooth finish to the night.

Getting there
Qantas flies daily from Auckland to Melbourne, with Economy Class return flights starting from $526.