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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
If you’re after upbeat vibes, large spaces, pool tables and sports on screens, Caribou Kingston is the place for you. It has a fantastic cocktail menu and an enthusiastic team of bartenders and mixologists who are as excited about your next cocktail as you are. Whether you’re up for a traditional Canadian Caesar (of which they have numerous variations) or a cocktail of your own choosing, Caribou promises to deliver.
As Facebook user Nikara Harrington wrote, “Awesome food, great beer and wine selection and very fun/friendly service. Great spot to sit outside on a sunny day, would definitely recommend this place.”
Queenies, located in Kingston, has a refreshing style and verve. Feast your eyes on the striking Art Deco floor-to-ceiling sized back bar complete with brass and mirrors, and producing delicious on-theme cocktails to suit all tastes. The large light bulbs hanging over the bar, eclectic mix of velvet lounges and blue barstools, and repurposed train carriages serving as booths all work together to create a wonderfully vibrant cocktail bar.
Jacqueline Kelly wrote on Google, “It was such a captivating experience, with the stunning 1920’s decor, the on-theme cocktails and great music this is different to any other venue in Canberra. (…) They created a customer experience rather than just dining. Thank you, Queenies, Will definitely return!”
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!”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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 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.