Brisbane's top 50 bars 2016

Manhattans in the Valley at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie.
Manhattans in the Valley at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie. Photo: Supplied

Bar lines are becoming blurred. Not the lines at the bar, mind. We're talking about the line that separates bar and restaurant, boozer and brunch spot, dive and diner. These difficult-to-define venues keep opening, with punters keen to explore the new worlds of Australian spirits, small-batch brewing and artisan wines.

Here's the best new watering holes and old favourite haunts from the Brisbane Times 2017 Good Food Guide. The Guide is now available in selected newsagents and stores for $9.99 and features more than 300 reviews of the state's best restaurants, bars, cafes and cheap eats.

1889 Enoteca

Few things go better together than marble bars and Italian wine. Perhaps an Aperol spritz on a lazy afternoon or pecorino grated over rich ragu. This bar, restaurant and Italian wine shop has all this and more, including the warmest of warm hospitality. Order a grappa, take a load off and sit back and listen to bartenders' tales from The Boot and discuss the best dry white wine to use in a bicicletta.

12 Logan Road, Woolloongabba, 07 3392 4315, 1889enoteca.com.au

Alfred & Constance, Fortitude Valley.

Alfred & Constance, Fortitude Valley. Photo: Supplied

Alfred & Constance

Once the hipsters, uni students and jocks found somewhere else to play, these two repurposed heritage homes became a very cool place to hang. Operated by Mr Hospitality himself, Damian Griffiths, this bares all his signature ingredients of great atmosphere, killer selection of food and drinks, and excellent service. The pina colada comes in an actual pineapple. You know you want it.

130 Constance Street, Fortitude Valley 07 3251 6500, alfredandconstance.com.au

All Inn Brewing Co

This is pretty much a shed where people hang out, often with their dogs, drinking beer fresh from the source. Sometimes things don't need to be any more complicated than that. The brew bar is only open Friday to Sunday, and when it does you can expect a knees-up with food trucks (perhaps Rolling Stone Pizza, Pitstop Wings or Micasa) and live music to see you through the afternoon.

189 Elliott Road, Banyo, 1300 462 739, allinnbrewingco.com

Alquimia

Blink and you'll miss this new tequila bar as you walk past. The staff are amazing, the selection of drinks is incredible and the place smells extraordinary. It's all about the agave love here with a top-notch selection of tequila and mezcal. There are certainly worse ways to spend an evening than watching foot traffic with a Tommy's margarita in hand.

702 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 0498 638 421, alquimia.bar
 

The Apo, Fortitude Valley. The bar and restaurant is housed in a former apothecaries hall.

The Apo in Fortitude Valley. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

The Apo

Housed in a former apothecaries' hall, The Apo is your place for on-trend cooking downstairs with lots of coal grilling from Brisbane Times Good Food Guide Citi Chef of the Year Ben Williamson and a polished bar upstairs with admirable cocktails and many wines available by the half bottle (huzzah!). Its Middle Eastern food with a French accent and you can expect Ranger's Valley steak frites with green chilli and coriander or maybe steamed oysters with sujuk and soured yoghurt.

Bakery Lane, 690 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 2403, theapo.com.au

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Aria

Fun fact: Aria has one of the best wine lists in the country. Head sommelier Ian Trinkle has assembled a far-reaching, all-encompassing list of delicious drops you want to spend time exploring. Aria also has a handsome, tawny-toned bar you can use without spending serious moola to eat at the restaurant. Do you see where we're going with this? There's also a beaut selection of sake and spirits. We love the all-Australian negroni.

Eagle Street Pier, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 07 3233 2555, ariarestaurant.com/brisbane

Bacchus

If the conservatorium wasn't in the way, blocking river views, the bar at this fancy pants, old worlde restaurant would be one of the best in Brisbane. It's still damn good though, and the brilliant wine list runs an impressive 36 pages. The staff know how to make a Manhattan with aplomb and with a regular combination of live music and DJs, Bacchus is must-do drinking.

Corner Grey & Glenelg streets, South Bank, 07 3364 0837, bacchussouthbank.com.au

Bar Pacino

Right on the river with amazing views and fun staff, BP is a bonafide winner. There's not a lick of pretense, but rather no-funny-business Italian-ish dishes like chicken parmigiana, Nonna-style house-made lasagne and margherita pizza. Cocktails, champagne, cannoli and bridge views make this the kind of place to lock in for that second Tinder date.

175 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 07 3221 2397, bellezzagroup.com.au/bar-pacino

The Bearded Lady

One of the best things about bars is the opportunity they provide for musicians to get up on stage and thrash out original music with all their whisky-soaked heart. Shredding rock, punk, blues, psychedelia, country and more punk happens at The Bearded Lady on a regular basis. Head on over for a bit of electric mayhem. Young Henrys is on tap and it's BYO food if you want to grab a pizza on the way.

138 Boundary Street, West End, 07 3844 3395, thebeardedlady.com.au

Black Bird Bar & Grill

If you can manage to drag yourself away from the exquisite Black Bird menu to the adjacent bar, you'll be rewarded with stunning views of the river, expert staff and a very cool vibe. It can get a little messy late on Friday and Saturday nights, but the bar is one of the best stocked in Brisbane and a perfect place to unwind on a weeknight.

123 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 07 3229 1200, blackbirdbrisbane.com.au

Bloodhound Corner Bar

If you've ever been out in the Valley and wished you could just be drinking at your local, now you can have the best of both worlds. Bloodhound has the charm and atmosphere for a particularly good local pub right on the fringe of the party precinct. Less than a year old, it is something of a haven from the craziness of the valley, with a beaut beer selection, highly snackable bar food and live music upstairs.

454 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3162 6402, bloodhoundcornerbar.com.au

A moment of downtime at The Bowery.

A moment of downtime at The Bowery. Photo: Supplied

The Bowery

The Valley old girl doesn't have massive movers and shakers of the cocktail world at its helm these days, but it does have a crack team who combine their knowledge and powers to summon awesomeness. Consistently excellent for a vermouth-free martini and Reschs at the end of the working day, or a textbook Old Pal with mates and a pumping dance floor on the weekend.

676 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 0202, thebowery.com.au

Brew

This laneway bar of Astroturf and milk crates offers a respectable selection of boutique beers, wine and spirits for such a small place. It can get crowded so get in early, relax to the laid-back vibes and stake your claim on a crate. The Brew Burger with beef brisket, bacon and American cheddar provides adequate beer ballast for a night of partying.

Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane, 07 3211 4242, brewcafewinebar.com.au

Brooklyn Standard

Underground whisky drinkin' at Brooklyn Standard. Photo: Supplied

Brooklyn Standard

This underground bar – another blessing of the American invasion of our bar culture – warns patrons that if the music's too loud, you're too old. It's fair advice for a bar that offers belting live music every night and plenty of booze to wash it down with. While it doesn't sound great on paper, make sure you try the apple crumble shot.

Eagle Lane, Brisbane, 0405 414 131, brooklynstandard.com.au

Can You Keep a Secret?

Can you keep a secret? Well, no. We can't. Because more people need to know about this lounge bar despite the fact more people will probably ruin its quaintness and charm. Overflowing with vintage knick-knacks, it feels like you're at a mate's house with a hoarding problem. And that homeliness is what makes this special little drinking spot so damn adorable.

619 Stanley Street, Woolloongabba, 07 3847 2956, canyoukeepasecret.net.au

The Canvas team pictured in their natural habitat.

The Canvas team pictured in their natural habitat. Photo: Supplied

Canvas

This southside staple has won a number of awards for its cocktails and one glance at the menu explains why. Combining interesting flavours and twisting more familiar drinks their own way is the stock and trade of this small bar. If you're the kind of person who likes breakfast for dinner (and who doesn't?), then make sure you give Good Mornin' America a try.

16B Logan Road, Woolloongabba, 07 3891 2111, canvasclub.com.au

There's no shortage of Scotch at Cobbler.

There's no shortage of Scotch at Cobbler. Photo: Nat Hoo

Cobbler

There's more than 400 whiskies from around the world stashed behind the handsome, square-jawed bar here. That is all you need to know. The staff here seem to have tried every single one of them and can expertly guide you towards something new or an old favourite from heathery Highlanders to big, peaty wallopers. Seriously, though, 400 whiskies.

7 Browning Street, West End, cobblerbar.com

Coppa Spuntino

In the heart of the CBD, Coppa offers spuntino (small plates) and spritzers with style. Pull up a stool in the sleek, minimalist room and order big on the classics. Burrata with tomato and basil, say, or meatballs with pecorino and fennel. The staff excel in big-hearted Italian hospitality and more than happy to keep your valpolicella topped up at all times.

Shop 4, 88 Creek Street, Brisbane, 07 3221 3548, coppaspuntino.com

Cru Bar

When a bar has a well-stocked bottle shop attached to it with a wine selection to make most connoisseurs weep, you know you're in for a good night. Cru Bar has a brilliant selection of wines (try the Burn Cottage pinot poured via Coravin), plus an impressive list of cocktails and an eye-watering selection of spirits. The perfect place to start or end your night.

22 James Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 2400

Dutch Courage

This is a place that specialises in gin and anywhere that specialises in gin has its priorities in order. Dutch Courage offers an extensive cocktail menu, most with gin and most are delicious. The Mediterranean Muse is dangerously drinkable and the Negroni Blanc will likely put hair on your chest – however, if you're feeling fancy free, ask a barman to make a cocktail for you freestyle.

51 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3852 4838, dutchcourage.com.au

High in the sky: Eleven Rooftop Bar.

City views at Eleven Rooftop Bar. Photo: Bernard O'Shea

Eleven Rooftop Bar

High in the sky above Ann Street, Eleven offers a New-York-style experience right in Brisbane. Classy and refined with a fairly stringent door policy that (most of the time) keeps the riffraff at ground level, Eleven can get a little too pretentious for its own good, but its array of great spirits, delicious cocktails, excellent service and the city views make it worth a visit.

757 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3067 7447, elevenrooftopbar.com.au

The End

An every person's boozer where you can sit pretty at the timber bar by yourself and chat with the champion staff, or head along with mates and get down to sweet sounds of jazz and electronica. The End is serious about cocktails and open daily from 3pm so you can resurrect your Sunday with an elixir of Campari, prosecco and Maidenii sweet red vermouth.

73 Vulture Street, West End 

Fitz & Potts

To get to this one you're going to need to head out of the city, but for a Sunday sesh on the verandah you can't beat it. The inner(ish) suburbs of Brisbane are becoming a hive of awesome suburban bars and this is one of the best. A cacophony of odd (but delicious) drinks and various strange places to enjoy them makes for a very cool watering hole.

1180 Sandgate Road, Nundah, 07 3061 6205, fitzandpotts.com.au

Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie

Tucked away behind the main section of James Street, this bar is operated by the same experts behind the bistro. Boasting a small but thoughtful wine list, you won't have to spend hours selecting your tipple but you can guarantee whichever one you get will be excellent. The Gerard's team know what they are doing and are to be trusted. Try the blow-torched burger.

23 James Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 2606, gerardsbar.com.au

Ginger's Diner

Partially inspired by a hole-in-the-wall Korean joint its chief bloke Jamie Webb (Lefty's Old Time Music Hall) used to visit in New York, Ginger's serves high-octane snacks like kimchi crepes and clams in spicy passata. It's also inspired by the dive bars M*A*S*H characters would drink at, so a Klinger's Closet cocktail of vodka, lime, sorbet and brut champagne seems like the correct thing to order.

13 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace, 07 3369 0555, gingersdiner.com.au

Grape Therapy

A wine lover's paradise, Grape Therapy is an intimate space hidden below the city down a flight of stairs and harking back to a simpler time. Here you can find a variety of great Australian wines as well as selections from the best wine regions of the old world. The hardest part is making a choice from the extensive menu, which isn't the worst problem to be faced with.

Corner Adelaide & Macrossan streets, Brisbane, 07 3102 7213, grapetherapy.com.au

The national treasure that is The Gresham.

The national treasure that is The Gresham. Photo: Savannah van der Niet

The Gresham

"Handsome" is word used a lot to describe dark timbered, high-ceilinged bars steeped in spirits and beer, and here you have a textbook example. We're talking more Breaker Morant than George Clooney at The Gresh, with heritage features and hat tips to Queensland from vintage photos of Brisbane to the confidence to sell XXXX in a can. One of Australia's great bars with cocktail-making that's the tightest in town.

308 Queen Street, Brisbane, thegresham.com.au

Heya Bar

Hiding beneath the road this place says "let's party" the minute you walk in. Imagine a busy nightclub with a few less people dancing and you have the atmosphere at Heya. Definitely more your venue for tequila slammers than a nice bottle of red, but if that's your thing then get down here and shake it like a Polaroid picture.

351 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 3234, heyabar.com

HooHa Bar

HooHa Bar has a revolving door of beers on tap that is both eminently exciting and bitterly disappointing, because just as you happen upon a beer you love, it is soon gone. Like a chocolate-flavoured brew that meets so many basic needs it's scary. With top-notch service, super friendly staff and perfect ambient music this is a real Brisbane gem.

41 Tribune Street, South Brisbane, 07 3846 6457, hoohabar.com

John Mills Himself

There is a wholefood movement focused on sourcing your food locally, and this is a bar operating on the basis of sourcing your booze from nearby, too. Their beer comes from within a 200-kilometre radius (and there's more than just XXXX), the wine from a 250-kilometre radius, and their spirits from Australia wide. It sounds gimmicky, but it's actually quite brilliant to discover what local distillers are up to.

40 Charlotte Street, Brisbane, 0421 959 865, johnmillshimself.com.au

Junk Bar

Ashgrove isn't often the first place your imagination conjures up when it comes to finding a place for a drink, but here you have a rocking little suburban gem you'll want to return to often. Brilliant cocktails, amazing staff and a bohemian ski lodge vibe you won't find anywhere else in Brisbane. Well worth the taxi fare.

215 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove, 07 3168 2993, junkbar.com.au

Industrial festive chic at Kwan Brothers

Industrial festive chic at Kwan Brothers. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Kwan Brothers

This industrial neon warehouse, on the Damian Griffiths' Disneyland of booze block, earns a spot in this guide for its fried chicken game, Peking duck bao, Kirin steins and fun-loving cocktails. It also has a hidden bar beyond a closed cool-room door with jet black walls, Japanese whisky and hand-cut ice, making this one of our favourite spots to imbibe in town.

43 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3251 6588, kwanbros.com.au

La Ruche

La Ruche used to be the best bar in the Valley but the gloss has rubbed off over the years. This is mostly due to the officious security and bar staff who seem unable to track who needs a drink. Regardless, it's still worth your time and hard-earned for the excellent dance tunes, great cocktails (when you can get one) and the terrific outside area to catch a breath between drinks.

680 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3666 0880, laruche.com.au

The rum-heavy Mermaid Lounge at Lefty's

The rum-heavy Mermaid Lounge at Lefty's. Photo: Supplied

Lefty's Old Time Music Hall

This honky-tonk on steroids and former gentleman's club offers one heck of a night out. There's whisky with apple juice squeezed in front of your face, delicious tinnies, roast beef po' boys and bras on antlers. The boot-scooting live music is sensational with loads of room to cut the rug, and a visit isn't complete without paying your respects to Captain Rhumnatious in the Mermaid Lounge.

15 Caxton Street, Milton, leftysoldtimemusichall.com

Limes Bar

High above the Valley madness, Limes rooftop bar has sweet tunes, cool views and hot tubs that one time we saw someone actually use. They do one of the best vodka espressos in the city and there are enough different areas in the relatively small space to make your own private party whenever you go there.

142 Constance Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3852 9000, limeshotel.com.au

For a good time, call Longtime.

For a good time, call Longtime. Photo: Supplied

Longtime

Gee whiz, there are some excellent Asian snacks at this alleyway bar and restaurant. There's betel leaf with sticky pork and peanuts, soft shell crab bao and Isan tacos with five-spiced eggplant and house-smoked chili sauce. There's a fair deal of fire in these bar snacks, too, so you'll be wanting one of the chai and gin-based cocktails on the side to soften the heat.

610 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3160 3123, longtime.com.au

Maker

Where a less confident bar might opt for the blonde-on-white school of Scando design that feels like you're in a Sigur Ros song, owner Jerome Batten (Gauge, Sourced Grocer) went full blown bronze-on-black, Swedish death metal with Maker's design. It's bloody lovely and the young-gun bar team have cocktail skills the room deserves. There's Noma-style snacks and a focus on local beers, wines and spirits. It's terrific to see a kitchen that prides itself on sourcing locally and carrying that philosophy over to the drinks list.

Fish Lane, South Brisbane

Nant Whisky Bar & Kitchen

This end of the city can be pretty dead at night, and that is perfect for what you will experience at Nant. High-backed leather chairs, quiet music and a generally relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a wide range of whisky from around the world, not just Nant's own Tassie drams. They also offer a quality selection of cocktails but the whisky here is best enjoyed slowly, by itself, with the memory of a lost bonny love. Or something.

2 Edward Street, Brisbane, nant.com.au

Newstead Brewing Co.

There is something magnificently collegiate about drinking at Newstead. Bench seats on large tables means most of the time you are going to be hanging out with strangers. However, firm friendships have been formed over the host of beers they have on tap and while you can find their brews all over town now, there's nothing better than enjoying them straight from the source.

85 Doggett Street, Newstead, 07 3172 2488, newsteadbrewing.com.au

Visit for brunch and stay for dinner at Nickel.

Visit for brunch and stay for dinner at Nickel. Photo: Michael Panayotov

Nickel Kitchen & Bar

Ever had a Bloody Caesar? They're bloody good. Like a bloody mary, but made with Clamato – reconstituted tomato juice flavoured with clam broth and something of a national drink in Canada. It's garnished with prawns at the new venture from TJ and Kim Peabody (Nantucket Kitchen & Bar) and you really must try it. Go the full Canuck and order side of veal jus-drenched poutine, too (our vote for the best chips in Brisbane). Visit for brunch and stay for dinner.

757 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 5100, nickelkitchenbar.com.au

Pillar Bar

A small, friendly establishment with expert staff, ready to guide you to a new beer experience or a cocktail to try. But be prepared, they aren't gentle with their pours and some of the cocktails are lethal in the most delicious way. There's a lovely home-spun, real deal vibe about the place too, which is welcome relief from the glitz and bling of Ann Street's other boozers.

743 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley

Public

When you think of Public you probably think of it as a fine-dining establishments, and that's fair enough. But, even if you aren't going out for dinner, it's worth making your way to the bar for a sit-down and a drink. It's conjured up the most delicious array of cocktails and they must be tried.

Upper level, 400 George Street, Brisbane, 07 3210 2288, lovepublic.com.au

Red Hook's much loved cheeseburger.

Red Hook's much loved cheeseburger. Photo: Chris Hyde

Red Hook

American cheeseburgers are straight-up delicious. Beef, wonderfully charred, not overly minced, partnered with pickles, mustard, ketchup and cheese the colour of a rubber duck. It's what they serve at this chilled laneway bar and diner and will see you through a hefty Budweiser session. Very good. Well done. Gold star. Tick.

Shop 3, 88 Creek Street, Brisbane, 07 3220 0462, red-hook.com.au

Saccharomyces Beer Cafe

The beer boffins at Saccharomyces fought a battle against liquor licensing to have this bar run just how they want it, and it was a battle worth winning. Focussing almost entirely on artisan brews, Saccharomyces keeps 10 beers on tap, and a mind-boggling collection of beers in bottles. There is cider and wine, but if you're not after beer, why are you here?

Corner Fish Lane & Merivale Street, South Brisbane, 07 3846 0718, saccharomyces-beercafe-hpqi.squarespace.com

The Scratch

This was one of the first bars around town to really focus on local beer and champion Brisbane's ripper small-batch brewing industry. The taps rotate regularly, so you'll always find a new hoppy walloper or refreshing session ale to get down your gullet. A no nonsense, straight-shooting vibe makes Scratch a true blue winner.

Shop 8, 1 Park Road, Milton, 07 3107 9910, scratchbar.com

Sonny's before the dance floor starts shaking

Sonny's before the dance floor starts shaking. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

Sonny's House of Blues

The only thing that gets along better with fried chicken and hot sauce is country music jams, and Sonny's is here to provide. There's live music nearly every night, truck-loads of whisky and a meatloaf sandwich it would be unwise not to order. This is a sweet place in the city to chill out with a beer and listen to tunes.

Rowes Lane, Brisbane, 07 3229 9256, sonnyshouseofblues.com

The Stables Craft Bar & Kitchen

Ascot's Racecourse Road is the realm of ladies who lunch and the occasional drunk from the races. Bucking against this trend is the only bar on the strip that has lasted for more than a minute and the craft beers and respectable selection of food should help it stay that way. A beaut suburban bar that also does breakfast on weekends.

123 Racecourse Road, Ascot, stablescraftbar.com.au

Super Whatnot

Brisbane is finally getting up to speed with laneway dining so the natural progression was always going to be laneway bars, and we have some very cool ones. But few are as cool as this guy on Burnett Lane. What theme they were going for is an absolute mystery: half southern beer den, half Mexican Day of the Dead. It's a higgledy-piggledy space and a ripper all-rounder.

48 Burnett Lane, Brisbane, 07 3210 2343, superwhatnot.com

The Tree House

If you have ever wanted to run away to live in the forest and drink cocktails from hollowed out coconut shells, then, rejoice. You won't have to run far. This relatively new watering hole is tiny but makes you feel like you have done exactly that, and with well-themed forest-like cocktails, lost boys and girls will feel right at home.

Bakery Lane, 694 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3162 419, thetreehousefortitudevalley.com