16 of the best bars in Brisbane right now
Brisbane‘s bar scene has come of age in recent years; more than just home to laid-back al fresco watering holes, you’ll also find intimate and highly specialised venues, many of which have won awards on the national stage.
Whether you’re hovering around the north or the south of the river, there’s a breezy courtyard to start the night and a low-lit den in which to finish it. Here are some of the best bars Brisbane has on offer in and around the city.
Super Whatnot is all things to all comers, a laneway favourite where lawyers and accountants loosen their ties to mix it with transient hipsters and well-heeled foreign students. It gives this CBD laneway joint a welcoming, inclusive feel. Its award-winning interleaved design means the intimacy keeps up even when things get busy.
Try hitting it on a Friday night after dinner, when the in-house DJ turns up the soul music and hip-hop and the crowd starts to get its groove on in front of the bar.
Tip: If you like good music with your cocktail, this is the bar for you.
Live music and a night out on the town go hand in hand, and Brooklyn Standard knows how to book a stellar line-up. The nightly tunes are a lucky dip of anything from funk and rock and roll to RnB and Mariachi.
Through the door to the left of the Statue of Liberty street art on Eagle Lane, this underground bar is clearly influenced by its namesake New York suburb, with Brooklyn Lager on tap, a diner-inspired menu, and Americana paraphernalia dressing up the decor.
Tip: No two nights are ever the same here with rotating beers on tap, new bands always stopping by and a changing cocktail menu, so don’t feel guilty about becoming a regular.
Queensland’s only heritage-listed pub, The Gresham has taken as much care with its drinks offering as it has lovingly restoring the historical building that houses its old-world charm.
The highly awarded watering hole is serious about its whisky, and has an entire page in the menu dedicated to American whiskies in particular. Ales, ‘grapes’, rums, gins and tequilas of numerous varieties also cater to those who are particular about their brands.
Tip: Before you dive into the whiskies, line your stomach with a 270 day grain fed, in house, dry aged porterhouse at The Gresham’s sister venue, Walter’s Steakhouse on Alice Street.
Howard Smith Wharves
One of the best bars Brisbane locals flock to frequently, the vibe is inclusive at Felons Brewery, with families – the fur-kind included – welcome at this large tin shed that sits right on the Brisbane River.
With the belief that beer is what binds us all, this microbrewery is borderline-obsessed with its craft, and it shows in its balanced beers and creative one-off concoctions, like the Champagne Sour beer and Riverfire Red Ale. Between the local brews, waterfront view, and buzzing energy, there are few better places to end the day.
Tip: On Monday afternoons, Felons Brewery hosts beer yoga. It takes skill to do downward dog with a pale ale in hand, but practice makes perfect.
Come for the view, stay for the aperitivo-style menu, European beach club vibe and long wine list. Under the Story Bridge at Brisbane’s latest hotspot, Howard Smith Wharves, it feel like an eternal summer at this relaxed overwater bar.
The cocktails here have crisp, clean flavours and are served ice cold, which pairs perfectly with the delicate seafood-influenced antipasto menu. For the non-drinkers, a glass of kombucha goes down a treat.
Tip: Split a jug of Mr Percival’s famous Peachy cocktail. It’s just what you need to cool down on a hot Queensland day.
Eleven Rooftop Bar
Eleven might boast a cocktail list up there with the best in the city, but it’s the spectacular views you’re really here for. When you need to impress an out-of-town visitor or corporate client, bring them here.
11 storeys up, the 270-degree unobstructed views of the CBD, Fortitude Valley and beyond gives you a bird’s eye view of this fine city. The lounge-style booths can fit a decent crowd so rally the troops.
Saturday nights mean an overflow of people (and a dress code, so you’re aware). If you’d prefer a more low-key tipple, hit their list earlier in the day for an afternoon Petite Pablo (aka honeycomb margarita) or pre-dinner Apple Pie Martini.
Tip: Eleven is one of the best spots in town for a Sunday sesh, so why not end the week on a high note (literally) with sweet tunes, seafood, and Pour Les Amour Rosé.
Trade fancy for fun at drinking hole, diner and retro arcade triple threat, Netherworld. The seventies vibes are strong with pinball machines and nostalgic games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Street Fighter calling your name for just $1 a play. Or, entertain an entire group from the 100 board games on offer.
Quench your thirst with a generous drinks menu of 15+ beers, a diverse selection of Australian wines, loaded sodas and cocktails that tick the boxes for classic and quirky (Drop Bear Australian Spritz, anyone?). Good to know: The food menu is vegan-friendly.
Tip: Unleash your competitive streak at one of Netherworld’s regular gaming competitions or weekly trivia nights.
The mood is sophisticated at The Calile Hotel’s Lobby Bar, but don’t be intimidated. There’s a sense of belonging – the friendly staff, calming colour palette, and intimate setting make sure of that. The pink marble bar is the centrepiece and the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the luxe interior with natural light.
Australian and European drops dominate the wine menu, or for an afternoon pick-me-up after a day of lounging around The Calile’s pool, try the espresso martini made with award-winning coffee.
Tip: Celebrating a special occasion? Splurge from the Premium menu with a bottle of Lobby Bar’s finest: the $999 2010 Château Rauzan-Ségla from Bordeaux.
Located just a stone’s throw from Brisbane’s highfalutin James Street precinct, Gerard’s Bar splits the difference between the area’s excellent restaurants and the rambunctious Valley entertainment precinct beyond.
Stop here for cocktails and a deceptively fine wine list served al fresco to tables of Brisbane’s bright young things.
Tip: Gerard’s backs up its drinks offering with a surprisingly refined food menu (or perhaps not so surprising, given its neighbouring sister venue, Gerard’s Bistro, is one of the best restaurants in Brisbane), including a wagyu cheese burger that might just be the best in town.
L.A. is known for its cool hangs, buzzing atmosphere and top-notch cocktail blends, and Mr Mista has brought a piece of that to Brisbane. Only, there’s an Asian twist on the share plate menu, and it’s ultra refined. Gather around at one of the green velvet booths or mingle close to the bar so you’re never too far from your next cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails, they get their names from Hollywood. The Brad Pitt is a tall drink of Bacardi, mango and passionfruit; Marilyn Monroe is an unforgettable sultry blend of Hendricks gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon and bitters, martini-style.
Tip: If you like to stay out late, the dance floor opens at 10pm and doesn’t wind down until last call at 3am.
Hidden behind an unassuming orange door in Fortitude Valley, you’ll find one of Brisbane’s best cocktail bars.
Savile Row is a pocket wonder of a place, five different levels twisting themselves around a moodily lit central bar of darkened wood and brass. An enormous chandelier takes pride of place, illuminating a back bar stacked with more than 750 different exotic spirits.
While in the area, bar hop to The Bowery, just across Ann Street; or duck around the corner to Barbara, a small bar with a very big sound system.
Tip: If your dinner plans are taking you to West End instead, try Savile Row’s sister bar, Cobbler; hidden behind a velvet curtain on Browning Street, its back bar boasts more than 400 whiskies.
La Lune Wine Co
Inspired by star chef Paul McGivern’s frequent visits to Burgundy, this slick Fish Lane hideaway boasts more than 150 wines, most imported from Europe or local drops made in an old-world style.
There’s even a rotating list of wines available by Coravin, which allows staff to pour from their more expensive bottles without removing the cork.
Where to sit? At the bar is best, so you can order marinated olives and a plate of cured hams, and chat to the barkeep about what you might drink next.
Tip: While you’re in the neighbourhood, grab a cleansing ale at Saccharomyces Beer Cafe or a double scoop of Messina’s famous salted caramel and white chocolate gelato.
Intimate to a fault, this tiny Fish Lane bolthole barely has room for 20 people. It means a seat at the venue’s weathered brass bar on a Saturday night is a rare and precious thing.
Once there, though, you’re treated to first-class service and an imaginative, molecular cocktail list designed by award-winning bartender Edward Quatermass. Tie it in with a show at nearby QPAC or dinner at one of the swish eateries dotted along the lane.
Tip: For dinner, try Julius for authentic Italian, Hello Please for Vietnamese food, or wrap two hands around a Billykart burger.
Walking through the door at The End, you’ve cleared stumbled upon the local haunt of West End’s counter-culture. It would almost be intimidating, except you quickly realise this is less a cool-kid destination and more a hopping hotspot for the many share houses in the surrounding area.
Formerly Trash Video, a much-loved VHS store, The End wears its history on its sleeve with murals of tapes painted around the bar and a few of the real things lying around. Exclusive beers and an ever-changing cocktail list keep the good times rolling well into the night.
Tip: Flying solo? This is the place to be when you’re in town on your own, so nab yourself a spot at the bar with the natives and get mingling.
Canvas | Woolloongabba
Other star venues come and go on Brisbane’s busy cocktail scene, but since 2010, the award-winning Canvas has consistently excelled with fabulous drinks lists served in a warm, homely space.
If nothing else, it’s an excuse to visit Woolloongabba’s famous antiques precinct. The shops full of violins and dusty chesterfields may have moved on, but this is one of the few places in Brisbane where a huge block of heritage buildings remains largely untouched, the old shopfronts now occupied by a line of excellent restaurants and bars.
Rodriguez and Schofield also own the elusive whisky bar, Mrs J. Rabbits, across the road — it requires a little sleuthing to find the entrance but is well worth it once you do.
Brisbane tends to dedicate its riverside to restaurants rather than bars, so you have to know where to look to find decent watering holes with water views. One of the best waterfront bars in Brisbane is Bar Alto, downstream from the city.
This is all about location: Looking out from the first-floor deck at the Brisbane Powerhouse arts centre towards well-heeled Hawthorne, it’s the perfect spot for a breezy afternoon of exceptional wines and beer, and maybe a bar snack or two.
If you like the drinks, stay for dinner — Bar Alto’s restaurant is a quiet contender for the best Italian in Brisbane.
Tip: Take a stroll through the adjacent New Farm Park — a favourite greenway among Brisbane locals.
If you need somewhere to rest your head for the night, sort your Brisbane accommodation here.
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