We're not necessarily talking mega liquor barns here, but rather the places you go when you're after somethign special or specific. The local outlets that stock bracing rosés, hard-to-find whiskies, natural wines and or just some longies at a good price. This are the places you should visit before heading round to a friend's dinner party, or when you get to the restaurant and see the welcome sight of a BYO sign on the door. Buying booze can be a lot of fun, and these shops are where we like to do it.
Best bottle shops in Sydney
This inner city off-license is one of Australia’s oldest bottle shops, and a very serious one at that. They have a decent selection of craft beers in the fridge and an enormous (658 to be exact) range around the back - if you can’t find the craft beer you are looking for here then you your hipster levels have hit critical mass. They have a huge selection of Australian and international organic wines and their spirit selection is next level. This is where you go for a fancy gift of rare, local, vintage or hard-to-find whiskies.
This North Shore cavern of beer bliss sells weird and wonderful brews from all over the world, as well as boutique brews produced right here in Oz. With over 300 different beers stocked in-store and over 1,000 available online, there is no shortage of options at hand. Go for the growler of the beer du jour: a half gallon (1.89 litre) glass container filled to the brim for around the $25 mark. If you’re looking for something a tad smaller, get a squealer (945 ml) for around $15 instead.
They're not trying to trick you with the name – the World of Whisky is a beautifully curated retail whisky store in a shopping arcade in Double Bay. At a minimum you're looking at spending $100 on a bottle here, but if you have cash to blow you could drop up to $5,500 on a 40-year-old Glenfiddich. They have some very impressive Japanese whiskies too. WoW hold tastings on Thursdays and Sundays, however you'll need to book a couple of months in advance as they are very popular.
The Bellamy Brothers are 4th generation independent liquor merchants each with a distinct eye for fine fares: Tony for wine and Adam for beer. Few liquor outlets in Sydney can boast such an interesting selection of American craft beers and whiskeys. Nor can they boast such an up-front, reveal-all blog about their wares and the bottle shop industry in general.
Just when you thought the Henson couldn't get any more delightful, they go and open a sweet little deli and bottle shop right in the heart of Marrickville's most family-friendly pub. Grocery and Grog is in the little antechamber nest to the public bar and you may want to triple wrap your wallet in duct tape before venturing in for a stickybeak. There is fresh local produce, ice cream sanwiches, a small goods fridge housing cheeses, cured meats, dips, preserves, pickles and milk, and the opposite counter is where they store the boutique sherry, vermouth, locally distilled gins, liqueurs and Pana chocolates. But right up the back is where the serious fun begins. There's one whole wall dedicated to craft brews, and another to local, biodynamic, organic and low intervention wines.
You'll find a bottleshop attached to every other pub or supermarket in this city and they are fine for a grab-and-go. But when you want something special, and maybe even sustainable, the Drink Hive should be on the top of your list. It's the first bottle shop in Sydney to introduce refillable beer and wine stations. Booze industry pros Mal Higgs and Gregoire Bertaud works directly with local craft brewers and winemakers to offer up artisan wines that you can bring back to refill and you'll also find a range of hand-selected boutique brands on the shelves and in the fridges.
This charming bottle shop is the toast of Oxford Street, with the best selection of wines and spirits on the strip as well as a cabinet full of high end and can’t-buy-em-anywhere spirits. It has a solid beer range mainly focusing on European lagers with a handful of crafts, but the real champions here are the spirits and the wines. Not sure what you want? The staff are super friendly, helpful and really know their stuff. These are the type of legends that will rush you through the register at 9.55pm with a bottle of wine that you won’t regret the next morning.
Camperdown Cellars has expanded to six separate locations but their home turf on Parramatta Road is still our favourite. They've got a huge range of wines and a solid craft beer and whiskey selection – Inner Westies are lucky to have this as their local. The staff are friendly and will happily help you navigate your way around. There is also a convenience/grocery store attached for anything that you forgot in the weekly shop or just some emergency cheese and biccies.
It’s very easy to get distracted in Amato’s. For people in the know, this bottle shop at the North end of Norton Street in Leichhardt is an oenophiles dream, and as long as you aren’t too keen on fruits and vegetables, it might be the only shop you ever need to go into. Not only does it have a huge wine collection, including whole shelves dedicated to imported drops from France, Spain, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Portugal, and Italy, but their range for every style of wine you’ve heard of (and many you haven’t) is very impressive. They’ve even got a shelf just for organic, low alcohol and preservative free wines for particular palates.
This tiny boutique in Glebe is a cider-lover’s dream, stocking exclusively independent ciders, alcoholic ginger beers, hard lemonades and tinnies. This shop is like going down the rabbit hole and into a wonderland of all things fizzy and fruity. Their ciders range from the brands you know and love to single varietal ciders and strong farmhouse scrumpys, and when it cmoes to beer, if it's not in a tin, they don't stock it.
Got the wine already?
Sometimes you want to bring something a bit special to drink with dinner. And sometimes you want to booze, but just don't have any coin to spare, so require the welcome relief of a cheap date. Here are Time Out's picks of the hottest restaurants in Sydney that let you bring your own, no matter your budget.
Prefer to drink out?
Not only is the Inner West home to many of the eccentric, creative and proudly rainbow tribes of Sydney, it's also where you'll find some of the best small bar action. Tiny little haunts slinging great drinks and keeping the vibes lively and local. If you don't have one already, your home-away-from-home is probably on this list.