There's is an unwritten rule among Australia's bar fraternity that to become the Next Big Thing, you need to be hidden in plain sight or, at the least, very, very hard to find.
That means no obvious signage, a hard-to-locate, and an air within the bar itself of indifference to any kind of commercial imperative.
In our already saturated bar scene, brimming with educated mixologists with phds in prohibition-era drinking culture, it takes some expert hiding to stand out from the crowd.
We have rounded up a list of some of the best from our east coast stand-outs. And by stand-outs, of course, we mean hidden gems.
Confused yet? Read on.
The bar with no name
This one has no name - somewhat hard to write down, and no social footprint either. Only in Melbourne would a bar exist in which the owners have declined to promote or name it, and are genuinely hoping not too many people find out about it. So here is a hint: it's on Meyers Place, right near one of Melbourne's very first CBD laneway bars, behind a shop front selling pizza by the slice.
Fall from Grace
It's long been regarded as one of the most elegant bars at the New York end of Collins Street, but State of Grace has a well-kept secret, too. Head down the stairs — hint: there's a bookshelf — and you will arrive at the supremely elegant Fall from Grace. You'll discover a sprawling den which blends New York speakeasy with boudoir decadence.
To access Jungle Boy, head to Boston Sub, on Chapel Street, and open the cool room door behind the sandwich counter. Yep, hidden behind the cheese curds, fries and subs is a jungle-themed cocktail lounge with animal heads and hanging plants. There are cocktails, naturally, served in tiki mugs.
Elegant, stylish and oh-so-hard to access, Hihou is a Japanese-inspired bar and restaurant that would not be out of place in New York. You will find it at the top end of Flinders Lane, near the Treasury Gardens, but you will have to search hard to find the entrance. There is an unmarked door with a bell that you ring, and the staff will come and greet you. It may take a few rings, so be patient.
There is no signage and the front door is hard to miss, but you will know you're in the right place when you find yourself in a tailor's studio (sewing machines, thread, shirts) and are pushing open a set of narrow doors to the downstairs bar. Grab a booth with the after-work crowd and soak up the alcohol with tasty Americana: hot dog, fries, burgers. The booths and intimate seating areas ensure you can hear your friends' conversations, too.
The Barber Shop
The Barber Shop is, true to its name, a barber shop but it's also a sophisticated yet understated bar that you can access, post-chop, by climbing the stairs at the back of the shop. There are boutique beers and a wide selection of gin, tequila, cognac, whisky and rum. The vibe is speakeasy with a dash of hipster.
Yulli's Screening Room
Many Sydneysiders have dined at the famed Yulli's vegetarian restaurant in innercity Surry Hills without venturing behind the bar and up the stairs to Yulli's Screening Room. The cosy bar has a separate drinks and food menu, and is also the host of regular film screenings, bluegrass music and spoken word nights, and works by local artists.
If you are a big fan of the Commons Local Eating House in Darlinghurst — and many of us are — then you will fall in love with its tiny speakeasy-style bar. Located in the 165-year-old larder underneath The Commons' dining room, Downtown Bar has enough space for a couple of instruments and a handful of patrons. The owners list their specialty liquor as vermouth. What's not to love?
You will have to head deep into the bowels of hip Fortitude Valley to find this dive bar, which offers American comfort food and impeccable cocktails. It is located in the cellar of a 130-year-old building, but you will need to head down a laneway and past double red gates to find it. The piece de resistance is the Pickleback: a shot of Jameson's in one glass, and dill-pickle brine chaser in the other. Arguably Brisbane's hippest bar.
The Walrus Club
While half of Brisbane makes a beeline for the heaving Regatta Hotel on a Friday night, we suggest you head straight down the adjacent laneway, where you will find a flight of stairs that leads you to the beautiful 1920s-inspired Walrus Club. It's dark and moody, there are leather couches and men smoking cigars and you won't believe you are in tropical Brisbane. There is even a dress code: no thongs, and patrons are encouraged to dress "snappy". We'll drink to that.
Have we missed any secret bars? Let us know in the Comments section.