If you’re looking for a whisky bar in Brisbane with a difference, head to Frog’s Hollow Saloon on Charlotte Street in the city. What’s different about it? Well, there are saddles slung on the walls, rafters and bar stools. There’s lots of exposed brick and timber, high ceilings, country music blaring from the speakers and a fine selection of whisky housed inside indie bottles. Additionally, there’s Guinness on tap, and all this is hidden behind a heritage-listed façade smack in the middle of the CBD.
A Bit of Frog’s Hollow History
So why the name Frog’s Hollow? The area in Brisbane’s CBD between George, Albert and Elizabeth Streets was known in the 1800s as Frog’s Hollow, as it was a swampy area riddled with disease, prone to flooding and inhabited, undoubtedly, by frogs. It was also a seedy, redlight district, home to gambling, prostitution, opium dens, thieves and drunks. Over time, the area transformed from its swampy, fester-filled days to the office buildings, restaurants and hotels that line its streets today. Only here has its name remained.
Three bartenders, Pete Hollands, Nick Winter and David Robinson got together to create their whisky bar in Brisbane, Frog’s Hollow Saloon. However, Pete Hollands says the emphasis is really on the experience rather than a particular drink. I can certainly attest to that, particularly as the last time I was here (for this review) I drank pints of Guinness with my friends and had a great time.
As I mentioned earlier, the area of Frog’s Hollow has certainly transformed. I work right near where Frog’s Hollow Saloon resides and it’s a modernised, upmarket end of town today. The saloon is located between a couple of Brisbane icons – The Pancake Manor and Archives Fine Books. Just down the hill a bit there’s also an excellent little place to eat at – AJ Vietnamese Noodle House, which you could fill up on after a few beers and whiskies.
The entrance to the saloon is very wide and welcoming, while the front of the building – which is heritage listed, as I’ve mentioned – has the brick art deco look. The first thing I noticed when I entered this whisky bar in Brisbane is the large windows which invite lots of sunlight and the 12-metre bar, which pretty much lines the whole edge of the saloon. The bar is the star! There’s also a high, exposed ceiling with saddles over the rafters, old wine barrels and an open plan – all which lend it a convivial atmosphere.
The music is loud and it’s typically country (which I like) but I still urge you to take a look before that turns you off. It’s probably not the best place for intimate conversation, but it’s great for an after-work catchup and a meal at AJ’s on the way home. Other high points are the bar is stocked with bottles and lit up – spotlighting its merchandise – and the small tables in between the bar and the wall allow people to pile in without cramping the space. Despite the fact it’s ironically in a fancy part of town, Frog’s Hollow Saloon has a laid-back atmosphere.
The Drinks – Whisky Bar in Brisbane
I attest to not being a big whisky drinker, so don’t come here thinking you have to be an aficionado, as it’s cleverly catered for all types. As I mentioned earlier, on my last visit I sat in the corner with friends and drank pints of Guinness. I love pints of Guinness! As I work in the area, I’ve popped by several times and on another occasion I had a couple of whiskies. This whisky bar in Brisbane has over 400 varieties of whisky, so if you’re keen, you won’t be disappointed!
I tried a classic Scottish whisky variety, Glenfiddich, which was smooth and a welcome winter cockle warmer. It certainly wasn’t one of the finest of their selection. I’ll have to return and get Frog’s Hollow Saloon to educate me. The team here have carefully selected their merchandise, so it’s not the most usual offering you’ll find around Brisbane. Speaking of the team, these guys hale from renowned establishments such as The Gresham, Melbourne’s Black Pearl, Mjolner, 1806 and Eau De Vie. It’s safe to say they know what they’re doing and they also appear to love what they do. Well, I was convinced!
This whisky bar in Brisbane also has a decent selection of wines (check out the menu on their website) and the cocktails have their own signature, being named after the Australian bushrangers. Such drinks include ‘Captain Melville’ – which has two-fold Australian whisky, bush apple and green apple; and ‘The Wild Scotchman’ – which has ‘classic laddie’ scotch whisky, cynar, yuzu vermouth, quandong and anise.
The Bar Snacks
Food isn’t the focus at Frog’s Hollow Saloon but you’ll find some good little bar snacks here such as pickled eggs and beetroot pickled eggs with chilli and tomato relish; dill pickle; salted peanuts; cheese and crackers – triple brie or Monforte with quince; anchovy fillets – with toasted bread, tomato and chilli relish; and free range chicken liver pate with toasted bread and caramelised onion jam. Not too bad at all. Perhaps you don’t even need to make a trip to AJ Vietnamese Noodle House! (Although I recommend it).
Not too much to say in the few times I’ve been here except they’re friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. I gather they’re all friends and in it together as they always look like they’re having a good time. They also take their job quite seriously, as you can see in the pic here with ex-The Gresham Magnus Moore pouring me a Glen Fiddich. Even though he was too polite to say so, I bet he was thinking, you neophyte, why don’t you drink something decent! I’ll certainly be back for some whisky education/appreciation. Additionally, cowboy hats and beards seem to be fairly common attire among staff members.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been to this whisky bar in Brisbane a couple of times recently and on my first visit, it was straight after work at about 4pm in the winter just gone. I definitely think this place is better earlier, from what I’ve seen, before 6pm. During this time lots of light streams in through the window, it’s not so packed and I sampled a couple of whiskies while eating some cheese, crackers and quince paste. It was fun. Saying all this, the bar action picked up a little later on and the long bar and all the different behaviour occurring along it made for great action and photography.
The fairy lights on the ceiling also awaken as darkness approaches and sitting by the window is a great spot to feel the warmth of the whisky as the sun descends over the city. Just the other night I arrived early when meeting friends/colleagues and I sat by an old wine barrel and slurped on a pint of Guinness while I watched everyone enjoying themselves in one of the finest parts of the city. I too, was thoroughly enjoying myself, people-watching. Later on, it got a little loud during our conversation, but it was a very civil and laid-back atmosphere.
In all, there’s a rustic, upmarket edge to this cowboy whisky bar in Brisbane. There’s no reminder of the seedy days of Frog’s Hollow, bar the name.
Check out my video of Frog’s Hollow Saloon below.