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Drink like a local • Bars in Australia

Quintessential drinking experiences in Australia – local bars the locals love…


Sydney • Australia

Try: ‘Irish Handcuffs’ at Baxter Inn

The best cocktails at Baxter Inn may be their ‘Negroni’ on tap, their ‘Salty Dog’ or their ‘Old Pal’ but if you want a true Sydney experience in a quintessentially Sydney bar, you order a local beer and a whisky chaser. Or, as we like to call it, ‘Irish Handcuffs’. Yep, it’s harder to get away from our convict history than you think – especially when it tastes so deliciously of the 365 top-shelf whiskies on offer at this hideaway basement bar…

That queue of people rolling out of a dark, nondescript laneway on Clarence Street is for Baxter Inn – a candlelit basement bar with thick carpet, jazz and blues and toilets that have some of the best acoustics in town. It’s kind of modelled on an old-school American Irish sports bar, only with no sport and much better whisky.

We’re not kidding about those acoustics, by the way – the tiled-and-wood-panelled bathrooms are each equipped with their own PA. They sound so good and are so nice, we’re almost tempted to set up camp in there. There are tables and chairs dotted around the room (which takes around 140 drinkers) as well as little rests lining the brick pillars for your drinks, but it’s all about stalking around the bar. Cocktails are reliably awesome but not the focus here. There’s a short list at the front of the book, with some of our favourites (‘South Sides’, ‘Americanos’, ‘Tommy’s Margaritas’, ‘Gibsons’…) and the guys will make you just about anything you’d want to ask for. There is beer on tap and Negronis, too. Hot damn! Be sure to stay until close, when the bell rings and things get crazy. Myffy Rigby, Food & Drink editor, Time Out Australia

156 Clarence Street, Sydney, Australia.

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© Graham Denholm/Time Out Australia

Melbourne • Australia

Try: an ‘Americano’ at Bar Americano

In a city of hidden-behind-a-dumpster small bars, where coffee and classic cocktails rule, sipping an Americano (Campari and sweet vermouth with a splash of soda) in a standing-room-only cocktail-cum-espresso bar is Melbourne in a bonsai nutshell.

Well, damned if this isn’t the sharpest tiny bar Melbourne’s ever seen. There are three seats at the bar (there’s no room for any more) and about enough space for ten more people who don’t use their elbows much to squash in and lean against the slender wooden ledge that runs the room. First come, first served; no exceptions. There’s a toilet, but only just, and you get the feeling that if they could’ve added a couple of extra metres to the room and had people relieve themselves outside Barcelona-style, it would’ve happened.

But we digress. Bar Americano, if you can get in, is Melbourne’s definitive small bar. A proper Italian-style joint, where you can get an Americano (as in a long black), an ‘Americano’ (as in the aforementioned cocktail) and an ‘Old Pal’ (that’s rye, sweet vermouth and Campari in the international language of tasty drinks). The short cocktail list is displayed on a felt pinboard, complete with vintage white lettering.

It’s a beautiful, tiny place with black-and-white tiles on the floor, lots of polished wood and an idiosyncratic back bar on which the bartenders refuse to stock vodka. Go late or go early and don’t take your mum – this one’s for the staunch of heart who don’t mind the wait in a full bar. Myffy Rigby, Food & Drink editor, Time Out Australia

Bar Americano 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne, Australia. +61 (0)3 9428 0055.

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