The capital and most heavily populated city in the Australian state of Queensland (and the third most populous city in the nation); Brisbane is a lively place that is known for its laidback atmosphere, diversity, and great night spots. The city boasts hundreds of fabulous bars and nightclubs, many of which host musical acts several nights a week.
For decades now, Brisbane has maintained a persistently evolving live music scene, producing acts spanning many different genres, including punk, indie rock, electronic music, and experimental music, as well as noise rock, metal and post-punk. Brisbane’s live music history is often intermingled with social unrest and authoritarian politics, and its bars are a very popular and important part of its culture.
Finding a place to drink and relax is never a problem in Brisbane, but making the right decision on where to drink can sometimes be difficult, as the city is home to many different types of drinking spots, each with their own personality and character.
In the following article we will feature several of Brisbane’s most popular drinking establishments, and detail the various characteristics and amenities of each. We will also point out the type of crowd you can expect to find at each bar.
Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall
Located along Brisbane’s famous Caxton Street, Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall is a rustic, warm and comfortable bar that is known for its laidback atmosphere and rocking live music. Formerly a gentleman’s club, the bar boasts dimly lit chandeliers (that emit a candlelight vibe); illuminated taxidermy bears and deer heads covered in bras, as well as a splendid selection of beer and signature cocktails.
Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall is a double-tiered venue that features live music every other night of the week and every Friday and Saturday late into the evening. Genres mostly include Country and Blues music, although occasionally the bar hosts both indie and Southern rock bands as well. Even non-whiskey drinkers will enjoy this bar’s most popular drink order: Whiskey Apple Juice, made with the finest southern mash and fresh squeezed Granny Smith apple juice.
Canvas, located in the Woolloongabba neighborhood of Brisbane, is a wonderful cocktail lounge and a superb place to learn about various spirits and liqueurs. The cocktail menu features all of your traditional drink combinations, along with a signature collection of new surprises. Each cocktail here earns a name, a quote and a hash tag, making it easy to keep track of the various ingredients that make each drink so special.
The crowd at Canvas is anything but rowdy, a rather subdued group of people who can regularly be seen sharing a cheeseboard before placing an order from the spot’s terrific food menu, including a special late night feast of sweet treats. Some of the most popular drinks and fare at Canvas include their incredibly tasty and very eye-opening espresso martini and their full breakfast menu on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Located in Brisbane City proper, the Gresham is the city’s most well-loved whiskey saloon and was recently (2015) named Bar of the Year at Australia’s Gourmet Traveler Restaurant Awards. Populated by the upscale and the up-and coming, the Gresham is a medium-sized bar that is furnished mostly with Chesterfield lounges and rich mahogany tables scattered throughout the bar. The Gresham boasts an old-time charm and quiet, comfortable vibe, making it the perfect after-work (and after-dinner) spot for those who love the taste of fine whiskey and great conversation.
John Mills Himself
The bar known as John Mills Himself is a downtown Brisbane locale with a fully-stocked collection of spirits, beers and wines. Tucked down a laneway (the Australian term for alley) in an old historic printing building, the bar also features a great menu that relies heavily on local meats and produce.
Reading the drink menu at John Mills Himself is a bit like reading a road atlas, as each listing lets you know just how many kilometers away each wine was fermented, beer was bottled and spirit was distilled. The highlight of the lounge is its signature cocktail menu that features many less-commonly used herbs and spices.
Also located in downtown Brisbane is the drinking establishment known as the Riverbar Kitchen. This nautical-themed lounge and restaurant is the perfect oasis for Brisbane’s workaday crowd—a bar just steps away from the business district that feels more like a vacation respite.
The Riverbar Kitchen is a fairly large space that features both indoor and outdoor seating. During the summer months you can regularly witness the bar’s crowd perched under the patio’s yellow and white umbrellas, drinking their favorite cocktails by the jug, including the bar’s own creation known as the “Pimms Jug.”
If live music is your thing, the bar Brooklyn Standard definitely has you covered. Themed after your prototypical American style bar, Brooklyn Standard features live music six nights a week, with genres ranging from punk and rock to metal and even hip hop acts rocking the stage as the mostly younger crowd cheers them on. Located in an underground bunker down a quiet laneway, the bar has a cool vibe that you truly must experience on your next trip to the city.
Guests at the Brooklyn Standard drink mostly from the dozen or so beer taps (lots of Brooklyn lager), although top shelf cocktails and shots are also very popular, and the free on-table pretzels keep customers thirsty throughout the night. Among other accolades earned, Brooklyn Standard has twice been named Australia’s Best Live Music Venue, the latest merit recognized at the 2015 Bartender Magazine Awards.
Eleven Rooftop Bar
One of several rooftop drinking locales in the city of Brisbane, the Eleven Rooftop Bar is a sophisticated space where the orders range from Top Shelf liquors to top of the line champagnes. The Eleven Rooftop Bar is located in the ritzy Fortitude Valley section of the city, drawing mostly white collar workers and lovers out for a special night on the town.
The Eleven Rooftop Bar, situated 11 floors above the ground, has countless amenities that make it a very special place to relax and unwind, including attentive, well-dressed bartenders and servers and some amazing and sweeping views of the Fortitude Valley below.
Brisbane southbank by coorparoomassage/Pixabay CC0 license