THE GIN PALACE - 10 Russell Pl, Melbourne City, MELBOURNE
SO...No better place to begin the hunt for the best Gin Joint in Melbourne then with The Gin Palace. Now I am probably the only Gin Enthusiast in Melbourne who had never been to the Gin Palace before, and dear lord is this a place that was hard to find. If I didn't have a friend with me who knew how to get there, I most definitely would have gotten lost. (note I haven't been living here long - maybe 3 months.. I lost track)
Down a surprisingly well lit little alley way, on one of the coldest winter nights I blindly followed my friends through the large golden doors, into what from the street looks incredibly unassuming. Just the two golden doors in a hole in the wall, a very dark black wall. We were taken down the rabbit hole and came out in, quite literally a gin palace, or possibly a more fitting name for it A Gin Wonderland. An incredibly plush, dimly lit, very fancy bar hidden away in the heart of Melbourne, and has stood strong as a pillar in the gin community for almost 19 years.
Unfortunately I chose possibly the busiest Wednesday night in the history of Wednesday nights to try this fine establishment but I was there and one of the bartenders (Hugh, in the photo below) was incredibly accommodating and made me two top quality cocktails while very patiently answering all of my many, many questions.
There is, unsurprisingly, a enormous variety of gin to choose from, they will most likely have the gin you are looking for, and if not they will have something pretty similar, and maybe even better???
Most popular Australian gins: Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Melbourne Gin Company
Busiest nights of the week: Fridays and Saturdays
Least busy nights of the week: Monday through to Wednesday (usually)
If they could create their own gin what would they want it to taste like/what botanicals would they use: Very juniper heavy, in a true London Dry style. Funnily enough they have recently done a collaboration with Four Pillars and created a Gin which will be out later this year, which is very exciting, I can't wait to have a taste of it.
Most popular gin cocktail: There was a really long list and I didn't quite catch them all, but amongst them there were the classic martini, negroni and G&T.
So on to the cocktail tastings....
I had two classics, made with Australian Gins, a negroni made with Hippocampus Gin, and a Martini made with KIS O'Gin. They were top notch, I have to say. (KIS = Kangaroo Island Spirits)
The martini, was garnished with olives and a sprig of thyme and was beautifully savoury (not salty or anything like that) and exactly what I asked for. A very smooth martini, with really great flavours all working together nicely. Kangaroo Island Spirits have done a really good job with their O'Gin. I would rate this martini a 7/10, it was really nice but not "AMAZING! I'll have four more of these thanks" kind of drink, you know? Which is probably for the best, if I couldn't find my way there with no drinks, with 4 martinis I definitely wouldn't be able to find my way home.
The negroni, was exactly what a negroni should be (being the gin palace I wasn't expecting anything less). Too often negronis are just a shouting match between Campari and gin, both competing for the spotlight, but this combination worked really well. A solid Australian negroni made with Hippocampus gin, Maidenii sweet vermouth (an Australian vermouth) and Campari (I know there is an Australian equivalent to Campari made by applewood distillery, and I am dying to try some in a negroni... maybe I will when I go to Bad Frankie in Fitzroy?). This negroni was sticky, bitter and a tiny bit sweet, so, so perfect! I would rate this negroni an 8.5/10 (It probably is a little higher but I haven't reviewed many places yet so this may change...watch this space)
Unfortunately the place was so busy, I simply forgot to photograph the cocktails, (I am so sorry, will you ever forgive me?)
But Yes, this is a must try place for any gin drinker. Fantastic service and an astounding knowledge of all the gins they have to offer. All in all, wonderful very classy Gin Joint that I now plan to frequent far more often.