The hardworking boys from the Shady Pines Saloon, Anton Forte and Jason Scott, are onto another winner. It was a savvy choice to open their new whiskey-focused bar The Baxter Inn smack bang in the middle of Sydney’s CBD, a locale relatively starved of good watering holes.
In true New York or Boston bar tradition, it is rather difficult to find. Located at in the basement of a building at the back of an unmarked alleyway off Clarence Street, this drinking den – full of character and people – is an unexpected surprise for the first time visitor.
This converted basement utilises the existing arched brick walls and low ceilings to great effect. The walls are covered in black and white prints of boxers and horses, while the lair-like carpet adds warmth and absorbs the sound of frivolity being had, and will no doubt be soaked in liquor very soon.
A dark, linear space, the interior features a bar that runs almost the full 10 metres of its length. It’s perhaps one of the best and most well-stocked and tiered bars we’ve seen for a while. A quick conversation with the helpful sommelier leads us through the initially overwhelming 156 choices of whiskey and ends with his recommendations of the best ones to try. The menu is not, however, limited to whisky. It also includes all of the old favourites (a large beer and wine list too) and The Baxter Inn crew are just as happy to mix up a killer negroni as they are something more bespoke – all you have to do is ask. For those of more discerning tastes, a concealed cellar carries some of Sydney’s finest wines, cognacs and whiskeys and also provides a space for tastings.
The service is friendly and knowledgeable and the atmosphere remains intimate and tightly packed. At this stage, the bar doesn’t serve any type of food, which may prove to be detrimental for drinkers in for the long haul. They do, however, serve complementary pretzels, which is a nice touch reminiscent of the free peanuts served at Shady Pines. It won’t keep the hungry patrons the bar for long though, even if pretzels do make everyone thirsty.
The Baxter Inn is set to introduce an extended license within the next couple of months (to 3am on weekends), so with a bar this well stocked, expect to be entering at a reasonable hour and leaving in the wee ones.