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Retro seldom feels so right, and almost never so right-now as this vintage-styled, Italian cocktail bar in the Rocks
More bartenders should sport double-breasted dinner jackets. More cocktail bars should play jazz hits and lounge covers at conversation-enhancing volume. And more hosts should welcome guests as eagerly as owner Stefano Catino does at Maybe Sammy.
The first impressions come hard and fast at the latest outing from the team behind Maybe Frank, tucked away on the fringe of the Rocks. It’s a polished affair bathed in Golden Age glamour — blond wood, white marble, grey-green leather stools, plush rosy banquettes — but there’s plenty of substance to back up the style. Creative director Andrea Gualdi has assembled one of Sydney’s most pedigreed squads of shakers and stirrers, and their commitment to quality is apparent in almost every glass.
Start with a Mini. At ten bucks, the pre-batched, half-sized cocktails are a clever primer. Opt for the Frank, a convincing riff on a Boulevardier that's bitter and subtly sweet, or a clean and classic Martini (either vodka or gin) that’s just the right level of wet.
Most of the crowd seems to spring for creations from the 'Signature Selection'. Named after bygone Vegas casinos, they’re a fruit-forward bunch of people-pleasers. The Bonanza delicately balances Bacardi 8 with peach wine, pear and yuzu, while green apple freshness emerges from the mix of tequila, mezcal and sherry in the New Frontier.
From there, it’s anyone’s game: big-ticket bottles of Champagne kick off a concise and considered choice of wines; Brooklyn Lager comes from the tap; the house-made kombucha flavour rotates weekly. There’s even a page devoted to coffee, which the team selects and roasts themselves at Condesa in Alexandria. Whether you prefer your single-origin Ethiopian beans in a straight-up short black or a Campari-spiked Shakerato is up to you.
The vibe here is decidedly more destination than drop-in-for-a-drink, thanks in no small part to some smarter-than-average bar snacks. Zippy white anchovies splayed on paper-thin slices of toast with tangy goat’s curd get our tick of approval. Ditto half a Smoking Gun bagel topped with crème fraîche and salty shreds of Wagyu pastrami.
Whether we really need an all-male bar team (albeit rather classily) paying homage to the womanisers, gambling haunts and halcyon days of the ‘roaring fifties’ is up for debate. But drinking well and drinking late remain an ongoing itch in this town, and Maybe Sammy scratches it with swagger.