Pete Hollands initially planned to open Alice, his ’80s-themed late-night dive bar, last month. Now, perched on the stairs of a shuttered pawn shop nearby, the Frog’s Hollow Saloon co-owner runs through what’s changed since he last spoke to Broadsheet about the new bar.
“We probably wouldn’t have been ready when I originally planned to open anyway, so [the delay] gave us time to give it a more refined vision. If you’re going to be a late-night boozer, you don’t want to start ratty and worn-in. You have to start sharp, and that style and character can build over time,” Hollands tells Broadsheet.
Alice is tucked down a laneway, but it’s not entirely hidden. There’s a neon-red sign above the door and a row of caged windows at ground-level glow red, hinting at what’s bubbling away beneath.
“I don’t like the idea of a fully hidden bar. Obviously we’re down a laneway and there’s no street signage, but we’ve worked hard to give little fun clues,” Hollands says, gesturing to the colourful stickers on the street bollards.
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Unlike Frog’s Hollow, Alice is less about complex cocktails and more immersing yourself in the bar’s atmosphere. There are old-school TVs mounted above the backbar; a jukebox blaring tracks from ’80s (think AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, White Snake); and black-and-white band photos tinged scarlet from red bulbs.
Hollands is pouring a few Australian wines and a line-up of Australian and American beers and bourbons, but the cocktail offering is where Alice really shines.
A shelf of golden spirits behind the bar are used to make the venue’s 11 signature cocktails. Two classics take centrestage – the signature Alice Old Fashioned and the cult-favourite Ramos Gin Fizz.
The Ramos is a notoriously labour-intensive cocktail. It needs to be shaken once, strained back into the shaker, shaken again and then poured from a height before being left to rest for a minute and topped off with remaining mix from the shaker so the head of the cocktail rises like a soufflé.
When he was creating Alice’s menu, Hollands knew it had to include a Ramos. “We wanted iconic drinks that could stay on the menu forever, and no one has a Ramos on their menu in Brisbane because why would you? It’s ridiculous.”
195 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane City