The streets of Sydney are brimming with stylish bars that serve trendy cocktails, tempting city workers into an after-work drink. From underground dive bars in the middle of town to Prohibition-era speakeasies near Circular Quay, check out the 10 best places in inner-city Sydney for a tipple.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
When three world-renowned bartenders — Tim Philips, Adi Ruiz and Robb Sloan — opened Bulletin Place in 2012, they shared a common goal: to create a watering hole with “all of the things we liked, none of the things we hate” about bars. Six years later, this Circular Quay small bar boasts one of the Harbour City’s premier seasonal cocktail menus, with a drinks list that changes daily, depending on the fresh produce available.
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A permanent fixture on the esteemed World’s 50 Best Bars list, this underground whisky cellar is something straight out of the Prohibition-era United States. Hidden in a laneway off Clarence St in the middle of the CBD, The Baxter Inn’s whisky collection is the stuff of legend; the stylish bar staff can help you navigate the hundreds of bottles and extensive drinks lists.
The Rocks is a hub for after-work drinks on a Friday afternoon, and this vintage whisky bar on George St is one of the most popular places for a tipple. The Doss House curates a collection of more than 150 whiskies, gins, vodkas and wines, best consumed with a plate of meats and cheeses from the bar’s charcuterie counter.
Named after Cuban sugar Tsar Julio Lobo, this Clarence St cocktail joint is a little slice of the Caribbean. Lobo’s speciality is rum, and lots of it; the collection of 250 local and internationally sourced rums underpins the bulk of the drinks list, including flagship creation the Old Grogram, made with spiced rum, fresh lemon, sugar and Lobo’s famous stout vermouth.
This dimly lit basement on the corner of Park and Elizabeth St looks like a dive bar, right down to the ‘shit tinnies’ on offer for beer drinkers. But glance at the cocktail menu and you’ll realise that the Ramblin’ Rascal has plenty more to offer — a seriously good collection of whisky and Cognac provides the basis for stacks of great drinks, all served in a subterranean space with warm, laid-back vibes.
This cosy exposed-brick space doesn’t just pour pints of Guinness — The Wild Rover serves both classic and imaginative cocktails on the doorstep of the city in Surry Hills. Don’t miss the Guinness Punch, a creamy concoction described as “a very moreish Jamaican milkshake”, plus an enviable whisky collection, a rotating roster of craft beers and the house-made lamb sausage rolls.
Find the nondescript entrance off Abercrombie Ln and descend the stairs into this Prohibition-era speakeasy, one of the most atmospheric venues in the CBD to sip on an after-work Negroni. The leather couches and black-and-white photos on the exposed-brick walls set the scene for the old-world cocktails and spirits being poured by the well-dressed staff behind the bar.
Got a spare $10,000 to spend on drinks? Then head to the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks and order the Martini on the Rock for a lazy 10 grand, a cocktail that comes with a diamond ring swimming in the glass as well as a room in the hotel. The long list of drinks on the sophisticated cocktail list are worth every cent for the panoramic vistas over Sydney Harbour.
Named after the US fighter jet that helped liberate France during World War II and offering a 1940s Paris theme, this Phillip Ln favourite is home to more than 900 spirits (as well as champagne, of course). The 12-metre-long handcrafted oak bar serves an array of military-inspired cocktails, highlighted by a selection of 10 different rum and rye Old-Fashioneds.
If you can’t afford to spend a fortune on cocktails, let alone $10,000, then this Surry Hills favourite is a cheap and cheerful inner-city option. Pass the kitschy neon-lit entrance and enter a quirky, industrial space that’s brimming with classic tunes, a heaving dance floor, American diner-style food and great-value retro cocktails, which are among the city’s most affordable.