Frog’s Hollow Saloon, Charlotte Street’s new whisky-slinging barroom, is now open
Brisbane City in 2022 is a far cry from its identity in the latter half of the 1800s. The area now loosely ringed by George Street, Edward Street, Elizabeth Street and Alice Street was once a mangrove-filled swampland called Frog’s Hollow, a name that endured as this section of town evolved into Brisbane’s first red-light neighbourhood. At this point the area was regarded as a hotbed of seedy action, with gangs of thieves and drunkards said to frequent gambling dens, brothels and boarding houses. It’s this shady part of the city’s history that Frog’s Hollow Saloon takes its name. The new 60-seater whisky and cocktail bar opened on Charlotte Street on Thursday March 24, unveiling a sizeable selection of spirits dispensed by a team of hospitality hot-shots. Frog’s Hollow Saloon has wasted no time injecting a bit of service-driven warmth (and a touch of roguish charm) into what has long been one of The City’s drinking dead zones.
If given the opportunity to open a bar that was designed precisely to your specifications, helmed by bartenders hand-picked by you and served only the libations you enjoyed drinking, what would it look like? It’s a fun thought exercise, but rarely is it one that many of us manage to turn into reality. Pete Hollands and Nick Winter are two fellows fortunate enough to have seized the opportunity to translate their tastes and sensibilities into a watering hole of their own. The two hospitality veterans, who between them boast experience at top-flight bars including The Gresham, Mjølner, 1806 and Eau De Vie, are two thirds of the group behind Frog’s Hollow Saloon – Brisbane City’s brand-new cocktail and whisky bar located on Charlotte Street. The duo – alongside Frog’s Hollow’s third owner, Darwin-based bar operator David Robinson (Snapper Rocks, Hanky Panky Lounge, Hot Tamale) – know a thing or two about the art of drink-centric hospitality. When there are several parties involved, the process of amalgamating such a vast wealth of experience runs the risk of resulting in a clashing of character and a cluttered concept, but, thankfully for inner-city drinkers, Pete, Nick and David are all of one mind. Frog’s Hollow Saloon is a harmonious blending of taste and talent – a bar that favours simplicity, substance and service above all, with a bit of spirited swagger sprinkled in as homage to the area’s seedy past. The venue, which is tucked away up a short set of stairs in the John Reid & Nephews building, is a warm and welcoming space that highlights the room’s heritage brick bones with recycled timber furnishings a tasteful splash of olive paint. Along one wall runs the 12-metre bar (equipped with a pebble ice machine and a six-draw glass freezer), backed by shelves stocked with an assortment of bottles. A scattering of high-top tables dominate the venue’s centre – with many perched so as to offer a phenomenal vantage point from one of the venue’s many double sash windows, while a cosy nook of navy banquettes at the far end of the space offers a more intimate setting for groups and pairs. Bar service is a focus here, with Frog’s Hollow’s roster of talented bar staff (helmed by Thiago Silva, formerly of Black Pearl and Captain Melville) eager to supplement the drinking experience with great chat. The bar itself was designed to streamline the drink making process, keeping up the flow of service and freeing up bartenders for a yarn.
When it comes to Frog’s Hollow Saloon’s drink offering, the crew has distilled its combined knowledge working across the country’s best boozers into a selection that foregrounds independent labelling and drops from makers that are, by and large, uncommon in Brisbane. This is most evident in Frog’s Hollow’s vast selection of whisky, which tallies around 320 labels and is expected to balloon to a grand total of 700 over the coming months. The team started its curation process by selecting distilleries that they loved before fleshing out the list with more unfamiliar-yet-interesting options. The spectrum of sips stretches from the familiar to the esoteric, with the whisky menu itself divided into geographical categories encompassing Speyside, Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, Islay and other notable Scottish islands, the Americas, Ireland, Australia, France, and Japan. Guests can enjoy nominal nips while high rollers can splash out on some rare labels including Angel’s Envy, Highland Park’s Viking Heart 15 year old and a Suntory Yamazaki 25 year old (the latter of which comes with an exceptionally eye-watering price tag). Beyond whisky, Frog’s Hollow Saloon’s spirit stockpile boasts 53 gins, a decent selection of tequila and mezcal, and a growing selection of amaro. As for the cocktails, Frog’s Hollow is taking a ‘less is more’ approach, curating a neat selection of ten concoctions crafted with input from its drink-slinging staff . The selection, which will look to keep up with the seasons and support local producers, tweaks classic flavours and styles – for example, the Grimes & Petty cocktail is a twist on a classic boulevardier made with Maker’s Mark, Mr Black coffee liqueur, amaro Montenegro, sweet vermouth and orange bitters. Beyond spirits and cocktails, sippers can quaff tap beers (including XXXX Gold, Guinness and a punchy list of craft beers) and wines from Australian producers served by the glass and bottle. Those that feel like a nibble can munch on a range of simple snacks designed by Jamie Fleming from Alba Bar & Deli, with functional bites like nuts, jerky, devilled eggs, chicken soup, sardines and beef sandwiches pairing perfectly alongside a cold beverage.
Frog’s Hollow Saloon is now open to the public. Head to the Stumble Guide for operating hours and other important bits of info.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.