It’s been an eventful six months for Sydney’s bar scene, with a number of new drinkeries opening their doors and winning over the hearts of Sydneysiders (this heart included).
Here’s some of my new favourite booze peddlers to pop up in the Sydney city mile:
The Doss House
Tucked into the sandstone depths of The Rocks, The Doss House oozes with character. In the heritage-listed building’s 170-year history, it’s housed a bootmaker, boarding house, opium dealer – and now whisky bar. The underground space is made up of five cosy nooks, including an outdoor terrace.
Behind the bar, you’ll find a world of whisky, with this drinking den slinging some peaty Scotch, rare Japanese whiskies and locally-made brown liquid, as well as a selection of cocktails, wines and beer, and one of the better cheese platters I’ve had in Sydney.
The Doss House | 77–79 George Street, The Rocks, New South Wales
It’s one of New York City’s best cocktail bars, and an outpost has made its way to our fine shores. The neon psychic sign is the only clue you’ve found this prohibition-style speakeasy tucked off Martin Place. And the sign is no decoy – the psychic is real. No sooner have you entered this dimly-lit, moody basement bar, you spot the lady shuffling her tarot cards.
To drink, choose from a carefully curated menu, and you can be quite certain the dapper bartenders take the art of the cocktail very serious. The dinner menu is also not just for show.
Now excuse me while I go get my fortune read.
Employees Only | 9a Barrack Street, Sydney, New South Wales
Old Mate’s Place
Because Sydney doesn’t have enough speakeasies, we’ve been gifted another. In true prohibition style, this hard-to-find bar requires some orienteering skills to uncover. After navigating a boring office building foyer, grab the lift to level four. Then on the other side of a nondescript door is an adorable alcoholic wonderland.
Split over two levels, downstairs you drink your poison of choice in an ornate, candlelit, leafy library. But head up the stairs and you’ll find a rooftop bar that offers some pretty jaw-smackingly good views of the city skyline. There’s also a small food menu of snacky things like cheese, charcuterie and cheese steaks.
There’s a lot to like about the place owned by old mate.
Old Mate’s Place | Level 4, 199 Clarence Street, Sydney, New South Wales
It’s the size of a bath, with only a handful of seats, but what Bar Topa lacks in size it makes up for in charm. Part of The Ivy Precinct, this tapas and pintxos bar draws on all the right cues from Spain, with a no-fuss small plate menu and pint-sized drinks list of Spanish wines.
Bar Topa is where you go for a snack and sip. Grab some jamon and olives from the counter display, order some croquettes and patatas bravas, and wash it back with a vino rosado. All awfully-good – and being part of the Merivale stable what else can you expect.
Bar Topa | 4 Palings Lane, Sydney, New South Wales
Oozing in opulence, the Observatory Bar is right at home tucked into the ground floor of the five-star The Langham Sydney. Yep, this bar is LUXE, with plush upholstered couches, elegant tub chairs, back-lit drinks cabinets and bar trolleys setting the scene.
With the Sydney Observatory just up the hill, it’s only fitting the Observatory Bar shoots for the stars. And the stargazing theme continues throughout a cocktail menu that’s imaginative, unique and quite the magical adventure. The Neap Tide, for example, is a cocktail of wattleseed gin, finger lime, paperbark smoke and sea asparagus, topped with a Sydney Rock Oyster. Expect a lot of native Australian ingredients, as well as plenty of cocktail theatre. While the bar snacks menu also hits all the right high notes.
And the bar might be luxurious, but it’s not pretentious. So if you’re looking for a superior cocktail experience in a place you can actually have a conversation, the Observatory Bar is a star.
Observatory Bar | 89–113 Kent Street, Sydney, New South Wales
One minute, you’re on Harrington Street in The Rocks. Nek minute, you’re in a 1950s Las Vegas-style cocktail bar. From the folks behind the Surry Hills’ pizzeria Maybe Frank, Maybe Sammy is sophisticated, glamorous, fancy and full of flamingos. Named after Sammy Davis Jr, this high-end drinkery is also decked out with a marble bar flanked by bar stools, booths clad in pink velour and lots of gold.
The novella-size drinks menu kicks off with eight signature cocktails. Try the Silver Slipper, a concoction of Tanqueray gin, Oscar 697 Bianco vermouth, Chartreuse, verjuice and clarified lemon cordial. Or get trousered with the Horseshoe, a cocktail of Hennessy VSOP cognac, Mr Black amaro, Noilly Prat vermouth, cacao and almonds.
Maybe Sammy | 115 Harrington Street, The Rocks, New South Wales
Further reading: This post offers a solid analysis of Sydney’s best bars.