Top bars in Canberra that quench festive thirst

Louisiana Hook cocktail at Hippo Bar, Civic.
Louisiana Hook cocktail at Hippo Bar, Civic. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Hippo and Co

Garema Place, city
6257 9090

Wednesday to Saturday, 5pm to late

Hippo has been renovated and is laid back but luxurious with exposed brickwork and wood panelling. With its big glass-fronted balcony, the bar looks out over Garema Square and the comings and goings of a summer Saturday night. Get comfortable on the leather banquettes and low tables for a cosy chat. Or perch at the balcony bar amid the candles and watch the night life pass below. Hippo's spacious without feeling impersonal, comfortable without being cramped. The bartenders are chatty and cheerful, happy to help you choose a cocktail from the big menu, which includes Stop the Floats - a luscious blend of Sailor Jerry rum, sarsaparilla and creaming soda with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. The speciality of the house is whisky, though, with more than 200 whiskies to try on the bar and weekly tastings on Thursdays.

Soju Girl

41-43 Northbourne Avenue, Civic
6257 5328
Tuesday 5pm to late, Wednesday to Friday noon-late, Saturday 2pm to late

Soju Girl cocktail at Soju Girl bar, Civic.
Soju Girl cocktail at Soju Girl bar, Civic. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Soju Girl is a rare beast that actually does what it promises: it's a bar and a restaurant and is good at both things. The space is divided into two wings - the bustling restaurant on the left and the tapas and bar on the right. The food here is a standout, with lotus root chips a popular bar snack and little plates that include sushi of the day, oysters, fluffy pan-fried roti, and crisp and tender pork dishes. And the cocktails are well put together and interesting, often with an Asian twist. The signature soju bubble tea is loaded with passionfruit jelly balls while the plum dog millionaire is a mix of rum, apricot liqueur and Korean plum syrup.


16 Kendall Lane, NewActon
Tuesday to Sunday, noon to late

It's back with a vengeance. The tapas bar and wine room went up in flames two years ago but has reopened at the Diamant Hotel in the trendy NewActon area of Civic. The eclectic decor - grandfatherly chesterfield sofas alongside funky modern chairs and elegant chaise longues - has been retained and refreshed with turquoise and bright green colours. There's a big courtyard space for summer evenings. And the wine list is the work of someone who knows what they're doing, full of unusual choices.

Parlour Bar's team, from left, apprentice chef Adam Farrell, sous chef Jack Walker, head chef Brad Warton, chef de ...
Parlour Bar's team, from left, apprentice chef Adam Farrell, sous chef Jack Walker, head chef Brad Warton, chef de partie Matt Vogt and Lex Koh. Photo: Jay Cronan


Sydney Building, 32 Northbourne Avenue, city
6162 0906
Wednesday to Friday, noon to late, Saturday 4pm to late

The feature piece of this narrow bar on Northbourne Avenue is the crystal-beaded tree at the back of the room, which is just pretty when it's sparkling with lights. The bar is filled with high tables and mirrored walls downstairs, while a loft upstairs has tables looking out over the bar and the tree. The wine list is small - half a dozen reds and whites, a couple of sparklings. Likewise with the cocktail list, which includes classics like the cosmo and the bellini. It fills up quickly on Friday nights as chic city workers gather to celebrate the end of the week before moving on to dinner.

Polit Bar

8 Franklin Street, Manuka
6162 2947
Wednesday to Sunday, 4pm to late


This Manuka bar upstairs and just to the right of Public (where the Julep Lounge used to be) is a new addition to the Parliamentary Triangle scene. The look is elegant but a little quirky. It's bordello meets political nerd: a curtain of shimmering beads, a screen print of old Canberra, a tiny stage and plush seating around low tables. It's intimate and there's table service, which starts with nibbles and water and goes on to an extensive cocktail menu and small plates. Try the centenary cocktail - a fruity, bubbly creation with cranberry and sparkling wine. There are cocktail classes with bartender Marti McGregor, monthly burlesque shows, and an event with the attention-grabbing name of Naked Girls Reading, on December 11.

Hippo's Louisiana Hook

Makes 1

60ml London dry gin

30ml fresh apple juice

30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup (boil sugar and water to a thick syrup)

fresh mint leaves

Campari orange ice sphere

30ml Campari

30ml blood orange juice

60ml spring water

Put the orange juice, water and campari into an ice sphere mould (or use an over-sized ice-cube tray) and freeze. Shake the gin, apple and lemon juice and sugar syrup with ice. Put the mint into a glass, then the campari sphere, and strain the gin mix over.

Soju Girl cocktail

Makes 1

1 kiwifruit, peeled and pulped

30ml soju (from Korean grocers)

30ml Midori

20ml lemongrass syrup (boil down lemongrass stalks with water and sugar to a syrup)

20ml lime juice

45ml cranberry juice

Put the ingredients into a cocktail shaker in this order: pulped kiwifruit; soju and Midori; lime juice, lemongrass syrup and cranberry juice. Add ice, shake, and strain into a glass (or pink takeaway box).

>> Natasha Rudra is a staff journalist.