The whiskey room at the Clock Hotel is a warm, low-lit enclave shut off from the hubbub of the rest of the hotel by two swinging saloon doors. Once inside, the amber glow of a bar stocked with 100 bottles of the demon drink draws you in like a moth to a highly combustible flame.
HAVING A TASTE for fine Scotch, elegant Japanese whiskies and American drams doesn’t come cheap, unless you’re spending your Monday nights at Grain Bar below the Four Seasons Hotel down at Circular Quay. This elegant cocktail bar certainly knows their audience and the room is pumping with businesspeople finishing out their day with the whisky specials of the night – $30 whisky flights and 20 per cent off the whisky list. You can choose four 15ml pours (they only restrict a tiny portion of the list), or the barkeeps here will guide you through a flavour tour of Speyside, Campbelltown or Islay.
Too much fizz and not enough fire? Cast your eyes to the bourbon cabinet, where all your oaky, vanilla scented dreams come true. Order a nip of the Hochstadter's ‘Slow & Low’ Rock & Rye over ice. The bitter citrus peel and honey in the whiskey makes it taste like a Manhattan straight out of the bottle. They’ll also mix you up an Old Fashioned, a Gold Rush or a real Manhattan for $15.
There are few bars that match the old-fashioned glamour of the Hilton's Marble Bar. The lofty ceilings are best considered from a comfortable couch with a dram of something special in hand. In fact, a flight of three whiskies from the US, Scotland or Australia is only $34, but if money is no object you can blow a lot of it here on whiskies old enough to go to college.
They may be famous for cocktails and one helluva burger, but the whisky list here is a thing of beauty, covering off Scotch in great depth, plus Japanese, Australian, Canadian, Irish and French drams and a heavy contingent of American bourbons, ryes and Tennesee whiskies.
If you prefer American whiskies to the Scottish stuff this is an excellent place to treat yourself to a bourbon extravaganza (they have 153 in the collection), balanced by monkey nuts and fresh apple juice when you need a change of pace.
Swap shots for pints
We're spoiled for choice when it comes to venues serving craft beer in this city, but there's something extra special about drinking a beer in the place it was made, which is why you should make tracks to these excellent local breweries.