Gin Palace

Where Am I?

Open Every day – 4:00pm 3:00am

10 Russell Place
Melbourne 3000, Victoria, Australia
(03) 9654 0533

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Why Am I Here?

What is a Gin Palace?

The term “gin palace” was used, pejoratively, during the 19th Century to describe disreputable and socially undesirable drinking houses. In the USA, it was particularly employed to identify the licensed paddle-steamers that plied the Mississippi River, so-called “floating gin palaces”.

What is this Gin Palace?

In the latter 1800’s, down a dark Melbourne alley, there once was an infamous hospitality venue. How it was frowned upon during daylight hours, yet surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, how it was frequented by all kinds at night. Whether through popular opinion, a desire for frankness, or a sense of irony, it adopted the title “Gin Palace”. However to the delight of the local wowsers and press, this drinking house was abruptly shut down by command.

And from here the years rolled by and right on the cusp of Melbourne’s lane way revolution along came the entrepreneurial Mr Vernon Chalker – famously one of Melbourne’s most indulgent hosts. It was 1997 and the who’s who of Melbourne were giddy with excitement as the doors were opened. From day one gin martini’s and champagne came flowing and this lavish basement promptly became one of Melbourne’s finest and is of course so very aptly named Gin Palace.

What’s it all about?

12 years on Gin Palace is still making and is most highly renowned for outstanding martinis. And that is one of many reasons why this plush den is an institution today. The menu has changed little and Vernon himself will tell you that Gin Palace martinis are made exactly the same today as they were when he opened (Gin Palace’s Martini Master Class is available upon request).

This fact, along with ‘we never close’ hours, the very gorgeous staff who offer table service as good as the best and in the traditions of grand hospitality, Gin Palace provides guests with a choice of delectable tidbits, to ensure that every sense of gustatory well-being is entirely satiated… hmmmm!

And let’s not forget that although Gin Palace is about gin, gin and more gin parleeeease… the martini menu is hard to beat; the cocktail list is created by bartenders who are oh so hot right now; and the back bar is stocked to the brim with liquor old and new. However, if a martini is not for you (although I must insist you try one of Gin Palace’s if you’ve not already!), the reserve wine menu, otherwise known as Vernon’s Crusty Old Wines, may be more suited to your palate.

Raucous romps?

True to its proud history, The Gin Palace has housed innumerable gatherings where hilarity and immoderate behavior have reigned, with completely ridiculous consequences. Suffice it to say, the establishment has been a bashful recipient of multitudinous awards, and has earned legendary status amongst the world’s best bars.

It may be worth mentioning that Vernon does throw a memorable party here and there for Gin Palace itself. The 5th and the 10th Birthdays are still being talked about. Whether it be Baroque laneway madness or crazy carnivals ending in controversy, Vernon certainly knows how to throw a party when the occasion arises.

Any thing else I hear you ask?

Well with its hidden nooks and alcoves it’s hard not to immediately feel the outside world slip away. As you sip on your first martini of the night you become part of the ambience of this institution without even realising it’s happening. There’s also the Harem, and although we couldn’t possibly talk about what actually goes on in Gin Palaces famous Harem, it has often been suggested that this very, very secluded corner is the naughtiest nook of all!

Finally, but certainly not least, you’ll find knowledgeable staff who know their stuff, whom love a bit of tongue in cheek. I can assure you that all who come through those heavy Gin Palace doors are made to feel welcome, well looked after, even a little glamorous and definitely a lot naughty!

Upcoming Events

World Gin Day 2015 is just around the corner in June, watch this space for updates or join the Facebook page!

How About Gin?

Writer’s Disclaimer

This information has been gleaned from a vast array of sources, and assembled in a gin-induced haze, hence the utter lack of attributions: it is all stolen, mangled, misspelled, improperly punctuated, devoid of grammatical nicety and paraphrased to avoid plagiarism. If you have been misquoted, please accept our abject apologies, and understand that we take no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the following…

What are etymological origins of gin?

Where the name “Gin” comes from is wreathed in mysteries, though all connect back to the Juniper berry itself. The botanical name for Juniper – Juniperus Communis – is derived from the original Roman word for the Juniper Tree iuniperus, and refers to a particular branch of the cypress or cupressaciae family.

The Dutch seemed to have borrowed jenever or genever from the Old French word genevre (modern French geniévre = Juniper tree). It has been suggested that the French word may have been derived from the Italian/French city of Genoa, called genova in Caesar’s time. Anyway, once the drink reached English shores, its name genever was mistaken for the Swiss city, Geneva, even though alcohol in any form has never has had anything to do with that home of the merciless Christian fascist Calvin. At any rate, the English soon mangled or slurred genever into simply gin.

The word gin was first recorded in print in the work of a political economist and satirist by the name of Bernard Mandeville. Born in the Netherlands he moved to England where, in 1714, he wrote a political satire called Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick [sic] Benefits, in which he noted:

The infamous liquor, the name of which deriv’d from Juniper-Berries in Dutch, is now, by frequent use… from a word of middling length shrunk into a Monosyllable, intoxicating Gin.”

How did Gin arise?

Originally created in Italy in the 14th century to cure kidney problems, the prototype for gin was an infusion of Juniper berries in an alcohol base. However, uses of Juniper berries for medicinal purposes date back many thousands of years to ancient India and China, and also appear in American Indian traditional concoctions. Most commonly juniper extracts were employed as diuretics, but also they were used for contraception and to induce early childbirth (just like modern gin!)

A Dutchman by the name of Dr Franciscus Sylvius, a chemist, has been credited with creating genever (what we now know as Gin) in a laboratory at the University of Leydon in the mid 16th Century. Shortly afterwards, a Dutch distiller Lucas Bols began commercially producing genever in 1575, and his product has been consumed in bars around the world to this day.

What happened then?

Gin gained wider recognition when William of Orange, a Dutch nobleman, was appointed King of England in 1689, and banned imports of French goods; including the nation’s favourite tipples, wine and brandy. The English welcomed gin with open arms and mouths, and local entrepreneurs were soon producing large volumes of poor quality bath-tub brews to keep up with the demand.

As it was an unlicensed liquor, production of gin proliferated across England, with catastrophic social and medical side-effects. The Gin Act of 1736 saw high taxes imposed on retailers, leading to wide-scale public rioting, and eventually the Act was repealed in 1742. Subsequently, The Gin Act of 1751 succeeded where the earlier Act failed, stipulating that only licensed retailers could purchase Gin from distillers.

And mixers?

In 1771 Mr Jacob Schweppe created a tonic water containing quinine, designed for British Officers in India to assist in warding off the scourge of Malaria. When this tonic was added to gin, England’s favourite drink was invented. Until this time, the British Military had grown accustomed to Pink Gin: Plymouth Gin with the addition of quinine-rich Angostura Bitters. And, of course, in maritime quarters one took gin with a small splash or water, or with a squeeze of citrus to ward off rickets.

What about modern gins?

Today gin is made by infusing juniper (at least 51%) with other flavourings. Typical botanicals that can be found in many gins may include coriander seeds, caraway seeds and orrisroot, dried orange and lemon peel, angelica, liquorice, fennel or anise, almonds or cardamom pods. Each distillery has its own secret botanicals included in their distinctive “potpourri”, all of which are usually added to the grain spirit during its fourth distillation. Nearly all modern gins are classified as London Dry Gins. This classification arose to distinguish them from the typical 18th century gins which were sweetened to mask the fact their poor quality. A classic example of the earlier and sweeter style was “Old Tom Gin”, the gin originally used in a Tom Collins cocktail.

Production of gin has become more refined, and the product of higher quality, modern gins have become progressively drier. Nowadays, the nomenclature of London Dry Gin encompasses such a broad range of flavours it has become all but useless. There are three broad families of gins sitting outside of this all-encompassing sphere, these being Sloe, Plymouth and Xoriguer. Sloe gins are derived from the traditional genever drink of the Netherlands. Typically darker, sweeter and richer than their London cousins, Sloe gins incorporate the distinctive flavour of sloe berries, fruit of the blackthorn, a relative of the plum. Plymouth gins must, as the name suggests, be produced in the English town of Plymouth and Xoriguer gins originate from Spain.

What Are The Festivities?


Saturday June 13th

It’s the biggest day on the Gin Palace calendar and we want to celebrate it with you from 12pm.

We have classes all day and gin all night. Our friends at Bombay Sapphire, Westwinds, Four Pillars, MGC, Dutch Courage, Ransom and Beefeater are all helping us celebrate. Come along for a Martini, Negroni, Gin Fizz and or Old Fashioned and we will buy your friend one.

Make sure you get in early as we don’t want you waiting outside in the cold