Once the heart of Sydney’s nightlife, Kings Cross in the post-lockout era is a husk of its former buzzing self, with staple venues such as Hugo’s and The World Bar long gone. Spirits should be lifted, though, when a new distillery and bar opens opposite the Kings Cross-famous El-Alamein fountain later this year.

Kings Cross Distillery (KXD) will be led by distiller and “spirit architect” Odelia Potts, a former contracts administrator who has spent the last 12 months studying spirit production (making her one of just 40 qualified female distillers in Australia). She’ll work alongside general manager Ben Moechtar, the renowned sommelier who helped launch Aria and was head somm at the lauded (and now-closed) diners MG Garage and Wildfire.

Slated to open in spring, KXD is located in what was a speakeasy and gambling den in the 1960s, before becoming an adult bookstore named Private Book Shop in the ’70s. More recently it was called Ecstasy Adult Book Store. While the bar isn’t yet open to the public, Potts has been working away at the venue’s still – aptly named Miss Pottsy – on a dry gin inspired by a recipe from the 1930s. The KXG Australian Classic Dry Gin includes botanicals such as juniper, coriander seed and cardamom pods, as well as Sydney-grown organic lemons. It will be served in cocktails or with mixers from the bar, along with house-made whisky and vodka and a range of international and local spirits.

The venue contains a walk-in vault, and according to the KXD team, a range of “secret businesses” took place behind its heavy steel doors back in the day. That vault will now be used to store the spirits and a collection of pin-up photography documenting the space’s previous life.

Patrons will also be able to buy bottles of the distillery’s spirits and store them in personalised “spirit lockers”. Bartenders will pull them out each visit to make everything from G&Ts to cocktails.

When the Covid-19 restrictions are eventually lifted, the space will have capacity for 120 people. Along with drinks, it’ll serve dishes such as baked kibbeh, vine-wrapped sardines and harissa carrots.

Kings Cross Distillery is slated to open in spring 2020 at 8/127 Macleay Street, Potts Point. Buy its first batch of gin and pre-purchase a spirit locker here.