There are some amazing bars and ace hospitality talents tucked away in our city's finest hotels, so Time Out set out to discover the best hotel bars in Sydney.
There is an art to the perfect bar snack, and when it comes to suppertime nothing beats a real club sandwich. We’re talking a double-decker sarnie with chicken, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise cut into four triangles, each pinned together with a pearl-top hors d’oeuvres stick. It’s substantial enough to fuel your evening, but still a light meal, and it goes an absolute treat with a cocktail. The club sandwich has fallen out of fashion in recent years, but we know where they’re dishing up an ace version and shaking up drinks to match – the Bar at the Park Hyatt Sydney. This elegant bolthole is down along Campbell Cove, right by the base of the Harbour Bridge, and it’s providing the hushed glamour missing from the city’s roll call of underground haunts and DIY bars. The fitout is plush and muted. We’re talking low light, expensive fixtures and soft cushions plumped up before you take a seat. Everything about this bar is designed to promote ease and comfort – staff are helpful and attentive and service moves quickly. There’s no denying a Bijou – a potent, herbal take on a Martini that mixes gin, vermouth, chartreuse and orange bitters – looks the part, but they do equally good work with fruit-forward drinks like the Sail and Roll. Bitter and sweet are perfectly matched in this refreshing elixir that pairs gin and Aperol with watermelon and grapefruit juice. In fact, we double down and seriously consider round three. The Bar is well suited to an intimate drink, but the
If you ever want to feel like a celebrity for an evening, the rooftop bar at the InterContinental Hotel is the place to do it. What was originally reserved as a club bar for guests has been opened up to the public after 9pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays, but you will need to book. After your silent ride up to the 31st floor head to the glass sliding door and use the phone to announce yourself. Head upstairs and you will emerge in a glass-bound room with views that start over Darlinghurst and Kings Cross before sweeping out over Woolloomooloo, Garden Island, across the Harbour and around to the Bridge. You can almost see the diners inside the sails of the Opera House from up here. The vibe is very much hushed glamour, so expect to be doing a lot of reclining in a charcoal grey armchair while sipping a cocktail made from Bulleit bourbon, spice syrup, pineapple juice, vermouth, Campari and bitters. This lush concoction with a bitter backbone doesn’t have a name, nor do any of the other cocktails on the list – it’s all about the ingredients. Even if there’s a cool wind blowing around the skyscrapers of the CBD a tropical mix of white rum, blueberries, vanilla, mint and lime will have your palate convinced you’re in Cancun at the kind of fancy establishment that boasts an infinity pool. The InterContinental is where very famous people stay. They often host film junkets and we’re given to understand that One Direction crashed here before shutting down the city with their fans. Supp
Stingray Bar & Lounge
Slotted neatly into the ground floor of the QT Hotel Gold Coast, Stingray was one of the early success stories in a fragile renaissance that’s happening along the interminable strip of high-rises and coastal suburbs bookended by Southport in the north and the NSW border in the south. QT hotels are known for embracing the quirks of their location and the giddy Gold Coast instalment is no different, tapping into a knowingly kitsch post-war beach vibe, from the crisp, brightly coloured rooms to the jumpsuit uniforms sported by the reception staff. Stingray takes all this and twists it for a nighttime crowd: think white-painted brickwork, floating wooden floorboards and sequences of crisp, patterned tiling. The outskirts of the venue are lined by long leather banquettes: during the day they play host to Man Tea, a package deal of drinks and Mexican-skewed bar eats; at night they’re taken over by young, beautiful but friendly Gold Coast types, with just the right smattering of all-sorts furnished by the hotel above. Stingray has a seasonal cocktail list of exotic drinks flavoured with greenery from a second level herb garden. You might try a Tom Collins built on dill-infused Bombay Sapphire, or a Tiki Punch that peddles lemon myrtle-infused Bacardi. Stingray’s calling card, though, is a ginormous range of tequila. It’s a specialty that suits the beach-bum location, but this isn’t about juicing you up for a midnight run into the surf. Instead, venue manager Jeff Clifford can sit do
If you’re looking for a place to soothe wounds won in a day-long battle with bureaucracy, it’s hard to go past Lucky’s Speakeasy. Or rather, it is easy to go past unless you know where to look: its entry is cunningly concealed in a barber’s shop at the far corner of the lobby of the QT Hotel. Inside, you’ll find all the quiet corners and dark leather booths you crave, perfect for losing a briefcase or two, if you’re so inclined. Ease yourself into the evening with a Ghost of Mary, a clarified take on the Bloody Mary that uses tomato consommé instead of juice. It’s wonderfully savoury with just enough spice, and the perfect gateway into a snack menu loaded with rich, American-style comfort food. Get stuck into the hot chips – they’re a best-of-both-worlds combo of skinny shoestring fries and big, satisfying British chippies, slathered in cheese and addictively crunchy – then continue your carb adventure with a truffled mac’n’cheese that’s as soft as a mother’s hug, or go for protein and bite with a spicy housemade jerky. Knock back a barrel-aged Old Fashioned to cleanse your palate: the citrusy kick of Regan’s Orange Bitters makes this boozy classic surprisingly refreshing. As the aches of a working day wear off, you’ll find your surroundings shifting from cocktail hour murmurs to something a little more wild and free. If you’re not interested in outsiders, second yourself to the privacy of a booth (complete with curtains to draw) and order up some bottle service. (Lucky’s is
Meet the bartenders
Flavio Tripepi, Zeta Bar - Hilton Sydney
“The moment we open the doors is my favourite,” says Flavio Tripepi. “That moment when you are expecting a busy night and you want to be ready for it. I find it very thrilling.” Tripepi has worked as a bartender at Zeta Bar just on a year and enjoys the variety of guests a hotel bar gets throughout the week. “On Saturday night we operate as a nightclub, so our crowd changes into a younger one. It’s nice to find a hotel bar that has a buzzy vibe and DJ sets.” For this project, he chose to cross a Bloody Mary with a New York-style Reuben sandwich. “I find a Reuben is amazing to accompany a Bloody Mary. Except for the tomato juice, I changed the classic ingredients.”
Andrew MacLeod, Grain Bar
Andrew MacLeod well remembers the moment when he fell in love with the bartending game. “I worked in a cocktail bar in Nottingham in the UK. A guest said he was on his honeymoon and wanted to give his wife a really pretty drink. So off I went and managed to draw a rose on the top of a Martini. She really liked it and was showing the drink off to other guests. Her smile was from ear to ear.” At Grain, where there are more than 200 whiskies on the shelves, Whisky Sours are very popular, but MacLeod’s twist on the recipe took inspiration from a masterclass with Suntory master distiller, Mike Miyamoto. “I decided to make beetroot and Japanese whisky the focus. Beetroot has this earthy, complex flavour to it, but it doesn’t interrupt the floral notes or the lightness of the Hakushu 12yo.”
Jay Tuncer Tokmak, Marble Bar
Wine and cheese are a classic combo, but cocktails and cheese? Marble Bar’s Jay Tuncer Tokmak is putting a twist on the Bloody Mary that’s more logical than it might seem. “As a Bloody Mary is considered a hangover cure, I thought it would be a good idea to have hangover cure and breakfast in one,” he says. “After all, tomato and cheese are common to breakfast culture.” A relative newcomer to the Hilton’s historic underground bar, Jay knew he’d fit in on his first day when a customer came up to thank him personally for making a perfect classic cocktail. “My favourite kind of customer is the one who knows what they want to drink rather than ‘make me something good!’”
Zikra Armeda, Sokyo Lounge
The best bartenders are much more than impatient pourers of drinks who give you your change on a saucer. Zikra Armeda, for one, works on building a rapport with her customers. “I was interacting with a customer once and they gave me their baby and asked me if I would leave my current position to take up babysitting!” she recalls. “It was a proud moment, and a great laugh among the bar staff.” Sokyo is highly regarded both as a bar and a Japanese restaurant, and Zikra was determined to showcase Japanese whisky in her east-meets-west variation on the classic Whisky Sour. “When the Japanese took whisky-making from Scotland in the early 1900s, they ended up creating something special. We are also taking the western condiment marmalade and reinventing it with Japanese ingredients.”
Alex Clark, Gilt Lounge
Drinks, chat, being social and hospitable: “It’s in my blood,” says Alex Clark, who is eight months into his job behind the bar at Gilt Lounge. “My folks always had people round when I was growing up and I learnt from an early age what it means to look after people and make them feel welcome.” Alex has created a meaty twist on the Bloody Mary, using a chorizo fat-washed mezcal, which has been in his recipe book since he was living in London. “Meat washes were the craze there, almost every venue sporting a bacon bourbon,” he recalls. “I had experimented with jerky vodka and duck Cognac but nothing comes close to the marriage of chorizo and mezcal: sweet, smoky and rich. This spirit had to be put into a Bloody Mary.”
Andrew Mae, The Bar
Andrew Mae sees his bartending job as the latest in a line of creative pursuits, including his studies in architecture. “Mixing cocktails is a great form of expression. Like architecture, it’s a balance of science and beauty.” For the Hotel Bars Cocktail Competition, Mae built a Bloody Mary variant called the Truffle with Vlad. “Adding truffle-infused vodka and the smoky characteristic of Laphroaig 10yo Scotch Whisky helps to mellow the spice and enrich the flavour. Bloody Marys are best served ice cold; however they are often ruined by dilution from the ice. I solved this by freezing miniature truss tomatoes and using them as ice cubes. By the time you’ve finished the drink the tomato is defrosted and has soaked up the flavours, making it delicious to eat.” Our judges heartily agreed.
John Toubia, Supper Club
Up on level 31 of the InterContinental, the lights are dim, the views are stunning and the tunes are great. For six months, this impressive place has been John Toubia’s office. “I love being a bartender,” he says. “The speed of it, the customers, and the art.” His golden hour starts at 11pm (“a little crazy tends to come to life at this time”) and he finds himself pouring a lot of Taittinger Champagne and classic cocktails. For our competition, John came up with “a fresh version of the classic Cuban Mojito, designed to cure the blues. It’s a drink that showcases gin as an uplifting spirit, which is not how it’s always perceived. I kept in mind that the drink needs to be replicated in a busy cocktail bar. For this reason, the drink respects simplicity but is still complex on the palate.”
Art Palomata, Blu Bar on 36
“There are so many things to love about being a bartender,” says Art Palomata, who has been mixing and pouring up on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Sydney since the end of 2014. “There are times when guests are at the bar to celebrate and as a bartender, you are invited to be part of the fun. There are times where guests are so amazed at your work they share photos through social media. I guess the best moments are when you can provide a memorable experience for a guest and later say, ‘yeah, I was part of that night.’” The concept behind Art’s twist on a Bloody Mary is a tribute to the hotel experience: “different elements from around the world, harmonious under one roof.” The theatre of the cocktail’s creation is essential to the experience, he says. “The mysterious cloud carrying beautiful aromas of rosemary and cinnamon invites you to try this intriguing concoction.”
Jeff Clifford, Stingray Gold Coast
Venue manager Jeff Clifford has worked at Stingray Bar & Lounge in Surfers Paradise for nearly three years. A Gold Coast hotspot where patrons hit the dance floor every weekend, the bar nevertheless takes cocktail appreciation seriously. “In July last year I won a trip to Tequila, Mexico, to visit tequila and mezcal producers and learn about the production of my favourite spirits,” says Clifford. “I’ve since been able to host tequila appreciation classes at Stingray Lounge.” Clifford’s cocktail, the Weekend Away, is a spin on the Cuban classic the Mojito. “This beverage plays on the age-old relationship between Caribbean rum and fresh mint, while lightening the palate with sweet pineapple notes and a clean finish thanks the NZ Sav Blanc.”
Jared Thibault, Lucky's Speakeasy Canberra
"The thing about hotel bars is this: famous people often frequent them. “Once I served the rapper Lil Jon Don Julio 1942 shots all night – then went out with him afterwards,” admits Jared Thibault, who manages Lucky’s at the QT Canberra. “What happened next is a secret!” Thibault ran cocktail bars in the US for 11 years, where he acquired his fondness for tequila and mezcal. “My favourite modern classics are the Oaxaca Old Fashioned from Death & Company in New York, and the Rosita made popular by Dead Rabbit [NY] legend Gary Regan. The QTique Old Fashioned is inspired by those cocktails. We have added our own QT flair to it with our house-grown edible nasturtium and Montenegro smoked almonds.”
How to make the drinks
The Truffle with Vlad
Ingredients •15ml white truffle fat-washed Belvedere vodka •40ml Belvedere Vodka •5ml Laphroaig 10yo •Miniature truss tomatoes, frozen •Thin sliced cucumber •A slice of jamón serrano •Cracked pepper •Chilli-stuffed olives •180ml house Bloody Mary mix: Berri tomato juice, dried rosemary, dried basil, jalapeños, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, horseradish sauce, salt, cracked pepper, lemon juice Method Combine Laphroaig 10yo, white truffle Belvedere and Belvedere vodka in a shaker with Bloody Mary Mix and perform a dry shake (no ice). Place frozen miniature truss tomatoes into the base of a rocks glass and pour contents of shaker over them without straining. Crisp the jamón serrano on a hot plate using a blowtorch and place on a skewer with cucumber and chilli-stuffed olive. Balance skewer on the rim of the glass and crack pepper over the top to complete the garnish.
The Reuben Mary
Ingredients •45ml pastrami fat-washed Bulleit Bourbon •10ml pickle brine •15ml Russian dressing mix •130ml tomato juice •Strip of pastrami, a celery leaf and pickled vegetables to garnish Method Place all ingredients (except the garnish) in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until mixed and chilled. Pour the cocktail into a wine glass filled with ice. Garnish with pastrami, celery leaf and pickled vegetables.
The Grain Geisha
Ingredients •60ml Suntory Hakushu 12yo whisky •60ml beetroot juice •45ml lemon juice •30ml egg white •15ml sugar syrup •15ml chocolate chilli reduction (Pedro Ximenez sherry, 70% dark chocolate and red chilli) •Edible flowers to garnish Method Add all ingredients to a shaker and perform a shake with ice (wet shake). Strain into a new shaker tin and shake the drink a second time without ice (dry shake). Double strain into an Old Fashioned (rocks) glass and garnish with edible flowers.
The Squealing Throw Down
Ingredients •50ml chorizo fat-washed Mezcal Amores •30ml Heinz Big Red tomato soup •30ml pineapple juice •15ml lemon juice •15ml Worcestershire sauce •½ bar spoon (or tspn) garlic powder •100ml Mexican beer •Lime and chilli salt •Mini Tabasco bottle Method Add all ingredients (except the beer) to a shaker with large cubed ice. Using a second shaker throw the cocktail until mixed and chilled. Pour the liquid into a chilled throw down bottle and top with Mexican beer. Wrap the bottle in a brown paper bag and serve on a wooden board with a mini salt shaker of lime and chilli salt and a mini Tabasco bottle.
QTique Old Fashioned
Ingredients •45ml Herradura Reposado tequila, smoked with palo santo wood chips •15ml Amaro Montenegro •2 dashes Bittermens Burlesque bitters •10ml housemade grenadine •Distilled ice blocks •Orange blossom foam •Housegrown nasturtium •Amaro Montenegro-dusted smoked almonds •Half a fig •Smoked cheddar Method Add tequila, Montenegro, bitters, and grenadine to a mixing glass. Stir with ice. Put a small amount of foam in an Old Fashioned glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass with distilled ice blocks. Top with foam and a nasturtium flower. Place on a presentation plate with fig, cheddar and smoked almonds.
Ingredients •50ml Gin Mare gin •40ml gazpacho (see below) •10ml lemon juice •2 bar spoons mango chilli chutney •Goat’s cheese foam (see below) •Basil oil (garnish) •Dried celery powder (garnish) Gazpacho: •Tomato juice •Red capsicum •Celery •Garlic •Basil oil and fresh basil •Canola oil Method: Sautée capsicum, celery and garlic in canola oil. Add tomato juice and bring to the boil. Season, cool and chill. Goat’s cheese foam: •250g soft goat’s cheese •125g sour cream •125g heavy cream •1.5 tbsp olive oil •Salt and pepper Method: Blend goat’s cheese, olive oil, sour cream and seasoning in a blender. Pass mixture through a fine sieve, add heavy cream and mix. Pour the mixture into an ISI Whip, screw in one ISI cream charger and shake vigorously. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Method Add all ingredients in a shaker (apart from the goat’s cheese foam and basil oil). Add ice and shake until combined. Strain the liquid into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with goat’s cheese foam and basil oil.
The Suppai Saiyan
Ingredients •40ml Hakushu 12yo Single Malt Whisky •20ml Miyagikyo Single Malt Whisky •1 tbspn Japanese marmalade •15ml simple syrup •30ml blend of Japanese citrus juice •Dash of egg white •Citrus peel (garnish) Method Add all ingredients to a shaker and perform a dry shake (without ice) before shaking the drink a second time with ice. Strain liquid into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with citrus peel.
The Scarlet Affair
Ingredients •90ml tomato mix (see below) •30ml sake •15ml Yellow Chartreuse •15ml plum pisco •15ml house syrup: honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg •15ml vinegar mix: Worcestershire sauce, yuzu, chilli-infused vinegar •Cayenne pepper •Celery salt •Cinnamon •Smoked paprika •Black pepper •Rosemary •Olive oil •Dry ice to garnish Tomato mix: •Combine V8 tomato juice, sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic sauce, strain and keep at room temperature Method Heat the tomato mix in a pot. Assemble needed materials (dry ice for visual presentation, cinnamon and rosemary for the aroma). Garnish complete glass with olive oil. Once tomato mix is simmering, add all ingredients to the pot and give a gentle stir. Add additional spices to taste. Before serving, add water to the dry ice.
The Weekend Away
Ingredients •45ml Ron de Jeremy spiced rum •45ml Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc •45ml fresh pressed pineapple juice •15ml housemade lemongrass syrup •Fresh-picked mint to garnish Method Add all ingredients except the mint to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain over cubed ice into a highball glass. Garnish with a large, long sprig of agitated mint.
The Beat Down Tonic
Ingredients •10 leaves of mint •1 tspn Pernod Ricard •50ml Tanqueray 10 Gin •20ml Campari •Raspberry syrup •40ml white grapefruit juice •Dash of tonic Method Add all ingredients apart from the tonic to a beaker glass filled with ice. Stir ingredients with a bar spoon until mixed. Finish with a dash of tonic water and garnish with mint leaves.