Sydney’s cocktail bars hold a hidden treasure trove of drinks to explore. It could be a preferred staff cocktail no longer on the menu, or maybe never even made it on. Perhaps you have to know where to sit to be eligible to order it. Perhaps you just need to ask.
In partnership with World Class, we uncover some secrets of Sydney’s best cocktail bars to try next time you’re out.
Off-menu cocktail: Southside
Kittyhawk on Phillip Lane in the CBD is best known for its rum and rye cocktails and its post-war Parisian-meets-American interior; there are images of soldiers and Kittyhawk fighter aircrafts on the walls. Its extensive cocktail menu mirrors the wartime area, with drink names such as Memphis Belle, Dirty Bopper and Polynesian Pearl Diver.
But one of the most-loved cocktails is not on the menu. Next time you’re at Kittyhawk ask for the Southside, which mixes Tanqueray No. TEN, lime juice, sugar syrup, mint leaves and grapefruit bitters, fine strained into a Nick & Nora glass. The same cocktail is also available off-menu at sister bar The Lobo Plantation on Clarence Street, where staff serve it with a rubber duckie garnish.
Off-menu cocktail: Bartender’s Potion
Atop Hotel Palisade in Millers Point is double-storey penthouse bar Henry Deane. Named after the engineer who built upon the original 1800s facade, the chic space has views of the bridge from almost every seat in the house, and enough glass to make those afraid of heights a little hesitant.
There’s plenty on the menu to rave about, but one surprise is worth taste testing. Listed on the cocktail menu is the Bartender’s Potion, but instead of included ingredients it says: “try if you dare”. Only once ordered and served are its name and ingredients revealed.
The current inside scoop is there’s a Coconut Gin Sour on rotation featuring Tanqueray gin, elderflower liqueur, orange bitters, orange blossom, coconut syrup, lemon and egg white. It’s a well-loved insider drink regular patrons return to.
The Long Goodbye
Off-menu cocktail: Shane Double Black
There’s a secret in plain-sight at The Long Goodbye on Stanley Street in Darlinghurst. All its cocktails are off-menu. The team decided to ditch the list back in January after getting into the habit of making homemade liqueurs and using fresh ingredients that change week to week.
The bar itself is named after a Raymond Chandler novel, so it’s no surprise its Shane Double Black cocktail is a testament to co-owner Flynn McLennan’s favourite screenwriter, Shane Black of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fame (Black’s 2005 movie based on Chandler’s stories).
The Shane Double Black is a combination of smoky, sweet, spicy and bitter, using Italian herbal liqueur, dark cacao, homemade habanero bitters and Johnnie Walker Double Black, poured over a chunk of hand-cut ice. It also offers free popcorn to accompany its literary and screen-inspired drinks.
Osaka Trading Co.
Off-menu cocktail: Red Rye-t Hand
The team behind well-admired small bar Tokyo Bird in Surry Hills also owns Forest Lodge hideaway Osaka Trading Co. On the menu there you’ll find a dozen cocktails, along with plenty of sake, Japanese whisky and cocktails. But insiders will know the off-menu drink to order is a twist on a modern classic.
Inspired by New York bartender Sam Ross’s well-known cocktail creation, The Left Hand, The Red Rye-t Hand takes Ross’s creation and mixes it with a little inspiration from the classic song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Essentially an Old Fashioned, it uses Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Red Rye Finish, rosemary-infused sweet vermouth, herbal aperitif and bitters and is served with a big block of ice. It’s herbaceous, and matches perfectly with Osaka Trading Co.’s malt whisky ice-cream topped with chocolate soil and blackberry puree.
Off-menu cocktail: The Nicholas Brown
Hemingway’s in Manly serves breakfast and lunch, but by night it’s a laid-back den with an elegant mood set by the walls laden with books. As its name suggests, the bar is known for its Hemingway’s Cup cocktail as well as its view of the beach. But an off-menu highlight is The Nicholas Brown.
Previously on the menu as a winter-only option, The Nicholas Brown features rum, maple syrup and chocolate bitters served in a tumbler glass smoked with a cinnamon stick. It’s garnished with dehydrated orange and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. Sidle in and try one at the bar looking over the sea.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class Drinking.