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A bartender at Baxter Inn reaching up towards a large wall stack
Photograph: Daniel Boud

The best whisky bars in Sydney

We know the best places to down the demon drink in Sin City

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait
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Do you like your whiskies to taste like they've been filtered through a bushfire? Then the peaty drams from Islay are for you. Or maybe you like the cleaner, floral flavours of of highland Scotch, followed by something aged in sherry casks for that sweet, fruity flavour. American ryes are hard to resist; Japan makes a world class whisky and Ireland knows a thing or two about firewater. Whatever your poison, if you're drinking whisky, these are the Sydney bars in which to do it.

The Baxter Inn
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

That queue of people rolling out of a dark, nondescript laneway on Clarence Street is for the Baxter Inn – the inner-city whisky basement where the best kind of trouble is on the cards and pretzels are the bar snack of choice.

Clock Hotel
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills

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.

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Eau de Vie
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Darlinghurst

This excellent, hidden cocktail den in Darlinghurst loves whisky so much they have their own club dedicated to the good stuff. It's $75 to join – but you get 20 per cent off the forty bottles they've got behind the bar, and eventually, access to the reserve list.

Grain Bar
  • Bars
  • The Rocks

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.

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Keg and Brew
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills

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.

Marble Bar
  • Bars
  • Sydney

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.

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Parkside Bar
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills

Thanks to the monthly(ish) Dram Club meetings at this Redfern hotel there is a whisk(e)y collection that puts many pubs to shame. A lot of it is rare, out of production or just plain weird so it promises to one tasty game of chance when it comes to picking your drink. 

Ramblin' Rascal Tavern
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

They're no strangers to the dark spirits that fuel fun times and shenanigans in equal measure, and if you're a newcomer they'll guide you towards an appropriate gateway dram to help along your journey.

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Rockpool Bar & Grill
  • Restaurants
  • Sydney

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.

Shady Pines Saloon
  • Bars
  • Darlinghurst

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.

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Shirt Bar
  • Shopping
  • Darling Harbour

This simple operation is the place to live out all those Mad Men fantasies. Come in, get fitted for a shirt or suit and do it with a nip of whisky in hand. In fact, if your finances stretch to liquor but not tailoring, you can pop in for the vibes and a drink without going home with any shopping bags. 

Sokyo Lounge
  • Bars
  • Darling Harbour
  • price 2 of 4

An omakase sushi menu, ludicrously tasty beef robata and elegant cocktails are all good reasons to visit Sokyo, but putting a dent in their Japanese whiskey selection isn't a bad way of blowing some cash, either. 

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Tokyo Bird
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

There's a lot more to the Japanese whiskey trade than Yamazaki 12, and the best way to learn about it is to drink broadly from the impressive collection at this handsome backstreet bar in Surry Hills.

The Wild Rover
  • Bars
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

The Scots get all the attention when it comes to whisky, but we all know the Irish are no strangers to hard liquor. There's amazing boozy fun to be found in this hidden cocktail bar that makes ace whisk(e)y cocktails and hosts monthly tastings, too. 

Swap shots for pints

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