The best cocktail bars in Canberra

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Le Soumi

Le Soumi from Beirut Bunker Bar, one of Canberra’s most recommended cocktail bars. Photo: Zachary Griffiths.

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 talk to you about what makes a great cocktail bar, as well as a handy guide to some of the best cocktail bars Canberra has to offer to help you plan for your next night out.

What makes a great cocktail bar?

Not entirely 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, versatile, and always hit the spot. The best cocktail bars in the region execute the classics to absolute perfection.
  • Inventive signatures. Who doesn’t love trying a new, 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. All 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 get 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 maintaining 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.

Bar Rochford

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!”

Classic Gin Martini from Bar Rochford. Photo: Sophia Brady

Blackbird

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.”

Tipsy Bull

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.”

White Rabbit

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.”

Hippo Co.

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.”

Molly

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!”

Beirut Bunker Bar

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? Have you got a favourite cocktail bar? 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! Whilst 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 to your bartender and see if they have any questions - or even recommendations to suit your tastes!

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 they aren'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 every cocktail can be made non-alcoholic, most certainly can. Have a chat to your bartender and see what they can whip up for you.

Do cocktail bars also serve food?

Most do, but some may not. If food is what you're after, it's best to check with the cocktail bar before you book.

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good point, if you are inventing new cocktails it is great to save a little taster and even better that your letting your other staff try it. every palate is different so the more people that try it, the more feedback you will get and the better your creations will be.

i also believe being able to have a drink with the client shows alot of character and not many bartenders in canberra can do that (mainly cause there all uni students needing extra cash not caring about what they are doing). Cheers to you worldmessiestbar

worldsmessiestbartender10:50 am 28 Jan 10

I’d agree with barman 101 to an extent, classics should need no tasting, after 15 years of making martinis, I know what they taste like. If I make up a cocktail, I keep a little left over, so that the other staff can try it.
If you are making up cocktails, unless you are at uni or have no knowledge of what taste is, you should have a decent idea of what the end product will taste like, and any decent bartender will know what flavours go together.
I am a big fan of the bartender being able to enjoy a good (small) cocktail with the client. It depends on the bar though.

Clown Killer10:27 am 28 Jan 10

May your career here in Canberra be long and prosperous barman101!

tylers made a good point, ive been a bartender for 9 years now, ive competed and won competitions in uk, france and indonesia, the fact of the matter is, no bartender should taste the drink he has made, particularly if it as a classic, especially if its off there own bars cocktail list. the only exception is if a patron has asked a batender to to create a specific cocktail and the bartender might not have the same ingredients, therefore is trying to replicate a drink that they would be happy to serve. in training my staff with a new cocktail list i would always get them to watch how i made it, then do a tasting session (same goes for the wine list – all staff should have a knowledge of how the wine tastes so there not dribbling rubbish to the patron).

And someone asked about muddle, i noticed its one of the only good bars in town open early week, monday- sat 4pm to late

tylersmayhem11:35 am 09 Feb 09

Mate, it’s standard practice for chefs in kitchens to taste the food they are producing so I don’t see why you’re getting your knickers in a twist over a barman doing the same thing. Makes sense to me.

You’re 100% right – but they’re not doing it about 1 meter away from the patrons. Big difference in my opinion, and I’ll say gain, it looks f**king amateur and ridiculous!

tylersmayhem11:33 am 09 Feb 09

Tyler, you’re joking right? its not as if they put their straw in there and suck away half of your drink, … its the smallest sample to ensure that the quality of the drink is up to standard, .. more than happy for them to do that anytime. … from working within the industry, I’ve seen it happen many times here, and interstate

I’ve previously worked in the industry for years mate, and frequented many cocktail bars overseas – and NEVER seen it. If the bartenders are worth half their salt, they’ll practice outside patron hours and get it spot on. Part of the skill of being a cocktail tender is getting your drinks right EVERY time.

As for keeping my comments out of this post – last time I checked this was an opinion forum, or “soap box” – if you can’t stomach others’ opinions, perhaps skive off back to FB or some such site.

Hey thanks for the comments guys! good to know people like coming to the kremlin! I am staying in canberra but will be at the bar drinking in future and not working unless they really need me :)ask for the bar tenders special when you go or when in doubt ask for a strawberry caprioska they are always tasty. Oh and to the guy about tasting with the straw your wrong man its good that they test drinks it is making sure that the drink is up to their standards and its not like they take much at all and do not contaminate the drink, it is important when you muddle drinks with sugar such as a mojito as it can taste so different if you put too much or too little sugar in. ciao , Laura (kremlin bar)

canberracapital11:40 pm 08 Feb 09

PJ O’Reillys in Civic is pretty good…especially during happy hour!!!

mooseheads? labor club? nice shandy if ya ask right, be-yoo-tafull on a hot day.

i rekkun trinity does all right. julep is class – but both are pretty pricey. better value and taste doing some of the wine list at benchmark.

I like Suburban when in Dickson and Kremlin Bar when in Civic. Kremlin also has some cool Russian beers! Hippo is good as well but it gets so packed in there you can never get a seat later in the night.

G-Fresh said :

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think Laura is g0ne!

I heard on facebook that hottie Laura isn’t going anymore so hopefully she stays around at the kremlin.

kean van choc9:34 am 07 Feb 09

I’ll give another thumbs up for Muddle Bar – they do a great lychee martini – but I admit I haven’t been there in about a year.

tylersmayhem said :

Trinity in Dickson…

…if you think it’s appropriate for the dude making the cocktails to continually dip a straw in each creation to taste it to make sure it’s “spot on”. I could not believe it when I saw this the ONE time I’ve been there.

I’m not likely to return. I would have expected their barmen to have a little more experience than straight out of CIT.

Mate, it’s standard practice for chefs in kitchens to taste the food they are producing so I don’t see why you’re getting your knickers in a twist over a barman doing the same thing. Makes sense to me.

While everyone is commenting on good cocktails… what are most places like for price !? Eg whats the average cost for a drink.. ?

Coz sadly I’m a tad trashy and can’t go past $5 cocktails at Mooseheads on a Friday or Monday night…

I like a nice pint of guiness, so I probably should never have posted in this thread. I do have some friends that seem to like Trinity though.

And I have never witnessed the sampling of drinks by bar staff in any country.

Has anyone heard good things about B-bar in Kingston?

Here’s a crazy idea – why don’t you just go there and make up your own mind?

There’s no Class without ass. Ba dom tish.

Trinity/Knightsbridge/Hippo/Julep are good places to impress Labor club types.

Trinity Bar dickson is the only place to go for cocktails in town, with Julep coming in second.

And to whoever said its turned trashy lately? are you serious? … They were great clients of mine previously, and since moving from the hospitality industry am there on average 4 nights a week either with friends, a quick drink or just to chill out, and its the people that work there and the vibe of the crowd which makes it a very unique bar in town.

Tyler, you’re joking right? its not as if they put their straw in there and suck away half of your drink, … its the smallest sample to ensure that the quality of the drink is up to standard, .. more than happy for them to do that anytime. … from working within the industry, I’ve seen it happen many times here, and interstate. …. Guess its good to keep people with opinions like that away

Near the corner of Mort St and Elouera St in Braddon

Where is Knightsbridge?

Knightsbridge is good, but I preferred its previous incarnation as Mortis Bar. I can’t recall the quality of cocktails, but the place was unique, which is something to be cherished in Canberra’s identi-bar scene. Too bad it’s gone, I guess Canberra in 2003 wasn’t ready for a mortuary themed bar.

Muddle bar is teh shiznit.

(hah, how’s that for class?)

G-Fresh said :

Trinity, Knightsbridge and Parlor are under the same ownership/management.

Actually no, Knightsbridge was bought out from under the Irish Pub Company that owns Filthy’s, The Phoenix & Trinity, and is only linked to Parlour.

Kremlin is a great lounge that makes cocktails, but I’ve yet to actually have a cocktail there.

Right G-Fresh, she is moving to Melbourne. But the other staff are also lovely.

I find you always get the best cocktails – no matter where you go – if you ask the bar staff to make something special. You’ll often get something that’s their personal favourite, maybe not on the menu, and they like the chance to get a little more creative than just another mojito.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think Laura is g0ne!

Another one for Kremlin on Northbourne. Laura makes the best cocktails and she’s a friendly little hottie too!

We are the lucky ones.

: )

It’s OK, I have my own.

Don’t knock my penguin-shaped ice bucket, p1! I know you’re jealous, but you can’t have it!!

I’m going to say Ha Ha Bar on Emu Bank aswell, the place is sensational. While everyone has a different idea of what makes a good martini, most people will agree that theirs are among the best in town, and the rest of the list is pretty damn good aswell.

Definately Muddle or Hippo. Though Cream does a few reasonable cocktails if people also want cake

Interesting to know. I agree that it does look tacky, another way for the geezer to check his drink would be to make a tad extra as he does it and taste it after the customer has gone. This is a more subtle method of checking your work. Oftentimes a barman won’t have had the chance to purchase everything on the menu, they need to know what they’re selling so they need to taste what they’ve made at some point.

Seems like it’s not only the dipping of the drink that made you think he’s a bit of a winner? Did he seem to hold himself (undeservedly) in the highest regard?

Kremlin Bar on Northbourne does great cocktails and they are a great price. Its very louge bar-ish.

tylersmayhem12:38 pm 06 Feb 09

Barmen dipping their cocktails is SIP

No – it’s the inability to make consistently good drinks in that case. It looks s**t to the customer, and is just not professional.

Regardless, I saw this a**e clown do it to every cocktail he made whenever I was at the bar. Hopefully he’s now been fired. Mind you, that still won’t entice me to go back.

Trinity, Knightsbridge and Parlor are under the same ownership/management. On average their product should be of a good standard.
Barmen dipping their cocktails is SIP, they may be considered to be going overboard if they dip, say 10 regular Mojito’s in one night, when they should be consistent in the way they make them.
Hippo, Muddle and Kremlin seem to maintain adequate standards of service and product as well.

The question is: Where could we do with more cocktail bars? Which suburbs/areas?

PreciousLilywhite12:22 pm 06 Feb 09

You lost me the minute you suggested that the Labor Club was classy.

I was actually suggesting the opposite.

Has anyone heard good things about B-bar in Kingston?

To answer your question simply, no. Their drinks are quite unsavoury, like the crowd.

George said :

You lost me the minute you suggested that the Labor Club was classy.

I was actually suggesting the opposite.

Has anyone heard good things about B-bar in Kingston?

tylersmayhem11:51 am 06 Feb 09

I think it’s great that the barstaff trial the cocktail before handing it over. It means if they don’t approve of it then they won’t just hand you crap.

Sorry…but no! It’s completely unprofesh – and I’ve never seen it before in all my life outside the CIT training bar when I did my advanced certificate in the early 90’s. The the barman had any skill or experience, he’d manage to make tasty cocktails each and every time – like every other cocktail barman I’ve ever come across!

tylersmayhem said :

Trinity in Dickson…

…if you think it’s appropriate for the dude making the cocktails to continually dip a straw in each creation to taste it to make sure it’s “spot on”. I could not believe it when I saw this the ONE time I’ve been there.

I think it’s great that the barstaff trial the cocktail before handing it over. It means if they don’t approve of it then they won’t just hand you crap.
They get a new straw and only use it the once every time, they also don’t drink the cocktail straight through the straw, they trap some in the straw and then drop the small amount on there tounge.

Kremlin bar on Northbourne (Under Novotel & next to JollyMount Centre) do great cocktails, really friendly and relaxed staff. It’s just a very nice lounge bar

Parlour Bar. Easy best cocktails.

tylersmayhem10:46 am 06 Feb 09

Trinity in Dickson…

…if you think it’s appropriate for the dude making the cocktails to continually dip a straw in each creation to taste it to make sure it’s “spot on”. I could not believe it when I saw this the ONE time I’ve been there.

I’m not likely to return. I would have expected their barmen to have a little more experience than straight out of CIT.

Ha Ha Bar on Emu Bank in Belconnen

I can second this on behalf of my lovely wife. She’s always a fan of cocktails – and she was raving about one she tried there last night which had pomegranate, gin and some other crap in it. I might even give it a go some time 😉

They make reasonable ones at the Hyatt bar as well.

Sub-Urban in Dickson proudly promotes its cocktail menu which my girlfriend is fond of.

I have a blender and Gramps gave me an awesome penguin shaped ice bucket for my birthday…

Might have to knock up some Mojitos this evening…

Madame Workalot10:18 am 06 Feb 09

Parlour in New Acton. Pretentious, but very nice.

Trinity has really gone downhill lately. Robbie there is a magician cocktail maker, but the general feel of the place is much trashier.

Knightbridge sadly got ‘discovered’ over summer and even though this is effectively an off-shoot of Trinity, it’s not bad but the clientele are overwhelmingly a combination of trendoids and public-servant-high-flyer-wannabes.

Never actually made it to Muddle, not for lack of trying but are they ever actually open? It’s always closed or closing.

Julep is alright, the cocktails we had were rubbish, but it’s everything you would expect from Maaanuka.

Hippo maybe? Kremlin (on Northbourne) wasn’t previously mentioned. Their selection of vodkas is rad.

You lost me the minute you suggested that the Labor Club was classy.

A new place just opened in Manuka (where El Rancho used to be) with a cool lounge out the back and extensive cocktail menu. It’s called Mistress.

Ha Ha Bar on Emu Bank in Belconnen.

Hippo Bar upstairs in Garema Place

Muddle Bar on West Row

Trinity in Dickson…

Julep Lounge – upstairs in Manuka.

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