“Par is a Latin derivative for balance, middle ground – everything is equal,” says bartender Tim Pope. He co-owns new Brunswick Street bar Par with his wife Aimee Pope (who runs the wine program) and fellow bartender Tony Huang (ex-Lui Bar). “If you’re having a wine, a beer, a cocktail, it doesn’t matter because it all looks the same [here].”

Forget the tropes of speak-easy-style joints, because you’ll find them few and far between in this long, dimly lit space. Par is sort of like the best consumer tech: the goal is to make things user-friendly and approachable, but if you look under the hood you’ll see they’ve had to really push some boundaries to get there. There’s no going backwards to go forwards, after all.

Here are a few ways they’re doing it:

Everything is ready-made
While working together at Cloakroom, Tim and Huang learned that the theatre of cocktail-making is often less important to drinkers than good service. “We found our guests just cared more about getting their drink quick,” Tim says.

Here, all the hard work is done in advance. Frozen fruits are steeped in booze, breaking down and leaching colour and intense flavours. Citrus is replaced by stable concentrates from the nearby Bitters Lab – or the acidity of wine. Disparate flavours are harmonised by a technique called sonic aging, where soundwaves are pulsed through the drink. Cocktails like the Belle – Marionette peach liqueur, Maker’s Mark bourbon, skin-contact white wine and an imitation peach ferment, which is more controlled and consistent than the real deal – are pre-carbonated for a soft fizz. Then everything is just poured to order.

There’s no ice?
Nope, not a cube in the house. When shaken or stirred with ice, cocktails are both chilled and diluted (which is a good thing), so to combat their strict no-shaker policy, Tim and Huang are pre-diluting with water. It actually gives them an extra angle for flavour. “Our water content we can infuse with tea,” says Tim. “Our dilution is also a flavour rather than a straight dilution.”

The bottled cocktails are all stored at one degree Celsius and, like wine, the aromas and flavours are designed to “open up” as the drink’s temperature slowly rises. “Instead of making drinks that are supposed to be enjoyed ice-cold, we want to make a drink that gets better the longer it sits,” Tim says. It means that the complexity of a cocktail like the Anniversary – vodka and sake steeped with heirloom tomato and rounded out with savoury white-miso brine – can be sipped and enjoyed at your own speed.

The glassware is universal
You know when you go to a cocktail bar and everyone orders the Tiki drink because it looks fun? Yeah, well, Par isn’t about that. “They just ordered it because it was flashy,” says Tim. “We want people to purely pick off the flavour.”

Every cocktail comes in a thin-stemmed wineglass, its contents weighed on a microscale to 120 grams. Served without ice or garnishes, the sense of theatre is entirely in the balance of flavours and textures in cocktails like the 36 Chambers, which combines leatherwood honey and a local honey liqueur with sencha and matcha teas, and Roku gin.

Par
Shop 2, 360 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 3065

Hours:
Wed 5pm–11pm
Thu & Fri 5pm–12am
Sat 2pm–12am
Sun 2pm–11pm

parmelbourne.com