When life gives you lemons, make a whisky sour
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 and, more specifically, they love a cocktail bar. Blessed with endless summers and plenty of coastlines to view, it’s no surprise that most folks prefer to get lit at cocktail bars in Sydney rather than 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. While lockout laws may have affected more venues than we’re happy admit, the par of cocktail bars in Sydney is still exceptional. Expect to find casual spaces, speakeasy-style spots, formal bars with bartenders and waiters dressed to the nines and Sydney bars that somehow evoke the feeling of endless summers all-year round.
Cocktail hour done right at the cocktail bars in Sydney
Whether you’re feeling a Negroni; Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins; you prefer to keep things light and fun with a margarita or a gin-basil smash; or if you’re simply into whatever the bartender wants to make, sampling and sipping cocktails in Sydney is a recipe for a mighty fine time. The best places, in our humble boozehound opinion, are places that also offer food. Cocktails go straight to your head most of the time so stuffing your face with a quality charcuterie board or cheese platter is where it’s at – especially when sipping away in the daytime.
Below is a list of our top five cocktail bars in Sydney that we really think you should visit. Life’s about fun, treating yourself and pretending you’re glam AF, right? Well, that’s what we’re about anyway. So go, sip and get turnt on delicious drinks in Sydney cocktail bars. Have a wild one, fam.
Top 5 cocktail bars in Sydney
1. Henry Deane at Hotel Palisade
Ok, so we’ve spoken about Henry Deane at Hotel Palisade before (sorrynotsorry!)… But we love it, we just damn do. 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 space 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 2000More About Henry Deane
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 2000More About Grain Bar
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. Offering 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: Blood orange margarita mixed with Cointreau, tequila and homemade blood orange syrup, with a twist of lemon and lime.
235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney 2010More About Li'l Darlin
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 2010More About Eau de Vie
5. The Roosevelt
Another signature cocktail bar in Sydney, 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: Nitro Colada made with ‘coconutted’ house-blended and spiced rum, pina colada sorbet, torched meringue and lime zest.
32 Orwell Street, Potts Point, Sydney 2011More About The Roosevelt