When it comes to getting rowdy, Brisbane’s varied bar scenes have us covered for most occasions and impulses. Everyone goes to West End for casual drinks and tomfoolery, while the Valley is brilliant for a pumped up night of cutting shapes, but the CBD is a dense jungle of rollicking goodtimes any night of the week. Not to mention, it’s literally on the doorstop when the entire business district knocks off.
Here are our picks of the best bars in the Brisbane CBD.
The Cloakroom Bar
Responsible for the sleekest threads toddling up and down Eagle Street, the Cloakroom has long since garnered a reputation for bespoke creations. It stands to reason that, when they expanded into the bar scene, Cloakroom would shun a menu in favour of purely improvised tipples conjured from the imagination of their bartender. Located off-street, and up a few flights of fire escape, this suave lounge is a seriously stylish place to start your night.
Doo-Bop Jazz Bar
There’s always something going on at Doo-Bop. Whether it’s live music every night of the week, free jam sessions until the wee hours, or just a damn fine dinner with some boppers, Doo-Bop is where it all goes down. This watering hole and tune factory is in fact split across two bars: the Jazz Bar, with live sounds every night, ticketed shows and dinner; and the Piano Bar, which jives with live acts and free entry every Wednesday to Saturday. Doo-Bop’s food menu is similarly fine, curated for all different appetites and formalities and with a marked American influence, a nod to the origins of Jazz.
Lager flows and live music blasts every night at Brooklyn Standard. This subterranean chunk of New York’s coolest borough is the ultimate go-to for a good night, featuring Brooklyn Lager on tap and live beats in your ears of the funk, soul, and rhythm and blues persuasion. For snacking, Brooklyn Standard offers a tidy menu of American classics like jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and wings, but you can always venture a little further along the laneway and pick up a couple of tacos from sister venue Coyotito.
Felix Espresso And Wine Bar
Perfect if you’re torn between going out and staying in, Felix’s vibe is as homey and relaxing as they come. Their drinks list is thoughtfully curated, with just enough items per category to give you plenty of choice without overwhelming your work-addled brain. They even have a dinner menu if you fancy a few snacks before kicking on.
John Mills Himself
Trading as a café through the day, by night John Mills Himself turns into a whisky slinging speakeasy. This broom cupboard bar has a cosy, intimate feel perfect for a wind down after a hard day – perfect for knock offs with the team. Where drinks are concerned, John Mills like to keep it local. All their beers and wines are sourced from within a 250km radius of Brisbane, while their spirits list is comprised almost exclusively of bottles from Australian distilleries. John Mills is also a great venue to keep in mind if you’re looking for something a bit different for your next function.
As the only bar in Queensland trading within a heritage-listed building, we think the Gresham is pretty special. This sentiment has been echoed time and again with the Gresham taking home the gong for National Bar of the Year two years in a row. Rather than set their sights on any one liquor in particular, the Gresham prefers to play with all the crayons in the box and provide the best in wine, whisky, gin, rum and anything else your tippling palate desires. I don’t want to jinx it, but I’ve never had a bad sip there.
BONUS: earlier this year the Gresham welcomed bouncing baby bar, The Drawing Room. Located within the Gresham Bar itself, this babushka operation is a charming, intimate space with seating for only 24 people at a time. Their drinks menu is a pared back accompaniment to the Gresham’s main offerings with just ten cocktails on offer.
This is Brisbane’s first legitimate laneway bar and has the requisite gritty vibe we love ahead of a fun night out. The beer is craft, the wines are boutique, and the cocktails go the distance. If hunger hits you, Whatnot’s nachos are the pinnacle of shareable snacking, or try their super chilli dog if the appetite is major. Super Whatnot is also known to feature some slammin’ live acts so stay abreast of their social for upcoming revelries.
Of course, no list of the city’s finest bars could be complete without giving Coppa a mention. This rustic Italian bar and bistro makes after-five drinks a snap with complimentary aperitivo between 4pm and 6pm daily. As for tipples, the wine is where it’s at. Coppa’s list has a decidedly Italian focus featuring mostly Italian wines and locally produced Italian varietals, all best enjoyed by the bottle with a side of calamari.