Best sour cocktails to try in Melbourne

three cocktails lined up

Alice Piper

Posted June 29, 2022

If you think all cocktails are meant to be sweet, then think again because sour cocktails are the drink of the moment. Here are some of the best sour cocktails to try in Melbourne. 

Sour isn’t a note that typically springs to mind when you think of cocktails, but according to the history books, sour cocktails first featured on bar menus as far back as 1856 in Toronto, Canada.  

Before then, the sour cocktail was said to be invented by the British Navy, because as folk law has it, rum was readily available in the Caribbean and didn’t go off during long voyages (unlike beer), therefore becoming the drink of choice for the sailors.  

The sailors also used rum to combat the effects of scurvy and malnutrition, often mixing the rum with lime juice to make a daiquiri-like mixture, unintentionally inventing the sour cocktail. 

Since then, sour cocktails such as a Gin Sour, Whiskey Sour, and Aperol Sour have become popular and also evolved in their texture and taste, with cocktail bars around Melbourne offering unique twists depending on who’s making them, and who’s drinking them.  

What is a sour cocktail? 

RACV City Club Food & Beverage Supervisor Ben Crafter says a sour cocktail has distinct characteristics which differentiate it from the typical sweet cocktails on many bar menus

"A sour cocktail always has a base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener such as a simple syrup, honey, or maple syrup,” he says.  

“Sour cocktails can also contain egg white or aquafaba, which is a main point of difference to the sweeter cocktails you might find.”  

What are the key ingredients in a sour cocktail? 

There are three primary ingredients in a sour cocktail, according to Crafter.  

“All you need is a liquor, a citrus, and a sweetener,” he says. “The citrus gives the cocktail its ‘sour’ flavour, and then the sweetener balances out the drink.” 

“But the trick to a really good sour cocktail is to have freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.” 

Best sour cocktails in Melbourne

If you prefer sour to sweet cocktails, head to these cocktail bars in Melbourne to open your mind (and tastebuds).

Back Deck Fizz cocktail

Wilbury & Sons, Shop 4/6 Station St, Moorabbin, 3189

Wilbury & Sons bar owner Kylie says their sour cocktail Back Deck Fizz is a nostalgic creation sure to evoke some memories.  

"It’s made with Jack Daniel’s, cinnamon, whiskey, Jack Daniel’s apple whiskey, apple cider, and rhubarb bitters,” says Kylie.  

"It's a sour cocktail that immediately transports you back to the hours spent waiting patiently for Grandma's famous apple pie to cool down on the open windowsill, and we love that.”

The Sour Madame cocktail

Bourke Street Green, 501 Bourke St, Melbourne, 3000

For a twist on a classic Gin Sour, the The Sour Madame from Bourke Street Green will tantalise the tastebuds of any cocktail aficionado, with Bar Manager Rob Piece saying the big difference comes down to the gin the bar uses.  

“We use a lychee gin,” he says. “So, it really brings in those sweet flavours while also keeping those sour notes.”

Pair your sour cocktail with a pizza or hearty burgers as you sit in a garden oasis.  

Try The Sour Madame cocktail from Bourke Street Green

House Sour cocktail

Annie Lewis Winehouse, 138 Bridge Rd, Richmond, 3121

Perched on the crest of the hill on Bridge Road in Richmond, Annie Lewis Winehouse is known as the hotspot for cocktails in the inner east, and with an extensive list, it’s the sour cocktails that hit all the right notes.

Sit in a cosy nook by the window as you try the House Sour which gives you the option of three different drinks – a Whisky Sour, a Nutty Lime Sour made with gin and Frangelico or an Amaretto Sour. 

Annie Lewis Winehouse is BYO food, so bring some treats, or order some delivery as you sample top shelf sour cocktails. 

Amaretti Sour mocktail

Casa de Playa, 39 Main St, Mornington, 3931 

Sometimes you just feel like a mocktail instead of a cocktail. Casa de Playa in Mornington has you covered with a deliciously sour Amaretti Sour mocktail made with amaretti, egg white and lemon that's worth the drive.  

This Mexican-inspired bar offers all things tacos and quesadillas, as well as crispy chicken wings and ceviche, so book in for a feast to go along with your sour mocktails and cocktails.  

Aperol Sour cocktail

Bar Bambi, Basement 103-105 Flinders Lane, AC/DC Lane, Melbourne, 3000

A Melbourne CBD favourite for those that enjoy the finer things in life, Bar Bambi offers an extensive list of classic cocktails, but it’s the Aperol Sour made with Aperol, fresh citrus, house-made sugar syrup and foam that will have sour cocktail lovers rejoicing.  

Bar Bambi is perfect for a special date night or dinner catch up with friends – so sip the night away as you dine on antipasti, share plates like saganaki or chicken sliders, or larger share plates such as pork cotoletta on the bone or calamari fritti.  

woman mixing cocktail and straining it into glass

Bar Bambi serves some of the best sour cocktails in Melbourne. Image: Visit Victoria.


Ginger Bug cocktail 

The Bank, 75A Koornang Rd, Carnegie, 3163

In south-east Melbourne, lies a cocktail bar sitting in a refurbished bank that serves unique and minimal sour cocktails. 

The Ginger Bug cocktail at The Bank is made with singleton single malt, gingerbread syrup, pear, lime and soda - hitting all the sour notes without being overwhelming.  

The Bank also serves an Aperol Sour made with Aperol, lemon juice, Limoncello and egg white which is perfect for pairing with bar snacks like marinated olives, mushroom arancini, or salt and pepper squid with cumin yoghurt.  

Birth of Venus cocktail

Fable, 13/168 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 3000

You’re right for thinking the Birth of Venus is a painting by Italian artist Botticelli, however it is also one of the best sour cocktails on the menu at Fable on the 13th floor of the Greek Community Building in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.  

Made with Lillet blanc vermouth, Fiorente elderflower, Fable salted apple shrub, fresh citrus, and campo viejo cavat, it’s the fresh citrus that will please sour cocktail lovers, while the Fiorente elderflower is a lot less sweet than other sweeteners.  

bar with cocktails lined up

Try the Birth of Venus sour cocktail at Fable in Melbourne's CBD. Image: Visit Victoria.


Clover Club cocktail

Prohibition Food and Wine, 1395 Toorak Rd, Camberwell, 3124

Sitting on the edge of Camberwell and Burwood, Prohibition Food and Wine has a long list of signature cocktails, including the Clover Club made with Bombay dry gin, lillet blanc, fresh lemon, raspberry, egg white, and sugar. It’s a fruity, yet sour cocktail, predating the establishment itself with ties back to the 1800s.  

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, try the Prohibition Sour, made with your choice of Maker’s Mark bourbon, Amaretto Disaronno, Barsol pisco, fresh lemon, sugar and egg white, meaning you can make this cocktail as sour as your tastebuds desire. Is there anything more a sour cocktail drinker could want?  

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