Sydney

The Best Bars To Grab A Drink In Sydney Right Now

Did someone say happy hour?

Less than a decade ago, Sydney’s bar scene was sorely lacking the hidden haunts that other cities like New York are known for. Now, thanks to a boom in the booze industrySydney is filled with underground whisky clubs, decadent 1920s themed bars and the classy joints you would take your mum to. The best part of Sydney’s bar scene, however, is the people behind the bar, serving, mixing, and shaking the drinks. They’re always up for a chat or have wild anecdotes to share. For the best company and the best concoctions, here are Sydney’s best bars. 

Bartenders pouring cocktail
Photo Courtesy of Maybe Sammy

Maybe Sammy

The Rocks
The Rat Pack era influence at Maybe Sammy continues to waft out a cocktail list paying tribute to Sammy Davis Junior’s 1977 performance at the Sydney Opera House. So, if you’re wondering what effect porcini mushroom distillate perfume will have on your cocktail quaffing, whether red bell pepper juice and palo santo are both necessary in a twist on a margarita or if mini cocktails can get any more fun (they can), then a visit to this bar should be on top of your list. It is also the first Australian bar to crack the World’s 50 Best Bars list. 

Bar 83 at Sydney Tower

CBD
Sitting 83 floors above street level is a futuristic retro bar, clad in red and white circular lounges, striking mirrors, gold lights, and floor-to-ceiling windows with commanding city views. This bar looks like it was pulled from an episode of The Jetsons, and the cocktails are bolder than the interior. Expect concoctions from award-winning bartender Jenna Hemsworth—a Hubert alum—and classic bar bites from fried buttermilk chicken ribs to ocean trout tartare. 

Bar and chairs
Photo Courtesy of Sella Vinoteca

Sella Vinoteca

Randwick
So, this isn’t your typical bar, but it does have over 350 bottles of international wine and a Mediterranean vibe to make you forget how far away Italy is. The light-filled Bistro in Randwick only popped up late last year and is being praised for its fresh perspective. While the wines are the main event, the food is definitely worth a try, especially as a pair to a glass of wine. What sets this bar apart is the bottle shop concept, meaning you can take home the blend you had with your meal. 

Opera Bar

Circular Quay
No best bar list is complete without at least mentioning Opera Bar—Sydney’s most iconic bar (nay Australia’s). The bar sits under the Opera House and has direct views of the Harbour Bridge which makes it a tourist must-do, although, during summer, the bar is packed with locals. The cocktail list is extensive with everything from spritzes to the Spring Sangria, which is made for sharing. The wine list shows off Australia’s top bottles and has a special spot for local producers. 

Mary’s Underground

CBD
Mary’s Underground is a classic late-night, let your hair down go-to Sydney bar. With locations in Newtown and Circular Quay, it’s quite easy to wound up munching on a burger and telling your life story to a bartender here—which is what the brand is all about. Enjoy the live bands, slam shots, or sip on wines and cocktails with friends. Mary’s Underground is the kind of place you go to welcome disruption. 

Cocktails on table
Photo Courtesy of Archie Rose

Archie Rose Distilling Co

Roseberry
In 2014, Archie Rose Distilling Co introduced a distillery to Sydney, which hadn’t had one since the 1850s. Today, it’s an operating distillery and a bar, where many Sydneysiders love to get an Archie Rose fix. As you can imagine, the menu is full of the brand’s signature serves including Archie Roses’ gin and tonic. The bar itself has an industrial vibe, with copper, wood, steel, and concrete creating a striking space to savour the spirits. Tours and masterclasses take place at the nearby distillery. 

Scotch egg and whisky flight
Photo Courtesy of The Duke of Clarence

The Duke of Clarence

CBD
Stumble down a dark alleyway to find this 18th-century inspired London tavern, The Duke of Clarence. Fun fact, the old books lining the shelves and most of the furnishings are from film sets. Their drinks are serious and come with a side of a chat. You can’t go past the Irish coffee, but also the spritz and Vauxhall garden cocktails are thirst quenchers. If you’re there for a drink, don’t be surprised if the food menu sucks you in. Think scotch eggs, fish and chips, pies, and roast Sundays. 

bar interior
Photo Courtesy Of The Swinging Cat

The Swinging Cat

CBD
This small underground bar channels the culture, soul, and magic of New Orleans with gas-lit street lamps and a velvet-lined entry. The drinks are inspired by famous drinkers from Hemingway to Buddy Bolden. The Sezerac is a signature tipple and done in two ways: the traditional five parts cognac to one part absinthe, or the new angle, which will leave you to find out. Other standouts include the Hurricane, The Smoked Honey, and the New Orleans native, Vieux Carre. The price range is reasonable, at just under $20 a cocktail. 

People toasting with wine
Photo Courtesy of Babylon

Babylon

Pitt Street Mall
For a summer rooftop vibe, you can’t go past Babylon, which also happens to be one of Sydney’s largest outdoor rooftop terraces. Here, you’ll find a Levantine-inspired venue, with a restaurant, bar, and private dining space, but the bar is the place to be. The cocktail list takes its cues from flavours and spices of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, plus there’s a whisky list (250+) and more than 400 bottles of international and Australian spirits. The 300 bottles strong wine list is a mix of old and new world wines. It’s an educational experience, but one followed by good times. 

bar stools and counter
Photo by Anson Smart

Four Pillars Lab

Surry Hills
Iconic gin brand, Four Pillars opened a lab steps away from its gin shop and distillery in Surry Hills. The destination cocktail bar is accessed via a discreet door that opens to a slightly dim-lit room, with a juniper blue 20-stool concrete bar taking centre stage. The moody vibe goes hand in hand with such a classy spirit such as gin. The menu showcases the entire range with classics such as a G&T or gin fizz and some inventive concoctions. During summer you can pick up a paddle for $16, which includes a flight of gin, and a bottle of quality tonic. 

Underground bar
Photo Courtesy of Palmer and Co

Palmer and Co

CBD
Every city has a handful of good prohibition bars. Our city goes to Palmer & Co,  an underground bar celebrating the time booze was banned, yet free-flowing behind closed doors. While it checks all the boxes of a secret bar, exposed brick walls, intimate golden lighting and heavy timber surfaces—it’s the menu that sets this bar apart. The Signatures are always a good choice as are the classic and modern classic options, but it’s the lost and forgotten section most can’t get past. The Lucien Gaudin with Beefeater gin and Stone Fence with Chivas Regal XV is the type of drinks you want to find but don’t know where to look. 

Bar surounded by plants
Photo Courtesy of Old Mate’s Place

Old Mate’s Place

CBD
This bar is certainly one-of-a-kind. Firstly, it’s set within a run-down office building, secondly, it’s hard to find and once you do find it, four flights of narrow stairs await. Although, once you get to the top there is always a drink waiting for you. The menu is ever-changing, but right now you can get a Bakers Dozen, which is butterfat washed whiskey, roasted walnut, and croissants with bitters, garnished with a housemade mini croissant. 

Bar counter and bottles
Photo by Nikki To

Bar Totti’s

CBD
In early 2019, Bondi met Totti’s, a casual Italian eatery from the Merivale hospitality giant. Its success was instant, which led to the opening of Bar Totti’s—its boozy sister. You can expect the same great Italian-retro dishes but with a seasonal cocktail list and plenty of wine options. Sip on summer favourites including a negroni or one of the many refreshing spritzes on offer. The bar is open until 2 am most nights and sometimes there’s a live DJ entertaining, which makes it more than just an after-work drink destination. 

wine glass
Photo By Nikki To

Fabbrica

CBD
Fabbrica is a lot of things: a pasta shop, a deli, a panini joint, and a wine shop. This isn’t surprising given Fabbrica translates to ‘the factory’ in Italian. Everything here is either made on-premise or imported, including the 70 odd wines from Italy on the menu. Here, diners love to sip on a glass of Italian red with an antipasti spread close by while they watch chefs breaking down whole lambs, rolling pasta, and pumping out espresso. 

Three Bottle Man

CBD
Here, everything comes in threes: three vodkas, gins, rums, and more. This is an ode to the origin of its name which stems from 18th Century British Prime Minister, William Pitt, who apparently carried three bottles of different liquors with him. They exclusively stock Australian products, from wine to cheese, but it’s hard to tell what will be on the menu, given it’s always changing. In the early hours of the morning, bleary-eyed workers line up for coffee and small bites but at knock-off time, the bar is full of workers, looking to unload with a glass of wine. Did we mention the bar is in a laneway?

bar storefront
Photo By Nikki To

Cantina OK

CBD
Tequila lovers, assemble. Cantina OK is a micro mezcal mecca hidden in a back alley on Clarence St, but is easy to see from the street. The pink brick wall stands out, but it’s the crowd that truly gives the location away. The tiny bar is the kind of place you would find in Mexico: unassuming with quality spirits. Here, shelves are stocked with imported handmade agave spirits, which are used to make their world-famous margaritas with shaved ice and hand-pressed limes. If you don’t know much about mezcal, the bearded bartenders have recommendations. 

Bartender with cocktail
Photo by Nikki To

Little Felix

CBD
Little Felix takes you back to 1920s Paris where you were likely to run into Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald sipping on champagne in crystal coupes. Tucked alongside its predecessor Felix Restaurant, this moody bar has a cocktail list inspired by 20th Century Parisian hotels, using mainly top-shelf spirits and classic French flavours. The food menu is also heavily French, with a range of cheeses, hors d’ oeuvres, and charcuterie to pair with any beverage. 

KittyHawk

CBD
This high-volume cocktail bar pays homage to the liberation of Paris in 1944. You will see military paraphernalia around the space, including a picture of KittyHawk, a military aircraft from which the bar got its name. As for the drinks, rum and rye take command at the bar, which has a 16-drink cocktail list. If cocktails aren’t your forte, the wine list–30 reds and 30 whites–features drops from Australian producers to French finds. There is also a menu of Parisian street food to soak up the alcohol. 

The Roosevelt

Potts Point
In 1943, The Roosevelt was frequented by American soldiers taking out their Australian girlfriends and in 1947 it was a nightclub that earned Abe Saffron the title “The King of The Cross.” Here the glamour of New York and Vegas thrived during a time where booze was prohibited. Nonetheless, they got creative. It shut down in 1951 after the Royal Commission discovered it was serving alcohol, but opened up again in 2012 and has since been slinging an extensive cocktail menu to locals in Potts Point and visitors from all around.

Sydney

Seven New Restaurants And Bars Coming To Sydney In 2021

A no-waste bar, world-famous female chef, and Kylie Kwong are just a taste of what’s to come

mini cocktails
Photo Courtesy Of Maybe Sammy

Despite last year’s best efforts, Sydney’s hospitality scene continues to thrive—as do Sydneysiders. We mourned the casualties of lockdown and while we hoped for new beginnings this year, it hasn’t turned out quite as we expected. Nevertheless, we march on and this list of new restaurants and bars opening is the bright light we inch toward as we approach to exit this tunnel someday. 

So, what’s on the horizon for Sydney’s dining scene? Kylie Kwong is set to launch her latest concept, everyone’s favourite 50’s bartenders will don a new suit at a new establishment,  Neil Perry ventures to Double Bay for a restaurant that is all his own, and a zero-waste bar is to make its debut soon. 

This is just the beginning. We hope to see many more exciting venues opening over the year. For now, here are the city’s most anticipated openings for 2021. 

Kylie Kwong at South Eveleigh

Kylie Kwong is no stranger to Sydney with the better part of two decades on the dining scene. Her Potts Point establishment, Billy Kwong was a favourite but when it closed in 2019, people have been waiting for the powerhouse chefs next steps. We’re happy to tell you, she is coming back on the scene with her biggest project yet, South Eveleigh. Formerly known as Australian Technology Park, South Eveleigh is an emerging dining destination of which Kwong is the ambassador. Expect a relaxed daytime venue featuring local indigenous produce with her signature Cantonese culinary style. It’s a world away from Billy Kwong, but it is set to bring new meaning to the word ‘casual eatery’. She will also focus on sustainability, with the South Eveleigh Native Rooftop Garden and seafood from Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery. 

Core at Crown Sydney

English Chef, Clare Smyth, is the first and only female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin stars, Core in Notting Hill. She even catered for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s private wedding reception. It seems fitting to bring her talent’s to Sydney’s new rising star, Crown Sydney. In February, Smyth plans to introduce another Core to the tower, which focuses on local produce, and sustainability. The wines will be local as are the ingredients. This isn’t Smyth’s first introduction to Australia. She’s travelled around the country, which inspired the menu, offering the best Australia has to offer. 

Sammy Junior

It’s almost here, our favourite Ratpack bartenders are opening Sammy Junior, a suave cafe on the ground level of 66 King Street in the CBD. The espresso coffee bar will be the highlight of the morning trade, offering a bespoke Sammy coffee blend crafted by coffee connoisseur Martin Hudak (2017 World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion and Mr Black Ambassador) alongside a short selection of classic breakfast bites from consultant chef Rob Lechowicz (Blackwood Pantry).In the afternoon, the focus will be mini cocktails which will be on tap alongside a beer and a few wines. The cheeky small doses of cocktails will be best enjoyed alongside an afternoon business meeting or as an after-work tipple but don’t expect to settle in for the night. Sammy Junior will shut from about 6 pm so head down to Maybe Sammy in The Rocks to continue the evening. Architect George Livissianis (Chin Chin Sydney, The Apollo, Cho Cho San, The Dolphin Hotel) will bring to life the interiors. Expect some visual similarities to Maybe Sammy.

Neil Perry in Double Bay

A household name, Neil perry is opening is first solo project mid-year after a 40-year career. Don’t expect to draw similarities to Rock Pool, this restaurant in Double Bay is all his own. The 170-seat venue will focus on plant-based dishes and salads during the day, with a selection of grilled options. Expect an approachable restaurant, with interiors by ACME (Mimi’s, the Grounds) and designer David Caon. The unnamed restaurant is highly anticipated with locals and diners who have followed Perry throughout his career. The new venue is Perry’s way of breathing life back into Double Bay, an area he spent many years dining in. 

Aria Wine Bar

Aria is a Sydney institution, serving fine dining to locals and visitors for several years. This year it’s transforming part of the restaurant into a relaxed wine bar. Yes, it will be serving food, so if you don’t want to splash out on the full menu, you can head to the bar for wine and snacks. The wine list will be the highlight, which includes over 80 wines by the glass and 1700 bottles. Anna Solomon (co-owner and Solotel’s creative director), Matt Moran, Joel Bickford (Aria head chef), and Alex Kirkwood (head sommelier) are the creative minds behind the fresh, laid back experience. The bar will celebrate the pillars of Aria’s 20-year success, at the same time offering locals a new side of Aria. One of which doesn’t require a reservation to enjoy cocktails, and snacks from Bickford.

Re

Re is perhaps the most exciting addition to our diverse restaurant and bar landscape. The boundary-pushing bar will be the world’s first permanent no-waste bar opening up an entirely new category, one we can get behind. Matt Whiley of Scout and Maurice Terzini from Icebergs and CicciaBella are the masterminds behind this new concept swinging its doors open sometime in February. The bar puts sustainability at the forefront, which includes the interior. Set in a heritage list- 19th Century railway engineering workshop the fit-out is comprised of recycled and repurposed building materials. The bar and tabletops are designed from recycled plastic bottles and Tupperware containers. Food that would otherwise go to waste will be given new life in cocktails, with spirit-heavy options. There is to be a food menu from Chefs Alex Prichard (Icebergs) and Nic Wong (Cicciabella). 

Ploos

There’s a new Greek restaurant coming to town from Greek-Australian Chef, Peter Conistis. Ploos, will find it’s home in Campbell’s Stores, the dining precinct in Circular Quay. Conistis is known for his restaurants, Alpha, Omega, and Cosmos, so Ploos is rumoured to be a fresh venue. Expect South Mediterranian dishes you would find in Crete or Cypriot, an oversized eat-at-bar, and harbour views. Ploos is slated to open in March 2021.

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