New back-alley boozer Alice is pouring bourbon and playing 80s rock until 3:00 am
Down an unassuming laneway sits Brisbane City’s brand-new late-night haunt, Alice. Operated by a booze-pouring veteran also responsible for gifting us Frog’s Hollow Saloon, Alice is giving night owls a spot to roost until the wee hours, offering bourbon-laced drinks, a jukebox playing 80s rock ’n’ roll and nothing but a good time until late.
When the clock strikes 1:00 am and the majority of The City’s bars close, where do you go for one more drink? If it’s a Friday or Saturday night, you can try your luck squeezing into Brooklyn Standard. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can head to the casino. But when you’re searching for something a bit more low-key … well, let’s just say you’re up a certain creek without a paddle. Enter Peter Hollands, co-owner of beloved Charlotte Street whisky and cocktail joint Frog’s Hollow Saloon. Alongside a bunch of new-school drink pourers, such as Before + After, Antico and Dr Gimlette, Frog’s has played a key role in reinvigorating the post-lockdown inner-city drinking scene. With Alice, Pete’s brand-new basement bar inspired by the heady and hedonistic heights of the 1980s, he’s looking to singlehandedly improve Brisbane’s late-late-night offering as well. But what makes a good late-night bar? A fun vibe. Good drinks. Friendly staff. All important, yes, but perhaps most important of all is availability. “Just being there, being open,” Pete agrees, “From an operator headspace, I’m passionate about providing something that people want – that they have somewhere to go at 1:00 am that’s not the casino. That’s why it’s [open] seven days, 5:00 pm to 3:00 am.”
Alice is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. It’s located in a heavy-doored basement space at the end of a nondescript black-gated alleyway off Elizabeth Street. While it is certainly out of sight, Alice isn’t impossible to find. Look for red light pouring out of a set of foot-height windows on your right as you walk down the laneway. Once you reach the end, a vivid neon sign positioned above the entrance steps tells you that you’ve arrived. The joint itself – bathed in the light of hanging red lamps – has the air of an 80s rock ’n’ roll dive. But while it’s got that rough-and-tumble edge, Alice is crisp, clean and clearly thought out. “It’s a little bit devious and a little bit mischievous,” says Pete. “The reason why you don’t go to the casino at 2:00 am is because it’s bright and has a lot of shiny lights and things going on. We’ve kept Alice very clean and dark – it’s somewhere you could probably get away with some naughty conversations.” Pete and Alice’s general manager Mike Pattison built just about everything you see inside Alice – from the strip of glossy enamel-painted booths to the bar, which is wrought from thick pine floorboards (“Keep nailing it until it stops moving was our building concept,” Pete jokes). It’s a herculean effort that’s become a point of pride for Pete, who says that every fuck-up – even minute ones – have become a cherished quirks alongside Alice’s other character elements like bolted bar stools, a back-lit back bar, framed photos of 80s-rock icons, old-school CRT televisions, a pool table and an in-house jukebox. Though Pete name-checks bars like Cry Baby in Adelaide, Heartbreaker in Melbourne and the now-closed Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice in Sydney as Alice’s kindred spirits, it’s easy to fathom Alice fitting in amongst Sunset Boulevard’s hallowed institutions in their heyday.
No matter how late it’s open, a boozer is only as good as the booze it serves. As one might expect from someone who was integral in fleshing out Frog’s Hollow’s esteemed offering, Pete has made sure that Alice’s range is similarly up to snuff. He has parlayed a personal predilection for bourbon into a key pillar of Alice’s beverage program (alongside a clutch of the other usual suspects), with big heavy shot glasses on hand for those that like it straight. Alice’s drinks list is condensed onto one side of a folded A4-sized menu. It kicks off with a selection of rotating beers (Guinness and XXXX Gold are staples) and a handful of wines from Unico Zelo, before segueing into a short list of the team’s recommended sips. This section offers a snapshot of the bourbon-heavy back bar, highlighting the likes of Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, George T. Stagg and Redwood Empire Pipe Dream, among others. The bar’s cocktail list features a roster of concoctions named after the decade Alice draws inspiration from, but the standouts are its two house signatures. Inspired by the popularity of Frog’s Hollow Saloon’s old fashioned, coined by Martin McConnell, Pete has popped a Buffalo Trace-infused variation on Alice’s list. It shares pride of place with a Ramos Gin Fizz – a zippy froth-topped classic that’s largely unseen in Brisbane these days. “The Ramos is one that no one else is offering in the city,” says Pete, who is looking to make the cocktail Alice’s calling card. “It’s like the Sunny Boy at The Gresham or the old fashioned at Frog’s. It’s the one that you go, ‘You have to go to Alice and get the Ramos – it’s delicious’.” Oh, and that jukebox? It was restored, shipped and installed by Peter Greenaway from Jukebox Repairs Australia and is filled with a carefully curated selection of 80s and 80s-adjacent rock ’n’ roll and hair metal, including the likes of Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake and the bar’s namesake, Alice Cooper. “I cancelled my Spotify account,” says Pete. “I don’t need it. The jukebox was used non-stop on opening night.”
Alice is now pouring until 3:00 am, seven days a week. Head to the Stumble Guide for more information.
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