The Rio Bar Summer Hill

Rebecca Varidel
30th Jan 2022

If you know cocktails, then you will understand that there are cocktails, and there are COCKTAILS!

The Rio Bar at Summer Hill has a cocktail quadrant painted on the wall. Helpfully, it divides the cocktails into sour and spicy, sweet and dry. Strong sits in its rightful place, in the middle.

Another sign that this bar offers cocktail excellence is (we are told) that the cocktail menu has just changed. It changes frequently, seasonally. When browsing this signature list my heart sings, because yes the cocktails are indeed seasonally appropriate. All too often the cocktail list has winter drinks in summer, and vice versa. None of that here! Hooray!!

Yet the proof (pardon the pun) at The Rio Bar is in the drinking. And yes, these are indeed very fine cocktails.

In asking who created the list, The Rio Bar wins the trifecta. The seasonal cocktail menu is a team effort.  

PLUM PISCO SOUR Davidson plum infused Pisco, lemon, egg white ($18)

PEACHES AND SMOKE Lillet Rose, Cognac, lemon, Creme de Peche, Laphroaig ($22) and

SMOKESCREEN Grants Whiskey, Laphroaig, lime shebert, Absinthe, mint ($21) are my best bets.

A longer look at the drinks menu results in finding a very big selection of gins and whiskies, many local and Australian. Loving both these, white spirit gin preferred in summer, and dark spirit whisky preferred in winter, I can't resist ordering a gin and tonic, and trying Ester a new (for me anyway) gin.

We try the food too, and highly recommend the generous but modestly priced duck breast. Demonstrating the vibe of the joint, at the top of the menu is printed this quote, which the bar attributes to Dolly Parton.

"I'm on a seafood diet, I see food and eat it."

We discuss over our delicious drinks. It's older than that, perhaps by a generation, but that's OK. She probably said it, as Google confirms she did, and we love her.

As well as that funny old saying kitchen love and care is what actually tops the menu. We indulge in duck breast and scallops, and cheese and donuts. Below our bench window seat, another table just needs booze soaking chips. There's plenty of munchies to choose from. From snacks through starters to mains.

These food and beverage winners will get a bar top marks every time. The biggest score here though goes to the staff. It's been a while since we found any that were friendlier or more hospitable team than at The Rio Bar. That balance between busy busy and the need to get the job done, but still dishing up such wide smiles that you wouldn't even guess that they were getting smashed.