Sydney has earned plenty of acclaim in the cocktail world in recent years, but the scene has also been rattled by some high-profile departures. Few of those were felt as keenly as Darlinghurst’s Eau de Vie, which closed in 2020 after a decade of five-star service and cocktail innovation – it was even named the world’s best new cocktail bar the year after it launched.

But last week it made its long-promised return, in some plush new CBD digs.

“There wasn’t a moment where we didn’t want to reopen it and reinvigorate it,” says co-owner Greg Sanderson. “And I don’t think we would ever set out to do something and not try to do it better than we’ve done it before. We had to make things better.”

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So Sanderson and business partner Sven Almenning, who together run The Speakeasy Group – a stable of venues that includes Nick and Nora’s and Mjølner – opted to sit tight and wait for the right opportunity.

That came last year, when they were offered a two-storey tenancy below and within the heritage-listed Beneficial House, a 1930s Georgian revival building in the CBD, tucked between Wynyard and George Street (“We like to be easy to get to and hard to find,” says Sanderson).

On the first floor is The Sanderson: a boisterous brasserie, which opens this week, where seafood, steak and champagne reign supreme. The basement space, which they and designers Studio Y worked on from the ground up, was the perfect candidate for Eau de Vie’s next incarnation.

Despite sharing staff, the odd bottle of whisky and the same speak-easy-style entrance, The Sanderson and Eau de Vie are distinct venues – more friends with benefits than co-dependent. But being below a restaurant does have its perks, and it’s part of the reason why the new Eau de Vie has a fully-fledged food menu.

There’s a roster of snacks which includes arancini with smoked scamorza and red wine caramel; lamb croquettes with saffron aioli; and shiitake vol-au-vents with creamed leek. Have some loose change kicking around? The golden oscietra caviar should take care of it. A range of charcuterie, cheeses and tinned fish are available at all hours.

But don’t worry, this isn’t one of those bar-that’s-actually-a-restaurant scenarios: Eau de Vie is still primarily a place for wetting the whistle. There’s enough whisky to sink a ship, for starters – over 500 on the back bar alone – as well as an enviable line-up of spirits, particularly tequila, rum and gin. The cocktail menu rightfully includes Eau de Vie hall-of-famers such as the Smokey Rob Roy, the Espresso Zabaione, and the Old Fashioned – available blazed or cold. The rest of the list is inspired by famous bartenders and drinkers of the prohibition era. There are over 37 signature cocktails, and the team can whip up any classic you can think of.

Eau de Vie 2.0 isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of its predecessor, but the vibe feels very similar, like a different room in the same house. A long banquette, upholstered in caramel-coloured velvet, runs along one wall, joined by a row of dark leather booths and a handful of bar-side stools. The back room, which is available for private hire, also houses Eau de Vie’s whisky lockers, where Sydney’s most avid – and well-heeled – dram fans can store and purchase rare single malts.

Wynyard usually conjures up images of bedlam and commuting chaos – traditionally an area people want to get in and out of as quickly as possible. But now, between the Shell House tower of power and Merivale’s Ivy precinct on George Street, it’s a part of the CBD to make a beeline for. Especially now that one of Sydney’s biggest cocktail players is back in the game.

Eau de Vie Sydney
285 George Street (enter via Wynyard Lane)
(02) 7225 5559

Tues to Sat 4pm–2am