20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Mon 5pm - 11pm
Tue - Sat 5pm - 1am
Pa Pa l'AmericanoIt was nine o'clock on a Monday night when the newcomer shuffled in. The bar was empty, but the shelves were full, the decanters filled. Hayden Lambert, head bartender, was behind the counter. No jacket required. Just a nightcap.
In this white-tiled sanatorium of sauce slotted into the end of a laneway, I ordered an Old-Fashioned. It felt like an MGM backlot, but Lambert's precision, the finishing touches of bitters, and a flash of orange was all Godard. Cool on the lips, tingling on the tongue, and a warm roll that spread the gospel throughout my anatomy was all La Dolce Vita.
Bar Americano, a mixology maestro Matthew Bax joint, opens at 7 a.m., which translates to a criminal espresso in the morning, a sneaky Pete at lunch, a life-saving aperitivo at five, and something for courage after dark. In and out. Straight. That's dedication to service.
"We can only have 12 people in here, so it's not about making money," Lambert said. "We get paid on time, and we make cocktails." He shrugged as his hands deftly dried a snifter in a way that made it shine like the Empire State Building. "We tell people to put their phones away. Just enjoy the drink." I did. A shadow flickered in a dim doorway—Bax, himself? Lambert averted his eyes.
"Matthew doesn't need the attention and doesn't want people to come here because of him. Can I make you a Millionaire?"
"You can," I replied. "But I already feel like a million bucks."