Melbourne cocktail lounge showcases aromatised wines

In the middle of COVID lockdowns, Melbournians were surprised to see a new aromatised wine bar and bottleshop opening, but Botanik is continuing to flourish.

Botanik is a cocktail lounge and specialist bottleshop, focusing on vermouths, aperitivos, and digestifs. The bottleshop sells over 170 aromatised wines, alongside a range of premium glassware, cocktail-making supplies, and vintage cocktail cabinets. It is run by husband-and-wife duo Melissa Macfarlane and Frank Moylan, who bring nearly 25 years of hospitality experience to the bar.

“We offer tastings of everything that is on the shelves, so you can start your vermouth journey with tastings and flights at the bar. It is such a joy to introduce people to the wonderful world of aromatised wine,” said Melissa.

While it may seem that opening during COVID would have been a sure recipe for disaster, Botanik flourished. The lockdown periods allowed them to refine the bar’s concept, and enhanced people’s excitement about the bar.

“People in COVID were just so happy to see something fully immersive. Because all the labels are so beautiful and it’s about travel, they get kind of emotional,” Melissa said. “Nobody had tried that much vermouth or anything like that, so they just get so excited and then just jump in. Now, people run in and every time they come, buy one bottle. Their cocktail cabinet is looking pretty amazing as well. It’s been incredible.”

Balkan Shuffle


  • 55ml Montenegro
  • 30ml Pineapple Rum
  • 30ml Lemon Juice
  • 15ml Egg White
  • 3Tbsp Passionfruit Pulp
  • 15ml Simple Syrup


  1. Add all ingredients to shaker and dry shake
  2. Re-shake with large ice cube
  3. Double strain in to fizz coupe
  4. Garnish with dried pineapple

Interestingly, Botanik is located upstairs from a department store, Kabinett.

“I like the idea that someone’s wandering around and they’ve gone downstairs and then come upstairs and they’ve gone ‘What! I can have a drink as well?’ That’s my idea of heaven,” said Melissa.

The department store is incorporated into the Botanik concept, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a bar.

“Right next to [Botanik] is a fragrance section, so it’s this whole immersive taste/smell thing,” Melissa explained, “Where does it say in the liquor license that you can’t sell fragrance?”

The desire for travel during COVID also influenced the concept for Botanik. The international selection of aromatised wines and inviting labels evoke memories of international holidays.

“After all the lock downs, everything just became about travel and memory,” Melissa said, “When you travel, it’s all about those little unexpected stop offs where you go ‘Yeah, let’s have a champagne in the middle of the day!’”

The day-to-night vibe of Botanik is enhanced by its combination of balcony and indoor seating. The interior seats about 30, creating an intimate atmosphere, whereas the larger balcony seats 50. The interior was designed and painted by Melissa, in a style she called “brutalist tropicana.” The dark walls are interrupted by warm, vibrant colours, and the balcony is full of lush greenery.

“It’s kind of chunky and there’s definitely a botanic thing, and there’s a bit of glamour because of the gold leaf,” Melissa said of the paint design.

The surrounding restaurants and shops add to the appeal of Botanik. Customers visit the bar for an aperitivo or digestif to bookend their dinner out, or for a post-shopping spree cocktail.

Melissa and Frank have a storied career in hospitality, previously running the Farmers Arms in Daylesford, the Royal George Hotel in Kyneton, and The Crimean in North Melbourne. Botanik is informed by the pair’s amassed experience in the industry.

“We thought we were retired, but the universe said no,” Melissa concluded, “All the things that we’ve done along the way culminated in this idea.”

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