Sip Your Way Through The Best Cocktail Bars in Sydney
Sydney is famous for a few things. Bondi, a bridge that looks like a coat hanger, the Opera House and the reputation its residents have for loving a well-made drink. Sydneysiders love a cocktail. Blessed with never-ending sunshine and beautiful coastlines, it’s no surprise that many prefer to seek out the best cocktail bars in Sydney rather than stay at home.
The passion for expertly crafted cocktails has grown steadily over the years. Nowadays, bartenders are as revered as chefs, menus change regularly, experimentation that borders on scientific is embraced and fresh ingredients are of utmost importance. So, expect to find casual spaces, speakeasy-style spots, romantic venues perfect for Valentine's Day drinks, formal bars with bartenders and waiters dressed to the nines and Sydney bars that somehow evoke the feeling of endless summers all-year round.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into a Negroni, Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins. Sampling and sipping cocktails in the city is a recipe for a mighty fine time.
The best places, in our humble boozehound opinion, are places that also offer food. Cocktails can often go down a little too easy, so a quality charcuterie board or cheese platter is always a good idea. Or, you know – just some really good hot chips.
So go, have fun, dress to the nines and get turnt up. Have fun, fam!
Discover 9 of Sydney’s Best Cocktail Bars
1. Henry Deane at Hotel Palisade
We’ve spoken about our unapologetic love for Henry Deane at Hotel Palisade before. It’s stylish, fun, carefully curated and home to arguably the best view in Sydney. The drinks shine here, as does the food and service, and you can expect some seriously creative bevvies on the menu. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, this is the ideal rooftop bar to spend an afternoon and evening while working your way through the cocktail menu that is designed around boutique spirits. Easily one of the best cocktail bars in Sydney.
Must-try: Sun-kissed spritz with Plymouth gin, Regal Rouge white, Suze, honey, basil and soda – or go for the Bartender’s Potion, a no-questions-asked weekly special!
35 Bettington Street, Millers Point, Sydney 2000
2. Grain Bar
As far as hotel bars in Sydney go, Grain is the best. Housed within The Four Seasons on George Street, this space celebrates the fine craft of drinking. It’s old school in all the right ways and has a boutique feel to it without being overly pretentious. Also, fans of whisky will be in heaven as Grain is home to one of Australia’s largest whisky collections. Winning a number of awards and also offering one of the best bar menus we’ve seen, this cocktail and whisky bar in Sydney is well-worth it.
Must-try: The Bananas made of Husk Distillers pure cane juice, lime juice, banana liqueur, egg white, dark vanilla syrup and hazelnuts.
199 George Street, Sydney CBD 2000
3. Li’l Darlin Darlinghurst
As the name suggests, Li’l Darlin Darlinghurst is the little darling of the inner west. Popular with the cool crowd, the creations coming from the bar are creative and match Sydney’s vibe to a tee. The decor is the right amount of edgy and you can opt to relax outside or take a seat in the long booths. Not just a great Italian restaurant, L’l Darlin offers loads of wine, spirits and beers as well as a cocktail menu that includes an extensive range of espresso martinis, classics, fresh juice cocktails and a bespoke Li’l Darlin collection. This cocktail bar in Sydney will leave you very well watered, indeed.
Must-try: Fairy floss martini with vodka, blood orange, raspberry sorbet, fresh raspberries and lemon.
235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney 2010
4. Eau de Vie
No list about the best cocktail bars in Sydney would be complete without the crème de la crème – Eau de Vie. Winning more awards than you can count, this 1920s speakeasy is a firm favourite among the cocktail-loving crowd. Housed at the back of The Kirketon Hotel, it’s as elegant as it gets. Sophisticated is an understatement, seriously. Housing a jaw-dropping range of spirits – including some of the most rare spirits in the country – the menu is an homage to a bygone era. Translating to water of life, this is an alchemists heaven and one of Sydney’s very best cocktail bars.
Must-try: Smokey Rob Roy, the signature made with Talisker and Highland whiskies, Zacapa rum, vermouth and orange bitters served under a cloud of wood smoke – the favourite of Eau de Vie owner, Sven Almenning.
229 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point, Sydney 2010
5. The Roosevelt
Another signature Sydney bar, The Roosevelt is timeless. Mad Men-esque and basically a time capsule of 1950s New York, this is owned by cocktail masters Sven Almenning and Graham Ette (of Eau de Vie fame). Prohibition is also featured heavily here, and the drinks are made at your table via cocktail trolley. And yes, this includes all fire and nitrogen tipples, friends. You can also eat here and the vibe is best described as art deco diner. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the secret poker room and Monroe function room. A firm fixture in the Sydney cocktail scene, don’t miss The Roosevelt.
Must-try: Amalfi Coast to Coast with Beefeater PINK, Gabri’s limoncello, raspberry, lemon and basil.
32 Orwell Street, Potts Point, Sydney 2011
6. Shirt Bar
While they’re best known for their worldwide selection of premium whisky, the bartenders at Shirt Bar know how to shake and stir some very fine cocktails too. The cocktail list has a solid range of signature concoctions unique to the bar and they bring their whisky expertise into play with a fun ‘Old Fashion your way’ offering. Have it classic, smooth and oakey, smokey, spicy… Whatever flavour profile you fancy, you’re sure to be whisked away. During the day, Shirt Bar serves up a banging brunch as well as lunch – their fresh homemade pasta is beaut! A hop and a skip from the waterfront in Barangaroo, this is a Sydney cocktail joint that should be saved in your favourites right now.
Must-try: Palomas made with Olmeca tequila reposado, coriander, chilli, agave, pressed lime and grapefruit soda.
Tower 1, Corner of Scotch Row and Shipwright Walk, Barangaroo
7. Black Bottle
A hunk of cheese and a well mixed cocktail is all it takes to make us happy as Larry. Which is why Black Bottle has a great big tick next to its name. Another Darlinghurst gem on our list, we’d like to applaud this charming spot for not only great cocktails and wine, but also a warm and inviting ambience that isn’t the easiest to come by. Hide away within the cosy brick-exposed interior, lounge in the lush green courtyard (bring your dog!) or grab a casual nook out the front for a prime street view. To nab some cheap cocktails, Happy Hour is every Wednesday to Saturday, 5pm till 7pm. There’s also a French style deli with a selection of bread, cured meats, pates and baked goods to take away. You know what to do.
Must-try: Order a $10 Negroni or $5 Spritz at Happy Hour and pair it with the ‘cheese in a box’ – that’s a full baked wheel of cheese, assortment of cured meats, roast potatoes and lettuce.
Shop 2/118-116 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
8. The Lobo
Ask anyone in Sydney’s hip crowd where to go for a good drink in Sydney, and they’ll point The Lobo Plantation – a rum bar serving up some serious attitude. It’s the place where drinks are presented in tiki mugs, everyone’s Haiwaiian shirt comes to the party and your bartender will most definitely have a slick mo. And we say that with the utmost love. The Lobo’s inventory is jam-packed with over 250 rums, most of which find their way into great cocktails with Caribbean flair. The food menu also deserves a moment in the spotlight, featuring cuban sammies, tostadas, ceviche and empanadas. Um, yum.
Must-try: Old Grogram is Lobo’s flagship creation served with spiced rum, fresh lemon, sugar and Lobo’s famous stout vermouth. And topped off with flames of course.
9. The Wanderer
Surry Hills is definitely a hot spot for cocktails, and The Wanderer is a real goodie. A little more homely than the more opulent bars on our list, The Wanderer is a fun and laid-back venue where people from all walks of life come together for an evening tipple, be it the lads or gals, grandparents, tradies or business folk. Especially great in winter, the bar has a snug cave feel, with rustic dining tables, low ceilings, industrial hanging lights and jenga blocks, dart boards and other games beckoning mates to play. The cocktail list is quite small, but packs a punch with spicy, zingy and smoky numbers. Don’t forget to ask the bartender for the cocktail of the month.
Must-try: Go for a Mexican inspired cocktail, Jalapeno Margarita finished with lime and chilli salt.
501 Elizabeth Street, Surrey Hills