In a locale relatively starved of good watering holes, The hardworking boys from the Shady Pines Saloon, Anton Forte and Jason Scott, are onto another winner. Their whiskey-focused bar is smack bang in the middle of the CBD.
In true New York or Boston bar tradition, it is rather difficult to find. Located at in the basement of a building at the back of an unmarked alleyway off Clarence Street, this drinking den – full of character and people – is an unexpected surprise for the first time visitor.
This converted basement utilises the existing arched brick walls and low ceilings to great effect. The walls are covered in black and white prints of boxers and horses, while the lair-like carpet adds warmth and absorbs the sound of frivolity being had, and will no doubt be soaked in liquor very soon.
A dark, linear space, the interior features a bar that runs almost the full 10 metres of its length. It’s perhaps one of the best and most well-stocked and tiered bars we’ve seen for a while. The initially overwhelming list of 156 choices of whiskey can be deciphered by the helpful sommelier. The menu is not, however, limited to whisky. It also includes all of the old favourites (a large beer and wine list too) and The Baxter Inn crew are just as happy to mix up a killer negroni as they are something more bespoke – all you have to do is ask. For those of more discerning tastes, a concealed cellar carries some of Sydney’s finest wines, cognacs and whiskeys and also provides a space for tastings.
The service is friendly and knowledgeable and the atmosphere remains intimate and tightly packed. Although there isn’t currently any food served, like the free peanuts at Shady Pines, complementary pretzels are on offer. It won’t keep the hungry patrons the bar for long though, even if pretzels do make everyone thirsty.