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The 50 best bars in Sydney

All the best bars Sydney has to offer

Photograph: Anna Kucera

Sydney's bar scene has evolved over the last twelve months. We have bars that are also restaurants, pubs that are cocktail bars, restaurants you visit for drinks and some places that are all three at once. We have bartenders that make every visit a revelation, and bar snacks worth crossing state lines for. People are still loving rooftop bars; natural wines are still all the rage; and we don't need an excuse for a cocktail once quitting time hits.

Every year we put our livers and sleep patterns on the line to bring you, dear reader, a comprehensive guide to the best bars in town to make sure your evenings never run dry.

Time Out's top 50 Sydney bars

50

Opera Bar

What with the harbour views, iconic architectural backdrop and huge amount of outdoor space, it’s no wonder Opera Bar is rammed to the gills by late morning on a weekend. But sitting outside in a Sydney summer can be a sweaty experience. The solution is simple – you need to eat here. That way you can lay claim to the tables inside that are rarely full, blissfully seagull free and a whole lot cooler and quieter if all you want is a glass of sparkling and a half dozen plump, creamy Pambula oysters. 

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Sydney
49

Since I Left You

Sydney nightlife isn’t stacking up to Melbourne’s at the moment, but a few inner-city bars are working hard to keep some Emerald City skin in the game. Head through a cobbled laneway below a grand sandstone building on Kent Street and you’ll find Since I Left You’s courtyard canopied in fairy lights. Tall city buildings surround it on all sides and local soul band Audio Soup cranks sexy covers of Bill Withers and Charles & Eddie. It’s reminiscent of Melbourne’s much-loved, now-closed St Jerome’s laneway bar, where the Avalanches got their start. And considering the name, we don’t think that’s a coincidence.

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Sydney
48

Arcadia Liquors

One of Redfern’s original small bars is still as loud, fairy-lit and friendly as ever. And cheap. Where else can you get a eminently drinkable semillon sauvignon for six bucks and a grilled ham cheese and tomato sandwich for a fiver, other than student housing? There is a wonderful reliability to any visit to Arcadia. It’s always full but somehow you can manage to rustle up a bar stool or one of those vintage metal chairs, or find a spot out in the brick courtyard featuring many hanging plants and all the nautical paintings available at Vinnies.

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Redfern
47

Goros

Down near Central Station there’s a bar with big booths, cheap snacks, fun drinks, karaoke, arcade games and a licence until 3am on weekends. Goros is a neon-lit, colourful, Tokyo-inspired tavern where they serve $12 whisky highballs and sake bombs (yep, that’s a shot of sake in a beer) and on Mondays you can get dollar gyozas for a dumpling dinner. They also do serves of fried chicken with Kewpie mayo after 10pm on party nights so you don’t need to hit a second venue to soak up the last vestiges of your nicely balanced Yuzu Sour.

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Surry Hills
46

Jamtown

This little Jamaican place on Manly’s sort-of bar strip, Belgrave Street, looks like it’s been lifted straight from one of the more tourist-friendly parts of Kingston. It’s all hand-painted signs, pink flamingos and colourful benches and the drinks list is exactly what you want it to be – Red Stripe, Kingston Town Golden Lager and alcoholic (but toothache sweet) Royal Jamaican Ginger Beer, plus some juicy rum cocktails. We like the strong, sweet and spicy Painkiller, made with dark rum, pineapple juice and dusted with nutmeg. You can come here just to drink, but you should stay for dinner.

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Manly
45

The Little Guy

Walk through the door here and it feels like everybody might just know your name – at the very least they seem genuinely happy to see you. Attentive bartenders will slide you a bowl of spicy fresh-popped popcorn on the house to go with the fruity, earthy Victorian pinot noir you’ve plucked off a wine list that has homed in on boutique labels. Along with a full page of craft beer (Pirate Life, Willie the Boatman, Six Strings, Feral et cetera) there is also a tightly edited, rotating list of a half dozen well rounded cocktails. 

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Glebe
44

Wilhelmina's

Sleepy, bohemian Balmain has historically been long on brilliant hotels and short on seasonal, farm-to-table fare and very good drinks. But now an inviting buzz ripples across a space that straddles the arcade of Balmain’s historic Working Men’s Institute and the bright, airy atmosphere is anchored by warm, wooden accents, black subway tiles and an Anya Brock mural. Liquid refreshments are by way of NSW craft beer with boutique Aussie wines and cocktails as good as expected from the team behind Grandma’s. 

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Balmain
43

Zeta Bar

An afternoon on the Astro-turfed terrace on Level Four of the Sydney Hilton with a glass of Champagne in one hand and half a dozen oysters on the white patio table in front of you is a fun bit of shameless city-slicking. Service might be a little stiff but it’s still pitch perfect for when you don’t want to change out of your office wear and commit to a full party night, but you do want to take advantage of your CBD location and unwind before you head home. Go back in time with a cocktail from the Mobley Hotel from 1919, the Waldorf Astoria and Puetro Rico’s Hilton in 1942 and Malaysia’s Hilton from the ’70s. 

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Sydney
42

Charlie Parker's

Do you know what Centennial Park tastes like? We’re talking first thing in the morning, not when you stumble and face plant in the dark after a gig/footy game. Turns out it’s a combination of jasmine, nasturtium, bottlebrush, kikuya grass and fusilia flowers. And how do we know that? At Charlie Parker’s, the cocktail bar underneath French country restaurant Fred’s, they send their bartenders out to the park to collect those same botanicals, which they then distil into a vodka used in their Centennial Park cocktail. 

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Paddington
41

Tuxedo

By day, you might know it as Kansas City Shuffle, the boss inner city café that’s not afraid to serve brisket and waffles first thing in the morning. But now your AM coffee fix and hangover lunch provider has completed the trifecta by opening at night, specifically for Espresso Martinis. Of course, unless you never want to sleep again, one cannot live on vodka, espresso, Kahlua and sugar syrup alone, which is why you can also get a crisp and savoury glass of French rosé, a bright and bracing pinot gris from Eden Valley or a Young Henrys natural lager to quench your thirst. 

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The Rocks
40

Stitch Bar

It’s a whole lot of fun to pop through the faux-dressmaker’s shopfront and head down the stairs to Stitch Bar, where it feels like you’re drinking in the belly of a frigate. The dark timber, hanging lanterns and wooden barrels evoke a time of pirates and doubloons, but happily there’s a lot more than salted pork rations on the menu. Eats take their cues from the USA, with hot wings, a Southern fried chicken burger, and poke but the standout dish is the rib-eye that has been dry rubbed, smoked and slow roasted.

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Sydney
39

Palmer and Co

You might not be able to go back in time, but you can spend your nights drinking cocktails, listening to jazz and eating things with varying levels of melted cheese on them, which isn’t a bad consolation prize for the 21st century lot. At Palmer and Co the staff are dressed as flappers, there’s a live band and everything smells amazing because they’re cooking mac’n’cheese and pretzels with a cheese fondue dipping sauce in the open kitchen. Table service is the go here, so you can kick back and do a little toe-tapping while you wait for your Champagne cocktail to arrive.

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Sydney
38

Neighbourhood - Bondi

This no-fuss Bondi bar has a backyard feel, but the food and drinks are worlds away from what you’d whip up at your Campbell Parade pad. Start with a Bramble, Bush and Briar. Like a honeyed Negroni, it’s a sweet and welcome take on the classic aperitif. Then jump on board the city’s skin contact craze. A glass of the Tangerine Inkwell Dub Style No. 1 Viognier is dry and fragrant with the perfect amount of funk. For snacking, there’s toasties and a deliciously rich mac and cheese. Or you can play it like a Bondi local and order the poke and ceviche.

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Bondi Beach
37

The Wine Library

Wine is a glorious, magical thing. It comes in more colours than we have names for and can taste like lemon curd or steel, wet earth or black cherries, oak or sea water. And if you want to drink a whole lot of the good stuff, the Wine Library in Woollahra should be your first port of call. Of course, once you’re sitting up at the bar and being tested on which grapes are in your glass of Cochon Vin De France red you’ll find it very difficult to motivate yourself to leave. Better instead to order a three-cheese plate that includes a triple cream that is so soft and rich it’s almost a liquid and another glass.

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Woollahra
36

The Anchor

Steer your crew towards this small bar after a briny dip in the big blue or a day on the whitewashed rocks at Icebergs. Squeeze in among the tanned bodies in summer for a frozen Daiquiri that is better than an ocean breeze at cooling you down. The baby-blue Del Boy Colada is a cheeky wink to classic British comedy fans and surprisingly good. Salt and lime a beer (Mexican or Aussie) to wash down the fried fish – you can get it with chips or in a tortilla – from an open kitchen that also serves surf-and-turf pub food as street-side takeaway to wetsuit-clad surfers walking home. 

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Bondi Beach
35

Uncle Kurt's

Parramatta has finally clocked up their first small bar. Uncle Kurt’s was born out of a desire to bring the drinking scene of the inner city to the people of Parramatta, and it’s off to a cracking start. The bar is set up underneath a car park in a former legal office that has been gutted, graffittied and set up with 25 seats for table service. The look is very lo-fi, but the drinks are not. Bobby Aydogan (ex-Bennelong, Rockpool Bar and Grill) is a long serving Sydney bartender and he has loosened the collar and upped-stumps from the inner city to bring his shakers west. 

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Parramatta
34

Sokyo Lounge

At Sokyo Lounge you can perch up at the long central bar and throw spiced almonds into your mouth while you wait for them to mix up your Kemusabe, a long, cooling glass of fresh nashi pear juice and ginger beer that sneakily hides the Jim Beam rye so that it’s as refreshing and easy to chug as straight apple juice on a force five hangover. If you’re saving your dollars order the super budget-friendly Kakubin whisky highballs that are only $8.

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Darling Harbour
33

The Midnight Special

By the look of this dive you’d expect peanut shells crunching under foot. Regulars – like birds on a wire – perch at the bar and a middle-American accent comes from behind it. The worn-in, down-home atmosphere, though, belies expert cocktail, beer and wine chops and sophisticated bar bites. Beers – Grifter tinnies, Feral smoked porter, Sierra Nevada pale ale – are few and good. The whiskey sour is cherry-topped cocktail perfection, and the Uptown Fat Boy (brisket-infused rye, maple syrup, bitters) is dangerously drinkable. 

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Newtown
32

The Gretz

If you imagine the ideal neighbourhood bar, everything that comes to mind you’ll find at the Gretz in Enmore. So popular was the restaurant Hartsyard further up the street that Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart decided to add a bar to their Inner West venture. They took an underwhelming venue and gave it a gently nautical, timber-heavy makeover, with big rump-cupping bar stools adequately padded for long nights of big beers and short cocktails. They teed up a playlist of quality drinking tunes from Elton John to Fleetwood Mac, filled the fridge with seafood snacks and ordered in big glass tankards for your beers.

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Enmore
31

The Wild Rover

When you swing open the big wooden door of this Irish whiskey bar, you’re met with a hearty cheer from the bartenders (and the bar’s more impassioned drinkers). It sets the tone for an easygoing cocktail bar where the drinks are serious and the mood is not. Rough folk music fills the room, wooden furniture gives the two-level bar a sense of antiquity, and a bold jungle mural lines the back bar wall. A vintage train timetable steps out the Rover’s bottled beer and wine list, and two large framed prints on the opposing wall provide a global whiskey tour. But your first port of call should be the cocktail list. 

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Surry Hills
30

Archie Rose

Archie Rose Distillery is making the ultimate Sydney gin, vodka, white rye and soon enough, a whisky. In addition to tours, tastings and blending sessions, they have a bar where the bartending talent is ace. If you are a fan of strong, bitter and confident cocktails like a Negroni or an Old Pal, now it’s time to meet the Hanky Panky. This is one of the classic Savoy cocktails invented by Ada Coleman in the early 20th century and it pairs the house-distilled gin with sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca, the Italian aperitif favoured by bartenders citywide.

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Rosebery
29

J&M

Up on the third level of the Angel Hotel things get a whole lot classier, and the ABV skyrockets. It feels like one of those exclusive London clubs you see in mid century films. There’s warm leather seats, golden antique lamps, big windows and beautiful vintage wallpaper. The effect is historical luxury that’s well worn in. They shake up a delicate, soft and fresh whisky sour with a dash of Grand Marnier, honey and fennel pollen added to the mix. Or maybe you want to stay in theme and down balanced, medicinal Manhattans.

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Sydney
28

Surly's

Dive bars are not something we’ve done that well in Sydney, but if you need a place to go where you can crack the top on a tinnie, order up some barbecued meats and linger over both to a soundtrack of Alice Cooper, the Knack, Kiss, Ram Jam and Bon Jovi, well, Surly’s has got the goods. They also do a mean Bloody Caesar for the hangover that just won’t quit without the help of clam juice, celery salt and a whack of Diemen’s Stinger hot sauce. The mac’n’cheese is a cracker, a carby, cheesy interlude between beers in a can or your favourite Americans on tap like Coors and Sam Adams.

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Darlinghurst
27

Bibo Wine Bar

Wine bars have a knack for stretching out a good time. All it takes is for your amiable bartender to crack the top off a bottle of grippy, balanced Koerner vermentino from the Clare Valley. From there you can’t put the party cork back in the bottle, so you may as well move on to a silky, tanic Bella Ridge tempranillo from 2010. Bibo has all the essential hallmarks of an upmarket Euro-style wine bar: it’s low lit, dark and looks like an old-world smoking room. There’s an open-air deck out the back for balmy nights in the east; and a museum wine list of cellared wines if you are as rich as a Kennedy.

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Double Bay
26

Dead Ringer

In the age of the lockout laws we’re all just trying to have the best time we can in the hours allotted to us, and so it makes sense to combine the pleasures of an excellent meal and the joys of an artfully executed cocktail. And that’s what’s on the cards at Dead Ringer. As a venue, it’s probably more restaurant than bar these days, but that doesn’t mean they’ve let the quality of drinks slip. They’re mixing up Punt e Mes, cold drip coffee, smoked maple syrup, tequila and orange zest into a drink that tastes like Christmas on ice, and they’re still pouring the Screaming Betty vermentino.

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Surry Hills
25

Bar Brosé

A visit to Bar Brosé is a lesson in heartbreak and new love. That blushing, tangerine-coloured natural wine you had on your last visit probably isn’t available anymore. But it’s OK, because you’ll find another wine on their impressive list that makes you feel new things. Perhaps it’ll be a rich, golden Jean Bourdy from Jura that washes apricots and bananas over your palate before finishing dry and nutty. You’ll spend a beautiful night together, maybe over the famous late-night toastie that is scalding hot and packed with Christmas ham, ’nduja, crème fraîche and Comté cheese, before parting ways and perhaps never meeting again.

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Darlinghurst
24

Monopole

This wine bar and restaurant is one of the most hospitable spots in Sydney for a drink. Their wine list is a tome of fancy vino, and the staff seem to relish the challenge of finding the right pour for you, so hit them with a few keywords – minerally, savoury, dry, sweet, peppery, light – and they’ll return with something excellent, like the grenache blanc from Le Mas d’Espanet in France, that has just enough oxidation to give it that nutty, sherry flavour. You might not come in intending to eat dinner, but as you gaze into the charcuterie cabinet and down into the open kitchen you’ll find your resolve quickly weakens.

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Potts Point
23

The Dolphin Wine Room

Last year was when venue definitions got very squiggly. Old watering holes became fine dining restaurants that still had a public bar with beers on tap; restaurants opened great bars inside their venues so that you could just pop in for a drink; and bars installed amazing kitchens so that you’d stay for dinner. One of the best examples of these shifting boundaries was the redux Dolphin Hotel. It transformed from a league’n’lager pub into a casual fashion party with an Italian dining room and an exciting new wine bar all inside its walls.

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Surry Hills
22

Eau de Vie

This hidden cocktail lounge in Darlinghurst isn’t afraid to get creative, whether that means deconstructing your Bloody Mary, torching a chopping board for that authentic bushfire flavour or doing all sorts of crazy things with dry ice. You can take your senses on a holiday by ordering the Alpine Swizzle. They summon the spirit of the Alps with whisky, a bitter Amaro from the Italian mountains, a pine liqueur, bitters and grapefruit and the result is sweet, cold and herbal, like eating a eucalyptus drop while cross-country skiing. They whip up a mean Martini and have a classics menu at the back.

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Darlinghurst
21

121 BC

Named in reference to a vintage Falernian wine (the most renowned drop of ancient Rome), 121BC focuses exclusively on Italian wine. Artisan producers and sustainable growers are well represented, and the wine and food menus change with the seasons. A high communal table sits beneath a beautiful 1970s Italian light sculpture. Constantly evolving blackboard menus line one wall, and boxed bottle shelving sits opposite – dividing the bar and a tiny but terrific bottleshop. Our favourite aspect is never having to look at a menu: the staff are super knowledgable and will guide you to some great choices.

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Surry Hills
20

Tio's

Just keep on repressing those teenage memories of the bottle with the red plastic sombrero on it, because crap tequila is the equivalent of Fruity Lexia cask wine – you only drink it when you’re young and dumb. Right now at Tio’s they’ve got around 120 different spirits on their books and some of them are exceptionally difficult to get in this country. Play your cards right and in a quiet moment the bartenders will walk you through some of the extra special stuff, like the Los Dazantes mezcal that burns like a grass fire and extinguishes as quickly with a mineral, herbal flavour.

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Surry Hills
19

Mary's

You know the burgers, but did you know Mary’s is also an awesome wine bar? Yes, we are talking about the same Mary’s, with the trucker caps and satanic wall art and heavy metal playlist. You probably know it best as the home of the original American-style burger in Sydney, and the buns are still as soft, the patty as juicy and the special sauce as rich and creamy as your last visit. But if you haven’t popped in on an early weeknight for a bottle of excellent skin contact wine you haven’t had the full Mary’s experience. Mary’s is a mystery wrapped in a riddle that way.

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Newtown
18

Frankie's Pizza by the Slice

If Brooklyn and Naples had a love child, chose Metallica as the godfather and then they all moved to Sydney, their home would look like Frankie’s. This underground pizza parlour is where you can eat NYC-style slices ($6) and catch a live set every night. There’s craft beer on tap, and the multi-page beer list at the main bar is a little-known CBD treasure. Wooed by the riffs wafting in from the next room? Through the swinging doors is an invitingly grungy music venue that’ll make your ears ring and serve a surprisingly good frozen Margarita.

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Sydney
17

The Barber Shop

Nothing’s more refreshing than a perfectly made Southside. It’s so simple – gin lemon, mint, simple syrup – but so much more than the sum of its parts. If you’re going to be drinking gin cocktails, this gin bar hidden behind a working barber shop is the place to do it. Slide open the heavy metal door and take a minute to let your eyes adjust to the low light. You can go back in time here and order London classics, like an Aviation. You can jump the Atlantic for a French 75. Or just embrace the inner 007 and order a Martini any way you like it. 

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Sydney
16

Jangling Jack's

The party-till-dawn spirit might not live in Potts Point any longer, but the drink-good-cocktails-until-you-take-yourself-home spirit is in plentiful supply at Jangling Jack’s, Potts Point’s haunt full of excellent libations. If you want to go off piste, ask for a Polite New Yorker (it wasn’t on the list, but that didn’t matter), which mixes Campari, rye, Montenegro and Peychaud’s Bitters. Polite it may be, but there’s a 50ml shot of rye in there so it’s still trouble, in a good way. For something strong and rich order the Port au Port, which mixes dark rum, pineapple juice, Montenegro, vermouth and bitters to make something that’s tropical without being frivolous.

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Potts Point
15

Love Tilly Devine

Here’s some drunk history: in the days of prohibition and razor-slinging gangs in Darlinghurst, Tilly Devine was the bar owner best known for pushing sly grog to the Sydneysiders who wanted a fix. She really loved the drink, and so do the staff at Love Tilly Devine. They are very passionate about wine, but they work hard to make great wine accessible, especially given the menu’s a wine novella. There’s some great writing in there, and quotable one-liners for your next dinner party. Memorable drops include the savoury and slightly funky Haggis by natural wine legend Patrick Sullivan. 

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Darlinghurst
14

Big Poppa's

What the Mayor of Bomont (yep, we’re talking Footloose) had to learn the hard way was that you can’t keep the kids from partying. Like mushrooms, the good times will simply pop up at a new base of operations, and right now the fun times HQ is the lower ground bar underneath Big Poppa’s, the cheese-loving Italian restaurant on Oxford Street. Lewis Jaffrey (ex-Swillhouse) and Jared Merlino (Lobo Plantation) are in charge, but the bar downstairs is the purview of Bobby Carey (ex-Earl’s Juke Joint). What we’re saying is there’s a lot of people intimately familiar with what it takes to have a good time in charge of your night here.

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Darlinghurst
13

Tokyo Bird

Everyone knows snacks taste better on sticks, and nowhere knows it better than Tokyo Bird, the little Japanese whisky and yakitori bar hidden in the side of a building down a Surry Hills laneway. Slide open the glass door, grab a seat at the high tables and decide on your poison. They have a whole menu dedicated to Old Fashioneds and a very impressive collection of Japanese whiskies, many of which are hard to find. You can pay top dollar for the really good stuff; keep things closer to the 20 dollar mark; or smash rounds of Asahi on tap and use the rest for tender marinated chicken thigh skewers, Wagyu pieces in sweet bulldog sauce and shiitake mushrooms. 

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Surry Hills
12

Kittyhawk

Broadly speaking, the design here is inspired by Liberation Day in Paris (August 25, 1944), and, more specifically, by the Rum and Rye cocktail that is at the very top of their list. And it deserves its lauded position. The number of dark spirits on the back bar is staggering, and right now they’re sitting on a cool 137 bottles of bitters (including one that tastes like gumbo) but they’re not snobbish about their drinks. For a cocktail bar they pour a shed-load of the Victorian pale ale from Bastard Son, and they don’t miss a beat when your order is Bacardi and Coke. We consider these signs of a good host.

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Sydney
11

Papa Gede's

You might think it’s a tough gig to find a bar in the city where the drinks are top shelf but the bartenders know your name, you can bring your dog and no one is wheeling nor dealing at the next table. You simply haven’t been to Papa Gede’s yet, a voodoo-inspired cocktail bar tucked away in a CBD loading dock. Nothing says ‘fuck the office’ like just shy of three shots of booze in a tall tiki mug. That’s what’s in store if you order the Zombie, complete with flaming booze-soaked lime cheek that’ll knock you sideways. For something a little more subtle but no less effective, the Smokey South Julep is like a bourbon sweet tea.

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Sydney
10

Lobo Plantation

This underground rum bar below Clarence Street is named after Cuban sugar baron Julio Lobo. A cluttered but cohesive mix of flamingo tiles, rattan chairs, banana palms and crumbling patina surfaces provide weathered Cuban charm. But the real visual focus is the bartenders. They create with precision. And fire, if you order the Old Grogram. Slip into the chesterfield booth seating and prepare for a fabulous tiki mini-break for your mouth. The White Negroni Daiquiri is tart, puckered perfection, made with white rum, Lillet Blanc, Suze, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters.

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Sydney
9

Bulletin Place

You might be au fait with most of the classics by this point in your Sydney boozing career, but there’ll always be something on the handwritten cocktail list at Bulletin Place that will put a little pep in your step. On our most recent visit to the Circular Quay stalwart we discovered a traffic light-coloured cocktail called A Little Bit Country that’s a whole lot of fun with layers of bourbon, rockmelon syrup, mint, lemon juice and bitters. At the other end of the spectrum entirely is the Heads or Tails, made with tequila, cucumber, dry vermouth and quinquina: fresh as a herb garden and as bitter as a relative left off a will.

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Circular Quay
8

Ramblin' Rascal Tavern

Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern has all the trappings of a dive bar. You’ve got the pin-ups behind the bar along with wrestling championship belts, hats, a flamingo and a latex phallus. They keep the lights low, the crunchy corn kernels coming and swampy saloon tunes cranking. And the availability of a shit tinnie for six bucks might confirm everything you think about this underground haunt. But they have a secret superpower, and we’re not talking about the impressive Cognac collection. The overall-clad barstaff are as hospitable as they come, and while they’re singing along to a song about Jack Daniel’s, they’re also whipping up exciting drinks with a side of bar chat that can’t be beat.

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Sydney
7

Shady Pines Saloon

It’s the venue that started Sydney’s small bar wave and even after many subsequent venues from the Swillhouse Group that have proven just as ludicrously popular, Shady Pines is still delivering one of the best drinking experiences in town. Just off Crown Street, behind a slightly hidden door, is a cowboy saloon that begs you to order a nip of Tennessee, stat. Vintage rock and bluegrass get people dancing in one corner, and a juicer (for fresh apple whiskeys) hums through the night. They make great cocktails and are happy to guide you through the huge list of beers here. 

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Darlinghurst
6

The Bearded Tit

One of the friendliest venues in Sydney is devoted to keeping things weird in the best possible way – we’re talking dressed-up taxidermy, boob collages and cabaret. It’s all done in the spirit of community, not exclusion, so even if you don’t dig modern art you’ll still love the chilled vibes and drinks this place slings merrily over the counter. They make a Bloody Mary so hot it’ll light a fire in your belly, and a short, sharp Martinez to put a strong brace along the spine of your evening. Or just neck rounds of Margaritas, because they are delicious and you can. 

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Redfern
5

PS40

The city got a gift in the form of this cocktail and soda bar, which could be the most teetotaller-friendly licensed venue of all time. One corner of the room is devoted to their soda production and behind the bar they’ve got those sodas on tap, chilled and ready to go if you need a thirst quencher. But the other arm of the PS40 business is all about quality booze times. With the cocktail credentials behind the bar care of owners Thor Berqvist and Michael Chiem, this is a drinks list that deserves your full attention.

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Sydney
4

Earl's Juke Joint

A mark of an excellent bar is how many off-duty hospo people frequent it, and on any given night you’re bound to be knocking elbows with bartenders, floorstaff and chefs at this long, dark, timber-lined bar that’s a little bit New Orleans Voodoo, by way of the Delta blues in Newtown. They come for the Fernet Con Coca on tap, a bracingly bittersweet mix of Fernet Branca, Coke and lemon juice that’ll strip away the day’s woes in one easy glass. If you want something that’s more yacht club than Caribbean cabana, order a summer party mix of American whiskey, curaçao, falernum and lime. Or just order a classic – the team here have a whole lot of delicious tricks up their sleeves for the asking. 

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Newtown
3

The Baxter Inn

Forget going bush when you want to cut yourself off from the outside world: head to the CBD’s beloved whisky bar that’s hidden so deep in the foundations of the city that no mobile reception can reach you. This way no one can interupt you when you’re sipping on a nip of Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine, an Islay whisky that stopped peating its distillates in 1963 and tastes like the seashore, with that gentle spike of salt on your tongue. Gathered here are some of the best bartenders in the city and as spectacularly expansive as their whisky collection is, they also know what to do with a Toby tin, so order up cocktail if you know what's good for you.

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Sydney
2

Continental Deli Bar Bistro

If you were going to spend the rest of your life at one bar you’d need it to be the complete package. We’re talking amazing drinks, great service and cheese enough to kill a man. An ace steak wouldn’t hurt and if they could also have an impressive canned goods store that would last you through an apocalypse, that’d cap it off. In short, at Continental you’re looking at your future life partner, in bar form. And we’re sure that you and this deli-bar-bistro are going to be very happy together. How could you not? It’s got Michael Nicolian running the bar, which means there are only delicious things going into the glasses. Or cans.

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Newtown
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This Must Be the Place

When the small bars came to Sydney we suddenly got a whole new range of drinking speeds to explore. We could linger over Italian wines, taste our way through hard-to-pronounce whisky collections and indulge in an early arvo aperitif that didn’t snowball into a bender. The quality of the drinks and the skill of the bartenders encouraged us to taste more but drink less, and soon we had an influx of skin-contact whites, bitter amaros and lower alcohol options like the Spritz. And nowhere has the Spritz been as enthusiastically embraced than at This Must Be the Place, Charlie Ainsbury and Luke Ashton’s light and breezy cocktail bar on Oxford Street.

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Darlinghurst
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