Death and Taxes – A Classy Cocktail Bar in Brisbane

I love checking out different bars in Brisbane and thought it was high time I visited one of Brisbane’s best bars by reputation, Death & Taxes. As I soon found out, Death & Taxes is a cocktail bar in Brisbane with an extensive spirit collection, over 30 signature cocktails and 40 bottles of wine. Additionally, the bar has an old-world charm that makes you feel like you’re in a far older city than Brisbane.

The entrance to Death & Taxes

I arrived with my partner at about 7:30pm on a Friday, which turned out to be impeccable timing. Typically, you line up to get into Death & Taxes on a Friday night. However, we arrived to find one table for two vacant by the wall. We were shown our seats, given menus and I absorbed our surroundings while acquainting myself with the menu.

Our seating area upon entry. Pretty good!
Our view of the bar

The Atmosphere

We were sitting by a brick wall which had a long wooden bench, leather stools and subtle lighting at either end. Just across from this was the bar and its rows upon rows of spirits and wine bottles, which looked like a shrine to the good life. The bar was certainly long and the lighting, carpet, dark panelling and charcoal brick wall looked like we could be in New York instead of a cocktail bar in Brisbane.

New York-style bar

Death & Taxes gives off an air of subtle sophistication with its décor and black-and-white pictures that look both biblical and pagan. Besides the main room we were in, the bar has another room with leather, u-shaped lounges on either side of the room. The floors here are 100 years old, and coupled with the dark panelling and subtle overhead lighting, the effect transports you to another city entirely.

An intimate booth at this cocktail bar in Brisbane
The rear room at Death & Taxes

As it was starting to get busier, my partner Nikki asked if we could move to the bar, which was a good move. Shortly after, we were seated at the end of the bar where we could order drinks from the bartenders directly, rather than from the waitresses providing table service elsewhere. I was most happy about this, as we had a great view and I could chat with the barmen about the drinks this cocktail bar in Brisbane offered.

Our new view from the end of the bar

The Drinks – Death & Taxes Cocktail Bar in Brisbane

I know what I like with beer, as that’s typically my jam, but as I get older I find I’m getting more and more into wines. Tonight, however, I was on a cocktail session, as the whisky selection was overwhelming and I would try this another time. What to drink? As I’ve mentioned, there are over 30 signature cocktails at this cocktail bar in Brisbane and I decided this is where I’d explore.

Vast drink selection!

After some enquiries, I was steered toward the Sisyphus, which I was told is a favourite with the fellas, as it’s not too sweet (I don’t like sweet drinks). This had Johnnie Walker Black Scotch, pampero anejo rum, yellow chartreuse, rockmelon and citrus. The Sisyphus was reasonably strong and, as advertised, not too sweet. I finally found a cocktail bar in Brisbane where I might actually enjoy my cocktails!

The Sisyphus

Nikki had a Flaming Frenzy, which is a popular Death & Taxes cocktail as it fires up when made. This is a sweet, warm, yet strong drink and I didn’t mind this for a sweeter cocktail. It felt a tad Christmassy! After moving to the bar I had the flaming frenzy myself, as I wanted to get some footage of our barman Isaac cooking up a storm. As you can see in the pics and my video at the end, it puts on a bit of a show!

Our alchemist Isaac cooking up my Flaming Frenzy
Closing off the air so I can drink it!

For the next drink, I asked Isaac what his favourite was and he replied quite sensibly that it depends on the mood. However, he rated the Solaire as a favourite. I wasn’t sold on the ingredients of rum, coconut and vanilla liqueur, so I went with what I thought I’d enjoy – a Voltaire. This ended up being the best drink I had in this classy cocktail bar in Brisbane.

My ‘Voltaire’ hit the spot

The Voltaire has scotch, shiraz and plum notes – dark and mysterious vibes – and this was my thing. The next barman, whose name I forget, recommended a necromancer (not a signature cocktail) based on my tastes and this one hit the spot too, with a base of absinthe. Nikki also had the Leviathan – which she enjoyed – and another crowd favourite, the Puppeteer, which Isaac also recommended. I was put off this one by the sheer amount of ice in it as I’m not a fan of ice.

Nikki’s ‘Puppeteer’
My ‘Necromancer’


Of course, there’s an extensive whisky and spirit selection at Death and Taxes. Perhaps a good way to get your feet wet if you’re a relative newbie like me is to order a whisky-tasting paddle, which will give you half a dozen or so flavours to try for a set price. There’s a smaller and a larger tasting set to try. Enquire through Death & Taxes’ website for more info on this. Another speciality whisky bar in Brisbane where I’ve sampled a few whiskies (which I really enjoyed) is Frog’s Hollow Saloon, on the other side of town.

Beer & Wine

This cocktail bar in Brisbane also has a few beers on tap, one of which I spied was a Guinness. I really felt like a Guinness after my Voltaire, but as it wasn’t pouring well that night I opted for a necromancer instead. As I mentioned, there’s also a substantial amount of wines on offer too, so beer and wine lovers won’t walk away disappointed.  

The Service

When you’re not sitting at the bar, it’s table service and I thought the table service we experienced from the get-go was impeccable. The ladies were attentive and professional, yet friendly. They also gave me space for my overwhelmed mind to catch up and they didn’t disappear when this happened (as often is the case). Someone on my Facebook page said they waited an hour for their drinks before leaving empty-handed. Thankfully we had no such experience on this night.

Moving to the bar, it was all on the bartenders and they were attentive for the most part. The only slight problem was when they got busy we had to wait a few minutes, but really it wasn’t long at all. I could see they were occupied and when I asked them questions about drinks they were more than happy to impart their knowledge. Additionally, they were patient with me. I recommend sitting at the bar for more of an experience, but of course, you have to be lucky or come early as this cocktail bar in Brisbane is popular!

A Bit of History

Death and Taxes was created by the Cuatro Group – comprised of Martin Lange, Wiebke Lange, Blake Ward and Belinda Ward – which also owns renowned cocktail bars Dr Gimlette and Antico. Death & Taxes’ rear room is heritage-listed, as it used to function as an old storeroom back in the day and the bar is also located in Brisbane’s oldest laneway, Burnett Lane, which dates back to 1829. As I mentioned earlier, the floors are 100 years old and the inspiration for Death & Taxes comes from the underground bars of London and Paris.

Food Options

Death & Taxes is a cocktail bar in Brisbane that doesn’t have any food options. However, staff allow BYO options and even encourage it! As Death & Taxes is situated in the centre of town, there are plenty of options right near the bar. Most patrons don’t seem to bother, as you can easily eat before or after your experience here.

How to Get to Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes is centrally located, so you really can’t go wrong here. I Iive about 4.5 kilometres from the city centre and we took an Uber. There are also plenty of bus stops around King George Square and Adelaide Street, which is only about two minute’s walk from the bar. Central Station is only about a ten-minute walk (if that) from Death & Taxes, and with plenty of food options around, it’s easy to make a night of it.

Final Thoughts

I can honestly say this is the only place I’ve been where I’ve enjoyed drinking cocktails. Cocktails for me are typically fruity and watery and I like to drink when I drink. This is a cocktail bar in Brisbane with a bit of kick! All drinks were professionally made and had some decent strength to them. Additionally, with the prompt, friendly service, old-world classy atmosphere and convivial bar, we loved our time at Death & Taxes. It’s worth the hype and I totally recommend you get down to one of Brisbane’s best bars for an experience!

Vibe: New York bar

Go for: The service, drinks and atmosphere.

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