Cocktail menus can be overwhelming, especially when you find yourself in a venue of high-repute. On one hand you want to experiment and try new things, but you don’t want to ruin the occasion by ordering the wrong thing. We’ve put together a guide that takes the guesswork out of it – from bartenders’ favourites to signature drinks, here’s what you should order at some of the best bars around town.
Eau de Vie
Visitors to Eau de Vie, a secret cocktail bar hidden beyond the lobby of Darlinghurst’s Kirketon Hotel, face a dilemma: which cocktail should you choose? Should you order the award-winning Old Fashioned, or the Espresso Zabaione, a decadent mix of either vodka, rum or whisky, stirred down with coffee and maple syrup, topped with saffron and vanilla mousse and chilled with liquid nitrogen?
Both great choices. But it’s hard to say no to the Smokey Rob Roy, said to be owner Sven Almenning’s signature drink. A blend of Talisker 10-year-old Scotch whisky, cigar-infused Ron Zacapa 23 rum, vermouth and orange bitters, it’s served under a cloud of wood smoke.
The Old Grogram cocktail has been on the menu at Clarence Street bar the Lobo Plantation since day one. “We’ve tried to take it off one time,” says group bar manager Dre Walters. “But customers kept on ordering it.” Walters took the hint and put it back on the menu.
The term “grog” has roots in the late 1700s, when it was used to refer to a mix of rum, water and lemon juice, distributed to sailors on long voyages. In Lobo’s Old Grogram, spiced stout vermouth, lemon juice, sugar syrup and house-made spiced rum is shaken and strained over ice and garnished with a cinnamon quill wrapped in a twist of lemon.
Bulletin Place is famous for exceptional cocktails made from seasonal ingredients sourced fresh from local markets each morning. The cocktail menu, written on butchers’ paper and pasted up behind the bar, changes daily. But staff are happy to make customers cocktails from scratch. “We will talk you through your likes and dislikes and then give the bartender free reign,” says operations director David Hobbs.
This bespoke approach makes it tough to pick out a signature cocktail, but Hobbs says a couple of go-tos that staff look forward to making when summer rolls around are the Black Cherry Bramble and the Mango Daiquiri. Cherries peak in late December, while mangoes are at their best in January. If you really want to impress, ask for the Shiso Scandalous, featuring toasted sesame Ketel One vodka, pineapple, shiso, mirin and green tea.
This Must Be The Place
This Must Be The Place in Darlinghurst is a breath of fresh air in Sydney’s often broody bar scene. Opened in 2015 by Charlie Ainsbury and Luke Ashton, both former winners of Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year, the Oxford Street bar pops on visuals alone, thanks to its minimalist Nordic styling, blonde timber fixtures and whitewashed walls.
The team’s drinks are similarly effective. Try The Gloss, featuring Ketel One Citroen, watermelon riesling, strawberry shrub and rose water, or the Coffee & Cigarettes cocktail, combining coffee bean-infused Tanqueray gin, Italian apéritifs French wine and almond liqueur.
The Barber Shop
The Smoke and Bandages cocktail (gin, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, smoked rosemary infusion and fresh orange) at The Barber Shop is tempting, but it would be remiss to not to order a Martini at Sydney’s premier gin palace.
The parlour-style bar on York Street has devoted a whole page of the cocktail menu to creating the perfect Martini. First, choose from one of 450 gins (including Tanqueray No. TEN) and decide if you want it wet or dry. Add a tincture – they’ve got everything from banana to blue cheese – and finally, ask for it shaken and stirred. The result? A killer Martini.
If you find yourself at garage-turned-laneway cocktail bar Papa Gedes, owner Lara Dignam recommends the Get Schwifty. Inspired by a fictional hit song from sci-fi sitcom Rick and Morty, the cocktail is a fusion of vodka, watermelon citrate, lemon, Kakadu plum, rhubarb bitters and a “schwifty stick” (aka watermelon jerky). Dignam says it’s a carefully calibrated “balance of alcohol, juice and citrus, with native-Australian superfood Kakadu plum for added vitamin C.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class.