Inventive, exciting and absolutely delicious, there is nothing quite like indulging in an expertly crafted cocktail. From tried-and-true classics like a martini or an old fashioned to wild specialty creations unique to the bar you’re at, it’s always fun to treat yourself to a cocktail or two on the weekend.
Canberra is lucky enough to be home to a vibrant, creative and diverse bar scene, with multiple venues all boasting their own cocktail menus and intriguing settings. But in a city where you are so spoiled for choice, how can you decide where to go first?
In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a great cocktail bar, and provide a handy guide to some of the best ones Canberra has to offer to help you plan your next night out.
What makes a great cocktail bar?
Not sure what you want out of your experience at a cocktail bar? No worries. Here’s our advice – keep an eye out for the following must-have traits:
- Perfectly executed classics. Classic cocktails are classic for a reason – they are tasty and versatile, and always hit the spot. The best cocktail bars in the region execute the classics to perfection.
- Inventive signatures. Who doesn’t love trying an innovative cocktail for the first time? The best cocktail bars in Canberra serve up some truly colourful concoctions.
- Great service. Excellent customer service is always a bonus, especially when you’re out for a good time. A rude bartender or waiter can put a serious dampener on the evening.
- Lively atmosphere. The best cocktail bars boast lively, vibrant atmospheres. You should step inside and immediately feel relaxed, excited and in a good mood.
- Well priced. Cocktails can be pricey, but if they are delicious, it’s worth every dollar. Look for a bar that prices its cocktails reasonably, so you know you aren’t getting ripped off.
The best cocktail bars in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintained a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
It’s now time to reveal the top cocktail bars in Canberra, according to the locals.
Queenies is a stylish, cocktail bar with a prime position in Kingston. Talented bartenders stir, shake and pour stunning cocktails behind a long bar featuring an art deco backdrop. Classic cocktails are all available. So too are Queenies special cocktails, all named after famous women, like Marilyn Monroe, Stevie Nicks and Hedy Lamarr.
The bar is well stocked with an extensive range of house and top-shelf spirits, and fresh garnishes add an element of class. Some of Queenies colourful and inspirational cocktails have a uniquely native twist. Mocktails are just as popular, including the Liz Taylor.
Queenies also offers rotating tap and packaged beers, and wines by the glass, with a focus on small Australian wineries.
Drinks at Queenies marry well with the share-plate menu, featuring seasonal and free range produced. Each dish is a feast for the senses. Charcuterie and cheese are available, and desserts guarantee a sweet ending.
Queenies also offers cocktails for functions held on site. The main bar is ideal for cocktail party events with high bar tables, velvet booths, leather sofas and relaxing bar seats. The intimate private dining room is designed for long table dinners and comfortably accommodates up to 16 guests. The outdoor area is a great spot for afternoon drinks and nibbles. Queenies handles all types of functions, including engagements, birthdays, fundraisers, charity events and work parties.
Sheri Stave Horne wrote on Google, “Gorgeous bar for date night. Great share plate menu and cocktails. Nice intimate lighting. Will definitely revisit and book a comfy lounge.”
Luxury Deco Hotel is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a creative cocktail with friends, family or business associates.
The hotel’s Deco Two14 Bar is sleek and sophisticated with fabulous views. Locals and travellers wind down with professionally made cocktails, while snacking on small plates, salted and cured meat or cheese options. Social hour is held daily from 4 to 6 pm.
With the finishing's of a luxury hotel, and a nod to the art deco era, this Canberra hotel makes a statement. The Deco Hotel, part of the Canberra Hotel Group, defines sleekness and sophistication with metallic finishes, statement painting and abstract sculptures taking centre stage. The double-height lobby makes for a dramatic entrance.
Channelle Wilson wrote on Google, “Beautiful, modern hotel with bar and restaurant on site. Great for solo-rep travellers or for families. Rooms are large in size and offer modern finishes and technology.”
This wine and cocktail bar tucked away in the Melbourne Building of the CBD is all about fine food, great wine, and excellent atmosphere. If you can spot the door to Bar Rochford, you’ll climb up a flight of stairs and find yourself in a cozy, modern-industrial space boasting the huge arched windows of the Melbourne Building. There is a large central bar, intimate booths, wine-bottle candles and a fireplace, creating a classy atmosphere perfect for both midday and late-night drinks.
As Amelia McLean writes in their Facebook review of Bar Rochford, “Fab service, delicious food, well curated wine menu, trendy/cosy space. Loved it!”
Love a good gin and tonic? Head to Tipsy Bull. Boasting gin as "their thing", this bar is home to over 230 varieties available to sample, with new labels hitting the shelves every week. Offering good times, a relaxed atmosphere and a friendly experience, Tipsy Bull is a great destination for a cocktail experience.
As Facebook user Naomi Smith writes in their review, “Excellent service, amazing range of gin inspired cocktails. Intimate dining.”
Molly has become quite the icon of the Canberra bar scene, and it’s not hard to see why. Only found through coordinates, Molly has nailed the speakeasy aesthetic and is a favourite amongst locals. The unassuming wooden door in an alleyway hides a bustling bar with live jazz performances and a second cocktail lounge. It boasts an enormous display of whiskeys and spirits, and a talented team of effortlessly cool cocktail bartenders.
As Amanda Hope wrote on Google, “Awesome ambience, cocktails, charcuterie plate, live jazz, love this place!”
If you’re a whiskey enthusiast and a lover of live music, Hippo Co. should be number one on your list of bars in Canberra. Lit by candlelight, the interior is reminiscent of an art-deco European ski lodge with extra seating on a balcony outside for the warmer nights, all creating a wonderful and intimate atmosphere. Located in the heart of the CBD, the friendly team of bartenders at Hippo Co. are here to advise you on whiskeys to suit your taste and are constantly developing their menu of delicious original cocktails.
As Google reviewer and ‘Local Guide’ Emma A describes Hippo Co., “I love everything about this place. The intimate vibe, incredible and vast range of drinks and the relaxed tunes as you look out over the square.”
This intimate, dive-inspired cocktail bar, located in the basement of the Sydney Building, has cultivated an intriguing atmosphere. Supporting local blues, soul and jazz artists with regular live-music, Blackbird pays homage to the muso culture of the 60s and 70s. The cocktail menu offers a drink for all tastes and is accompanied by a great range of beers, wine and bites to eat.
As Marvin Glass wrote on Google, “This place is a MOOD - flaming cocktails, heartfelt music and friendly staff kept bringing us popcorn! We felt at home here, keen to come back again next visit to Canberra.”
Whimsical, decadent, and memorable, White Rabbit offers a totally unique cocktail experience. Perfect for the young at heart, the artistic team behind White Rabbit serve up interesting, out-of-the-box cocktails. With a menu inspired by characters of Alice in Wonderland, garden-like interior design and wall of glass cabinets filled with liquor in bottles that look like magical potions, you’ll feel as though you’ve travelled through the looking glass when you arrive at White Rabbit.
As Marcus Jan Csomor wrote Google, “Really Enjoyed Myself, wanted to sit back and enjoy a nice cocktail and the staff and atmosphere was perfect. Highly recommend White Rabbit.”
Beirut Bunker Bar, is a unique hole-in-the-wall, Parisian meets Middle Eastern aesthetic with a delightful menu of cocktails crafted by talented bartenders. Co-owner Soumi learned his tricks of the trade from working in the nightclub scene of Beirut, Lebanon - where the nightlife flourished in literal bunkers. Whether you’re out for after-work drinks, post dinner cocktails, a grazing platter or late-night drinks, Beirut has something for everyone. Edgy street-art décor and live DJs make Beirut a bar you don’t want to miss.
As Amanda Peake wrote on Google, “EXTRAORDINARY COCKTAILS and a smashing fit out! Be prepared for bar theatrics like you've never encountered before but will want to again.”
Looking for more great places in Canberra to visit on your next night out? Check out our articles on the best bars and restaurants in Kingston, the best wine bars, the best Asian restaurants, the best fine dining, the best bistros and the best pubs in Canberra for a useful guide to our city’s best spots to eat and drink.
Your experience with cocktail bars in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you been to any of the cocktail bars listed above? Do you have a favourite? Share your thoughts and feedback below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I ask a bartender to make me a cocktail that isn't on the menu?
Absolutely! While they may not print out all the classic cocktails on their menus along with their own house creations, that doesn't mean they can't make an old fashioned or a Negroni for you. However, if what you're after is something a little more obscure, have a chat with your bartender and see whether he or she has any questions - or even recommendations to suit your taste.
What is the difference between a mixologist and a bartender?
A mixologist is someone who has studied cocktail craft and specialises in making and creating cocktails. A bartender is also able to make cocktails, but isn't as specialised as a mixologist.
What are some good cocktails that are low-alcohol?
If you're after a cocktail but you don't feel like having three standards in one glass, ask your bartender about a daiquiri or a lemon drop - both are very simple yet delicious cocktails that any bartender can make, and are relatively low-proof.
Can any cocktail be made alcohol-free?
Being a non-drinker shouldn't mean you can't enjoy a tasty cocktail. While not all cocktails can be made non-alcoholic, most certainly can. Have a chat with your bartender and see what he or she can whip up for you.
Do cocktail bars also serve food?
Not all do, so if food is what you're after, it's best to check with the cocktail bar before you book.