For decades, pub culture held such a stranglehold on the city that cocktail bars—real, proper, fancy-pants places to get an artfully made drink from a trained mixologist—were almost non-existent. Beer and wine were often the name of the game. But that’s not so any more. In recent years, cocktail culture has evolved thanks to a licensing law re-haul, which turned out to be something more of a revolution. A spate of small, bespoke gin joints devoted to grown-up libations now dots the city and its surrounds. You can find them now tucked inside hotels, in popular nightclub areas, and spread along unassuming side streets. These thoughtful spaces differ in style, but all succeed in inspiring its patrons to tipple, and drink they do. So, peruse this list and be sure to check out these top cocktail lounges on your next trip to Sydney. They’re expensive but worth it.
You have to go down, down, down to experience many of Sydney’s best cocktail bars. They don’t so much pronounce themselves with flashy exteriors as they do beckon from below, daring you with low lighting, hidden corners and inventive cocktails hand-shaken by the pros. It doesn’t really matter what you drink at Baxter Inn. It’ll all taste great, and you’ll be surrounded by good cheer. You’re sold, right?
It’s anything goes at this basement bar directly across from Hyde Park. It was long a comedy club, but now it’s a watering hole where you can order any spirit from behind the bar and ask the bartender (probably clad in overalls, sans shirt) to whip up a Rascal Spider: your choice, topped with ice cream and Coca-Cola. Yes, please.
Blink and you’ll miss this cute little stopover on Surry Hills’ otherwise unimpressive Fouveaux Street. It’s a cute little place, all dim lighting and decidedly masculine, with a large grazing table, worn-in booths and the occasional barrel serving as a table for two-somes. No visit here is complete without a bowl (or two) of the free pistachios to complement your drinks.
Eau de Vie
This sumptuous speakeasy took great advantage of Sydney’s relatively recent small-bar explosion – there’s a clandestine vibe the minute you walk to the back of the lobby of the Kirketon Hotel, located on Darlinghurst Road just a short walk from the seedier environs of Kings Cross. They do exquisite, expertly mixed drinks with old-timey flair here. Be bold with your order.
Another great drinking hole from the folks behind Button Bar, Stitch is located in the heart of the city. It’s decorated with old sewing machines, heavy curtains, and wooden doors – it’s the most sinister saloon you’ll enter in Ye Olde Sydneytown. The cocktail options are endless, and the wine list is impressive, too. Feeling splurge-y? Order a full bottle from the champagne menu.