Cocktails bars are now better than ever, as our Sydney bar-tenders raise the stakes with a bigger range of craft spirits, and increased professionalism, enthusiasm and knowledge. Even with that darned lock-out, there's never been a better time to sip and savour in Sydney. We are past themes such as prohibition, over drinking out of tea cups, but not over basements as most of our best cocktail bars are downstairs or upstairs from street level. Or spirit specialists - as our best just specialise in one. Here's our list of top five small cocktail bars in the Sydney CBD.
Baxter Inn is well known for its whisky back bar and for the knowledgeable team to help your broaden your worldly experience from Scotland to Ireland, Japan, the United States and beyond. One of those behind the scenes things that pumps up the service here, is that the Baxter Inn staff are not casuals but full time Baxter Inn bar-tenders with the support of ongoing weekly training sessions. Add that level of consistency and knowledge to the size of that whisky list, and now you know why the Baxter Inn is top of our favourites. Of course, whisky is not just for cocktails, our recommendation is to start your night on neat.
Basement, 152 - 156 Clarence Street, Sydney
These fabulous boys got us into it, and opened our first Sydney rum specialist bar. They get into it so much they've published their own Lobo Plantation Rum Journal. The Clarence Street bar is elegant with cosy seating areas and cool green and is packed most nights. Sometimes there's a queue out the door but it's worth the wait to see that flame gun going. Smooth as silk cocktails, and one of the best bar vibes in Sydney. Treat yourself to a rum flight - neat - for your next night out and learn more about the versatility of this spirit. Order something special from the locked rum cabinet. Or this is the place to try 'grog' (a navy rum twist on a daiquiri).
Basement Lot 1, 209 Clarence Street, Sydney
Of course there's more to The Barber Shop than gin, but with one of the biggest specialty lists in town, why would you want to drink anything else. As well as the more complex cocktails, The Barber Shop is a great place to go for a Gin & Tonic. With 3/4 of the drink the mixer, here you can choose your mix and match tonic as well as your gin. As the name suggests, enter via the barber shop in the front of this friendly and intimate small Sydney bar.
89 York Street, Sydney
The newest of the bars in our top five list pays homage to the classic Cognac cocktail the Sazerac. And they do it better than anyone else. An elegant bar that also serves New Orleans inspired signatures, classics such as the Hurricane and Vieux Carre with table service.
Basement, 44 King Street, Sydney.
There's no bias to any one spirit here. Bulletin Place loves all of its kids equally. World Class Bartender Of The Year, Tim Philips sticks to his mix of Diageo spirits but lifts it up with daily seasonal fruit and vegetable changes for a cocktail list that never stays the same. It's a tiny upstairs room that ought to be explored, and often.
Upstairs, 10 - 14 Bulletin Place, Sydney.