The bar-and-restaurant-renaissance at The Rocks is in full swing with the opening of Frank Mac’s, a gin and cocktail bar located in the heritage-listed sandstone building at 83 George Street. Rubbing shoulders with Swillhouse’s 101 George Street, as well as newbies The Keel and Hickson House Distilling Co, Frank Mac’s is located in what is believed to be the longest continually operated row of shops in Australia. But it’s co-owner Ciara Doran’s Irish heritage that inspired the two-storey cocktail bar’s theme.

“Often the bars doubled as the hardware store or the grocery store, so you’d be in there a few times a day,” says Doran, who also co-owns whisky bar The Doss House just a few doors up. “The bar is actually the centre of the community.”

The bar is named after Doran’s great-uncle Frank, a larger-than-life character from her childhood who “was a lot of fun and was very fond of a pint. Everybody knew him in the village. Even though he was a working-class man he dressed really well. He left the house wearing a different hat every day.”

It’s unlikely that the bars of Doran’s childhood had quite the same selection as the one she and business partner Eoin Daniels have pulled together: there are more than 100 gins behind the almost five-metre-long bar. The extensive list is organised by region, with gins from Australia, France, England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Italy and Israel.

“There are some really special ones coming from all around the world. We have some extraordinary gins in our back bar, like the Malfy range, a New Zealand gin called Black Robin and some excellent Dutch gins,” Doran tells Broadsheet.

The bar champions Martinis, and the menu features a Martini guide that operates as a kind of flowchart. “People can choose their gin or vodka and then explore Martinis a little bit more, with our staff to guide them,” says Doran. You can decide which vermouth you want in your Martini, make it dirty with your choice of olive or saline, and even select from a list of garnishes that includes lemon, capers, rosemary and makrut lime leaf.

And while there is a focus on gin, Doran says it would be “against my religion to open a bar and not have Guinness on the menu”. There’s also a made-for-summer version of the Bloody Mary called the Mary Magdalene, for which beverage manager Daniel Strahand has created his own clear Worcestershire sauce.

There is a tight wine list and a small food menu that includes two pies made for Frank Mac’s by Infinity Bakery: a beef and Guinness pie served with stout gravy, and a vegetable pie with a traditional Irish curry sauce. There are meat and cheese boards; smoked mozzarella and basil arancini; and 24-hour gin-cured salmon which is proving to be a scene stealer.

Doran and Daniels worked with architects Buck & Simple (The Doss House, The Rook and The Winery) to create the 120-person capacity bar, with outdoor seating on George Street, two indoor levels and a back courtyard. The downstairs bar is a luxe candle-lit space with velvet armchairs, leather couches and a smattering of vintage artefacts (including a collection of Uncle Frank’s hats).

The Snug, an enclosed booth that looks like a confession box at the end of the bar, references the side rooms where women were forced to sit before they were allowed to drink inside pubs. At Frank Mac’s, The Snug has a custom-built leather banquette arranged around the original sandstone fireplace – it’s “the most sought-after spot”, Doran says. “I love that what started out as something negative can be flipped to something exclusive. I love bringing back old things from history. It’s why I love The Rocks.”

Frank Mac’s
83 George Street, The Rocks
0478 189 837

Hours:
Wed & Thu 3pm–midnight
Fri & Sat 3pm–1am
Sun 3pm–midnight

frankmacs.com.au
@frank.macs