The Best Bars in Sydney

Updated 5 months ago

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Sydney lays claim to one of the best cocktail bars in the world, along with a stack of world-class speakeasies, hidden rooftops and other fine establishments that represent the best of our city's bar scene. That’s just the CBD – but the standard is high no matter you look. So when you can’t decide between a pub, a wine bar or a hot new opening, look no further than this list.

  • It’s a pink and purple 20-person standing bar exclusively serving agave-based liquors and cocktails based on them. It’s all in a space about the size of a one-car garage (and that’s a small car). Owners Alex Dowd, Jeremy Blackmore and Alex Gilmour are three superb operators who make it work wonderfully.

  • Maybe Sammy channels the opulence and excess of Las Vegas in the late '50s, and is officially recognised as one of the 50 best bars in the world. The reason for all the acclaim is simple: Maybe Sammy combines flawless service with singular cocktails.

  • Around 60 styles of sake are pouring at this intimate drinking den, inspired by the vinyl-spinning jazz bars of Japan. Expect rare Japanese gins and whiskies too, plus a Euro-Japanese snack menu by a former Pinbone and Billy Kwong chef.

  • When this speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar opened, it was one of the first of its kind. And as the first Swillhouse venue (the powerhouse behind hits Alberto’s Lounge and Restaurant Hubert), the opening of Shady Pines Saloon was a defining moment in the evolution of Sydney’s bar scene. It’s proof that, at its core, a great bar is about good people and drinks, in a space that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

  • With its all white-and-metal fit-out, this cocktail spot resembles what someone in the ’80s imagined a bar from the future would look like. It’s totally different to the traditional idea of a bar; cocktails are injected with the flair of the molecular gastronomy movement, and the menu offers multicultural and non-traditional snacks. Bonus: because its house-made sodas are a feature of this place, PS40 has some of the finest non-alcoholic options in the game.

  • One of the best bars in all of Australia. Part of that is down to the several hundred-strong assembly of local and international whiskies, all alluringly backlit behind the bar. The other big drawcard is the vibe. Despite its CBD location and its focus on whisky, Baxter Inn always feels relaxed and approachable.

  • A theme of fermentation guides this cavernous King Street bar. Find a dizzying list of funky farmhouse ales, ciders and natural wines, plus a Euro-inspired all-day menu by a formidable kitchen team.

  • If any Sydney bar deserves the (somewhat) overused/misused title of “speakeasy”, it’s Earl’s. From the street it looks like an old-fashioned and unloved butchery, but that illusion is quickly dispelled by the crowds and the tinny New Orleans-styled tunes coming from the bar with every swing of the front door. Inside Southern American nostalgia hangs from the walls, and craft beers, natural wines and seasonal cocktails come from the bar.

  • This is a glowing example of how to run an inclusive space. Since it opened in 2014 it’s been a beacon for Sydney’s artistic and queer communities. There’s regular LGBTQIA+ gigs and a constant rotation of local artists (who have created a few raunchy front-window displays over the years).

  • Opening a wine bar down a dank alleyway in a former Best Cellars storeroom is an unlikely recipe for success. But these days it’s hard to ever imagine Love Tilly Devine being quiet. A weekend night here means a wait to get in. Once you’re in your seat a 300-plus list of progressive wines and a playful Italian-ish snack menu will keep you there for a long time.

  • This was the first foray into Mexican drinking from the team behind Cantina OK! Tecate is the cheap imported cerveza, which comes in its iconic can. Tequilas range from fiery and affordable to aromatic and exclusive. There is a range of mostly agave-based cocktails. Add to that the free popcorn you get with each drink and you have one irresistible spot for a drink.

  • From the industry legends that brought us Porteno and Bodega, this art deco and pastel-painted CBD oasis is part pasta bistro, bottle store, fine cheese and charcuterie dealer, and cocktail bar. The latter is the domain of Mikey Nicolian, one of Sydney’s best cocktail mixers.

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  • The atmosphere here is in a league of its own. The downstairs lounge is fitted out with leather lounges and walled bookshelves, and plants burst out of every corner. Upstairs is just as relaxed, but it keeps things simpler: a patio, a few tables and panoramic views of the city. Make sure to order the Philly cheesesteak if you’re after a steak, it’s one of the best in town.

  • A Twin Peaks-inspired tiki bar serving some of Sydney’s most theatrical cocktails? Sure, so long as it’s good. Coming from the team behind Earl’s Juke Joint, we needn’t have been worried. It’s definitely a unique concept, but most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

  • In the first room you can get a lager or a G& T with your beard trim. But the main draw is room number two. Just behind the sound of buzzers and scissors is a dimly lit bar with a gin selection so wide you need a ladder to traverse it. Order the pepperberry spiced gin with a dirty tonic and pair it with a house-made sausage roll.

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  • This place keeps things simple, to great effect. There’s no spirit specialisation, award-winning cocktail maker behind the bar or any attached kitchen. Arcadia Liquors nails the basics. It’s just a good place to hang out, with affordable beers and cocktails.

  • Look behind the old wood door at the back of the Cove deli and you'll find The Cumberland – one of Sydney's finest underground bars. The drinks list includes 250 whiskies, an impressive wine cellar and three distinct cocktail lists. Plus a hearty food offering that includes melty raclette.

  • This 26th-floor stunner from the team behind legendary cocktail bar Eau de Vie is a bold tribute to the roaring ’20s. Come for the caviar and champagne towers, stay for the knee-dropping views across Western Sydney from the open-air terrace.

  • Poor Tom’s is loose. On any given night you’re just as likely to end up sharing a drink with the owners as you are a local artist. It’s a space that encourages intermingling. The killer cocktails help, too.

  • One of Sydney’s early shakers in Sydney’s new-wave cocktail movement. The focus here is on rum. It’s got one of the biggest selections of the spirit, and don’t the team behind the bar know how to use it. Add to that a Caribbean theme that never quite crosses over into kitsch, and you’re guaranteed a good night out.

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  • The celebrated Darlinghurst speakeasy has resurfaced in the CBD – with a serious food menu, 37 signature cocktails and more than 500 whiskies. Enter via a discreet entrance on Wynyard Lane for all of the blazing bartending theatrics you remember.

  • This American-inspired “dining parlour” is in the business of good times, and good times only. Slink into a booth under fairy lights with a burger, some poutine, and the feeling that your night could end up being huge if you stick around long enough.