I have a saying: January is the best month. I’m not talking about January just anywhere, but January in Sydney. The weather is spectacular, the days are long, work isn’t yet crazy busy and swimming can be a daily habit. Here are the places and things I’ll be checking out during the best month of the year. You can follow me here.

Order a cocktail that comes with an inflated bag
“A what?” you say. At the hottest bar in Sydney right now, Maybe Sammy, the New Frontier cocktail (Calle 23 Blanco Tequila, Derrumbes mezcal, fino sherry and apple) is served alongside a clear inflated bag that’s popped when your drink arrives to release a whiff of coffee essence and – wait for it – a scratchy. That bad boy could win you a free bar snack.

But it’s not all theatrics at the new place by the guys behind the Maybe Frank pizza joints (Surry Hills; Randwick). They’ve always been known for a strong cocktail game thanks to the group’s creative director, Andrea Gualdi, who took out the 2017 Australian Bartender Of The Year award at the respected Diageo Reserve World Class Competition.

Like Maybe Frank, the inspiration for this place is the Rat Pack and 1950s Las Vegas read more about that here). There’s a rotating tasting menu of $10 classic cocktails called the Rat Pack served in smaller-than-usual glasses. I’m partial to a Martini so my pick is the Mini Martini (my preference: gin, with olive), but at the moment there’s also The Sammy (Never Never gin, mint, sweet and dry vermouth) and The Dean (Plantation five-year rum, Calvados, Swedish punch).

Super-cheap drinks
If you’re feeling skint after the holidays, Darlinghurst’s Black Bottle is pouring $2 glasses of wine each Thursday from 5pm until sold out. Pair it with a pintxos (a bite-sized snack originating in northern Spain) for an extra two bucks. Details here.

Swim it up
One of this city’s superpowers is that it’s girt by so much sea. There are stacks of spots to suggest – Bronte pool, Bronte Bogey Hole, Camp Cove, Andrew “Boy” Charlton pool, Cobblers Beach (if you like nuding-it-up), Shelly Beach – the list goes on. But if you’re looking for a spot that’s more under-the-radar, head to Mahon Pool, at the northern end of Maroubra Beach, in Jack Vanny Reserve (10 kilometres south-east of the city). It sometimes gets smashed by the waves, but mostly it’s a delicious spot to float around in and cool off.

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Free stuff
For those organised people who bought Sydney Festival tickets, nice work. For everyone else, here are some some events you can still go to – all free.

You can follow this 7.8-kilometre cycle path through the city and stop at the festival’s intergalactic-themed installations and other venues. At Darling Harbour there are five huge water-filled “moon drops” made for bouncing, and at World Square you can ride the “flying bike” Lunar Velocipede installation and help cycle the 384,400 kilometres it takes to get to our nearest planetary neighbour, the moon.

As well as clocking up the kilometres on the winged, pedal-powered rickshaws here, people can donate the kilometres they cycle on their own bikes, or those accumulated at a spin class. Participants must register to log their kilometres, and there are prizes.

Another Sydney Festival event is the fire vigil held from dusk on January 25 – the day before Australia Day – at Barangaroo Reserve (it will run overnight). There will be musical performances and stories of Country from current and future community Elders and the night will be a time to reflect on the impact of colonisation in Australia.

One of Sydney’s most famous cold cases is at the centre of Sydney-based artist Zanny Begg’s The Beehive. This 33-minute video weaves fiction and documentary to explore the mystery behind the 1975 disappearance of journalist and anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen, who fought against the violent eviction of tenants on Victoria Street, Kings Cross. The cool part is Begg worked with a mathematician to create an algorithm that reorders the video with each viewing, meaning it morphs and offers up thousands of potential scenarios. It’s at the UNSW Galleries until February 23.

Want more art? Check out our summer wrap.

Have a long lunch
January is made for it, and the Italian trattoria Totti’s in the back of Bondi dive pub The Royal is a damn-fine spot to do it.

Take a seat in the courtyard under the shade of two 50-year-old olive trees and order the cooked-to-order bread. It’s fermented for 48 hours and then slid into the woodfire oven for two minutes where it puffs up like a spiny porcupine fish and evolves into deliciousness. Get it and a bunch of sides – may I suggest the melon and the house-made burrata and ’nduja – and make tasty bite-sized sandwiches. Follow with all of the pastas.

For more suggestions, check out the latest Broadsheet 24 Hours in Sydney Guide.