Stefano Cantino, Stefano Filardi and Jane Strode at Dean and Nancy on 22
Photograph: Daniel Boud(L-R) Stefano Cantino, Stefano Filardi and Jane Strode

Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022: Best Cocktail Bar

Here is the winner for Best Cocktail Bar in the Time Out Sydney Food & Drink Awards 2022

By Time Out in partnership with Tyro
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Our respect goes to anyone who opens a cocktail bar in Sydney: you’re playing with the big kids now. We can be smug indeed about the breadth and depth of our cocktail bar scene, which has won more international gongs than Cate Blanchett and boasts something to satisfy every whim. Do you enjoy chugging your tipple of choice from bespoke glassware? Do you love nothing more than a grandiose tropical cocktail thanks to that P&O cruise you took back in the '70s? Are you hankering for a bit of theatrical showmanship when the bartender grabs the shaker? Sydney's bar scene has your back.

But the times, they are a-changin' too. We’ve finally come to grips with the fact that single-serve pre-batched cocktails aren’t the work of the devil and can in fact improve customer service. We’re seeing bartenders engage in an arms race as they hunt down rare, artisan spirits crafted for specific mixes, and more than a few are making their own spirits for truly unique drinking experiences.

It’s all terribly exciting but the good news is, you don’t have to be a card-carrying cocktail tragic to enjoy Time Out’s Best Cocktail Bar shortlist. Simply order your next mixed, mingled, shaken or stirred beverage safe in the knowledge these bars have done the thinking so you can enjoy the drinking.

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And the winner is...

  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

It’s 22 storeys above Sydney. It’s Vegas. It’s Mafia-chic. It’s the Rat Pack and Mad Men and Frank Sinatra. But, somewhat astonishingly, it’s not a cliché. This is largely thanks to the tongue-in-cheek charisma that underpins the vision for this bar, reminding you that, for all its luxe finery, it doesn't take itself too seriously. Far from being the sole haunt of the New York elites of yesteryear, everyone is welcome to have a good time here. The ultimate charm of Dean & Nancy comes from the total suspension of reality. Few and far between are venues where you’ll be met by a siren's song, a double bass and a baby grand piano, the musicians dressed to the nines in full golden age garb. This place is special and Very Grown Up, which is why we love it.

We also love...

  • Cocktail bars
  • Circular Quay

In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney’s CBD you’ll find a Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don’t let that put you off. For those of us who have been lying about having seen The Godfather their whole lives, good news. Every page of the drinks menu will run you through the storyline (spoilers lie within, but it’s literally been 50 years) so you can impress your date with cinematic knowledge while sipping away. Dimly lit and dramatic as the movie itself, Apollonia is, by sheer geography alone, a triumph. Carved into the sandstone bedrock of Customs House.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Paddington
  • price 2 of 4

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 Merivale's chic country restaurant Fred’s, they send their bartenders out to the park to collect those same botanicals, which they then distill into a vodka used in their Centennial Park cocktail. Charlie Parker’s is a snug, dark warren of comfy nooks for wooing, with a big imposing bar to sit at if you like some bartender chat with your drinks.

  • Newtown
  • price 2 of 4

Bartending is in many ways the study of party alchemy – mixing drinks to lift you up, cool you out and caress your soul if it’s in need of a little TLC. A well-made Singapore Sling can send your tongue on an exotic getaway, even if the rest of you has to stay right here and pay the bills; a Daiquiri has the power to convince your hips you’ve got the rhythm in you; and an Old Pal can be your best friend after a long day in the salt mines. And there’s nowhere we prefer to pull up a stool and bend the elbow in the Inner West than at the long, sturdy, timber bar at Earl’s Juke Joint. The bar team here is one of the best. This is a bar you want to be a regular at.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

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. There’s a whole lot of talent behind the bar here, and they take pride in a job well done, which is why they've picked up a collection of Time Out Awards in recent years. The bottom line? Make tracks to this plantation paradise, stat.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

One hundred and two steps. Rooftop bars are not for the faint of quad. But all that thigh-burning just primes you for the reveal: swing open the door at the top and there you are, in a lushly planted oasis in the Sydney skyline. A smiling bartender hands you a VB throwdown while you flip through the menu. A bowtie is slung around their neck unknotted, Rat Pack-style. It might only be a quarter past six down on street level, but up here, it’s always time to take it easy. Old Mate’s Place: it might just be your 102-step stairway to heaven, Sydney. And hey – you can always take the lift.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

For the team at PS40, waking up in the morning is another opportunity to continue redefining our perception of what a drink can be. In just a few short years, PS40 has managed to leave an indelible stamp on this city’s drinking scene. So much so, in fact, that demand has outweighed supply and forced them to move soda production off-site. That leaves a lot of space for new ideas to take flight on Skittle Lane – and enough room for the previous Time Out Awards it scooped in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

Some things never change, and for that we are grateful. However, sometimes a change is just as good as a holiday. Case in point: the Rover. Toasting goodbye to its wilder days of foot-stomping shenanigans, whisky-centric speakeasy the Wild Rover is now full-grown and pretty darn sexy, reflecting the maturing drinking and dining scene of our town. Summoning the bustling charm of yesteryear and the sophistication of a dapper New York cocktail bar, the Rover has retained its former good-time Irish heritage with an added lick of polish and a chic wine bar feel. The signature welcoming chorus of "Ayeeeeeee!" from the bar staff has stayed (a great touch we would have missed), but the new offering is so much more than the whisky-soaked dive behind a dry cleaners shopfront we used to know.

Who won the People's Choice Awards?

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