There’s something inherently glamorous about the idea of the hotel bar. It makes you think of ScarJo staring out across Tokyo while Bill Murray sips whisky. Plus we are totally behind the idea of having a bar in the same building as us wherever we go.
But you don’t need to be travelling to take advantage of Sydney’s best hotel bars. Although these hidden gems are sometimes squirrelled away on the upper floors, you’re always welcome to drop in for a drink. Even better news is that these bars also boast some top-tier bartending talent.
But who is the best Hotel Bartender, we hear you ask? The inaugural Time Out Hotel Bars Competition set out to answer that very question. We took submissions from hotel bars across the country in order to find the best in the business. We narrowed it down to a top 10 who impressed us with their creative reimagining of a classic cocktail, and then we got the top three of those drink-slinging dynamos to put their liquor where their mouths are and battle it out in a second round.
Flavio Tripepi of the Hilton’s Zeta Bar and Marble Bar’s Jay Tuncer Tokmak both riffed on a Bloody Mary, as did Alex Clark from QT Sydney, Art Palomata from Blu Bar in the Shangri-La and Andrew Mae from the Bar at the Park Hyatt Sydney. Clearly these are a group of people who know what it takes to make, and break, a hangover. Some added white truffle and peaty whisky to the mix, others used gin and gazpacho to make the classic breakfast cocktail. We had one with bourbon and Russian dressing, one with Mezcal and ‘Big Red’ tomato soup, and one with yellow Chartreuse and pisco.
Jeff Clifford from QT Gold Coast had a fresh take on a Mojito, adding white wine, lemongrass syrup and pineapple juice to this summer classic. Zikra Armeda from Sokyo Lounge gave a Whisky Sour a Japanese twist, while Grain Bar’s Andrew MacLeod took the same drink in a totally different direction by adding beetroot juice and a chocolate chilli reduction.
The Intercontinental’s John Toubia was also inspired by the Cuban classic, the Mojito. He chose to rework it with gin, Campari, raspberry, Ricard, white grapefruit juice and tonic, while QT Canberra’s Jared Thibault made an Old Fashioned new again with tequila, Amaro Montenegro and house-made grenadine.
After the bartenders presented drinks of their own creation, the three finalists Jared Thibault from Lucky’s Speakeasy in Canberra, Alex Clark from Gilt Lounge, and Andrew Mae from the Park Hyatt faced off in a round of classic requests from the three judges, Time Out Sydney’s Bars and Pubs Editor Emily Lloyd-Tait (who ordered up a punchy, boozy drink), Time Out’s Travel Editor James Wilkinson (who asked for a tropical drink) and Tim Philips, the cocktail master who is co-owner of famed Sydney bars, Bulletin Place and Dead Ringer, who requested something tall and refreshing.
But there can only be one champion, and on this day the top gong went to Andrew Mae of the Park Hyatt. His Truffle with Vlad cocktail impressed the socks off the judges, although they were nervous about it on paper, and his confidence and finesse with the classics means you can order with joy when you visit the Bar. Next time you need a stiff drink, you know where to go.
All of the Hotel Bar Cocktail Competition drinks are available to try in the venues from May 12 for five weeks.