The Best Cocktail Bars in Sydney

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Sydney’s best cocktail bars are more like kitchens. Menus can change weekly depending on the availability of ingredients, experimentation is encouraged and good knife skills are a given. That’s excellent news for drinkers, whether you love a classic Negroni or something downright inventive. Better yet – we consistently have some of the best cocktail bars in the world. It’s a crowded scene, but one we can’t imagine the city without. Get sipping, Sydney.

  • A dramatic-looking, light-filled bar with its own soda-making plant. While wattle cola and smoked lemonade sound inventive enough, the boozy creations here are truly next-level: salted pina coladas; “breakfast” negronis; and a pitch-perfect homage to Black Star Pastry’s world-famous watermelon and strawberry cake.

  • Don't bring a large group to this tiny laneway bar – even if it were empty, you probably wouldn't fit. It's considered one the best tequila and mezcal bars in the world for its peerless selection of rare agave spirits, and the friendly, knowledgeable staff here will help you navigate the list with confidence.

  • 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.

  • The Vermuteria team’s saloon is bringing “oyster culture” back to Kings Cross – with live mollusc shucking and a bumper selection of champagnes. Plus, Guinness on tap and smashed cheeseburgers for the win. See you at the horseshoe bar for a Martini, then a French 75.

  • Hidden beyond the facade of old butcher shop on King Street, you’ll find a lively cocktail bar that’s serious about stiff drinks (the classics are some of the best iterations around), but promises a rollicking good time all at once. Stop by for shots of Fernet-Branca, old-time tunes and Reschs on tap.

  • 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.

  • The liberation of Paris is the theme behind this polished cocktail bar from the team behind The Lobo. Settle into sophisticated surrounds for rum and rye Old Fashioneds and French-influenced dishes with modern Australian flair.

  • The Martini reigns supreme at this psychedelic cocktail bar. The gun bartenders pour them any way you like, and the bottomless popcorn will keep you thirsty. Don’t forget to take a selfie in the curvaceous bathroom mirror – it’s a right of passage.

  • Sydney’s original speakeasy basement bar is still one of the trickiest to find. Once you do, you'll be rewarded with more than 800 whiskies and highly skilled bartenders who know what to do with them. Plus, bottomless bowls of pretzels and a swinging ’50s soundtrack.

  • This moody double-decker spot has long been one of the best places to drink cocktails in Surry Hills. But it’s also one of the best places to dine – with a refined bistro menu spanning European classics and a cult Sydney burger.

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  • Jacoby’s does one thing better than most bars around town: the tiki cocktail, in all its forms. Pina coladas, too. A fit-out inspired by Twin Peaks has the place looking appropriately Lynchian. Red velvet curtains, checkerboard lino and low lighting abound.

  • Spend a night in the Caribbean at this CBD spot, tasting from a selection of more than 250 rums. If you don’t know where to start; order the Lobo’s flaming signature: spiced house rum, fresh lemon, sugar and – something you don’t see every day – stout vermouth.

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  • The Maybe Sammy crew’s glamorous cocktail bar and diner on the 22nd floor of Adina’s CBD Hotel is a homage to the classic hotel bars of yesteryear. Come for playful, multi-sensory cocktails, lobster rolls and a skyline view that’ll make you feel like a millionaire.

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  • Consider yourself fortunate – lucky even – to get a seat at the bar here. This neon-lit inner-west boozer gets rammed most nights, and it’s easy to see why. It’s laid-back in all the right ways, but is dead serious when it comes to classic cocktails.

  • A trim, a shave and a world-class Martini – you can get all three at this dapper, semi-hidden gin bar. There are over 700 gins on offer, and you can sample some of them in a tasting flight led by one of the expert bartenders. Some antipasti and a topnotch burger will help keep you upright.

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  • A good-times bar devoted to tequila, mezcal and the Margarita. Don’t let the laid-back energy fool you – some of Sydney’s best bartenders cut their teeth here. Otherwise, the popcorn is free, the music is loud and the Margies are strong and smooth.

  • Francis Ford Coppola's landmark film *The Godfather* is the inspiration behind Apollonia, a dramatic basement bar beneath Hinchcliff House. A visit here involves Sicilian-style bar snacks, inventive house cocktails and a signature Negroni on tap.

  • Whisky, cognac and "shit tinnies" are your reward for finding this rowdy CBD bar. Just look for the three skulls and descend to the basement – you might be down there for a while.

  • Take a subterranean space, add a ’70s sheen and a smooth soul soundtrack and you have one hell of a cocktail bar. The vibe of the space – filled with wood panelling, leather couches and a furry shag feature wall – is cool, easygoing and just the right amount of cheesy.

  • Partway between a Tuscan wine bar and an American speakeasy, this Italian stallion is all about the Negroni. It serves around 30 versions of the classic drink, and Italian liqueurs so rare they're even hard to find in Italy. The menu spans classic aperitivo snacks and pastas.

  • This Potts Point drinking den by the Eau De Vie team sports a moody Prohibition theme. So naturally, it’s got a serious whisky game to match. There’s an assemblage of drams big enough to cure any ailment, but the cocktail list goes rogue with house-made vodkas, rare rums and classic gins. Head here for all manner of sour, savoury and semi-frozen drinks.

  • Gin Lane will convert anyone who says they don’t like gin. Of the 80-plus drops this dapper bar offers, many focus on botanicals you may have never tasted in the spirit before. As well as expert cocktails, the gin and tonic on draught here is a major highlight.

  • A Nashville-themed den by the Swillhouse group that's equally about well-made cocktails and straight spirits – bourbon in particular. Taxidermied beasts and Americana decorate the walls, the energy is always high (even on a Monday) and your rye comes with a never-ending supply of peanuts. One of the first bars of its kind in the city.

  • Even though this place is styled after a church, there’s nothing reverent about the approach here. Cocktails are fun, at times unusual, and highlight the seasonal gins coming out of the beautiful German copper still out back.

  • Find the discreet ground-level entrance, then climb four levels of steep, narrow stairs to reach this hidden rooftop. It’s completely worth it – you'll be rewarded with a killer cocktail bar set against a backdrop of towering CBD highrises.

  • Like visiting the Guggenheim, sipping a cocktail at Employees Only in the West Village is a quintessential New York experience. This is the plush Sydney outpost for that same bar – with the same impeccable service, late-night food menu, and yes, even a resident psychic who’ll tell you your fortune.

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  • 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.

  • The acclaimed gin brand’s warehouse home feels more like an artist’s studio than a distillery. Packed with personality, it’s a place of perfect Negronis, gin-friendly snacks and curiosities by local designers.

  • When it opened almost a decade ago, Archie Rose was Sydney’s first new distillery since the 1850s. Now it’s one of the biggest in the country, with cocktails and flights showcasing an endless rotation of gins, vodkas and whiskies.

  • 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.

  • Named after the voodoo spirit of lust and laughter, Papa Gede’s is the kind of bar where the energy is always high and your flaming tiki drink is still burning when it arrives at your table. Live DJs and soul bands are on regular rotation here.

  • An iconic cafe reborn as a tiny aperitivo and cocktail bar. A cross-section of the city’s movers and shakers used to come here for coffee and lasagne; now it’s all about Italian vermouths and amaro, tinned seafood and good cheese.

  • Travel to another time at this jazzy, prohibition-themed bar. A tome-like list of spirits informs the cocktails here, mixed by a team of sharply-dressed bartenders who know their craft inside and out. To eat, it's European-influenced snacks served till late.

  • The CBD is flush with moody basement cocktail bars – but none of them serve grilled Vietnamese snacks and noodle soups alongside their boozy creations. This one does, plus it’s also infusing its own spirits and liqueurs, and sourcing interesting beers from around the world.

  • No two nights will be the same at this subterranean live-music lounge and cocktail bar by Odd Culture group. Descend for a world-class cocktail program and late-night live entertainment courtesy of Newtown’s first 4am licence.