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Ten Hidden and Underground Cocktails Bars for Banter, Brews and Bourbon

Time to cosy with your favourite bourbon cocktail at a secret bar hidden along (and underneath) Sydney's streets.
By Orlaith Costello
June 09, 2023
By Orlaith Costello
June 09, 2023


in partnership with

Time to cosy with your favourite bourbon cocktail at a secret bar hidden along (and underneath) Sydney's streets.

The chilly season has arrived, the perfect time of the year for getting cosy next to a bar's fireplace with a dram of your favourite whiskey in hand or a delicious wintry cocktail. We've got the perfect shout for you as the temperatures drop: the Gold Rush Cocktail. Maker's Mark Bourbon and Beechworth Honey have come together to create this cocktail, a sweet symphony of Australian honey and bold characters of the bourbon.

It's a riff on an old-fashioned but with a locally grown twist. It's a very straightforward recipe that you can find here. At first glance, it might seem odd that an American distillery and an Aussie beekeeping family have come together. But, when you scratch underneath the surface they have a lot of similarities.

To celebrate the partnership, we've rounded up a selection of cosy underground and hidden bars where you can enjoy the Gold Rush cocktail. Some venues have even made their own version of the cocktail.

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    Hidden underground in the basement level of Hinchcliff House is Apollonia, a cocktail bar with an affinity for negronis and romance. Here, you can sip the Love at First Sight, a dry gin, amaro and strawberry gum cocktail, or A Letter Never Sent, a wheat vodka and Italian honey liqueur creation. Further down the menu, you’ll find a milk gin, citrus and lavender drink called the Hills of Savoca, or the Wedding Cake, made with rye, local coffee amaro and amaretto foam. But if you’re here for the Gold Rush cocktail, we have some good news. Not only is the bar serving the classic Gold Rush, it’s also hosting a Gold Rush dinner. Check with the venue to see when the next dinner is happening.

    Image: Jiwon Kim

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    the private dining room at the Roosevelt sydney - one of the best private dining rooms in sydney

    Take a trip to Manhattan in the 50s with a night in this laneway destination in Potts Point, where the team behind Eau de Vie have created yet another standout addition to the Sydney cocktail scene. Don’t let the retro interior fool you, the cocktail menu is as modern as they come. Filtered into sections of ‘Fruity’, ‘Boozy’ and ‘Bitter’, you’ll find sips like the Holly Go Lightly with house-made lemon vodka, blueberry, citrus and soda, The Re-Fashioned #1.2 with whisky, caramel miso and earl grey ice sphere, the Roosevelt Blazer with rum, date, fig, sherry, tonka bean and cinnamon, and of course, a twist on the gold rush cocktail that we’ll leave you to discover.

    Image: The Roosevelt

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    The Duke of Clarence library - one of the best pubs in Sydney.

    Those brave enough to mosey down the darkened alleyway that is Clarence Street in search of a stiff drink will be rewarded. The unassuming yard you arrive in has an impressive venue. The Duke of Clarence is a particularly ambitious venture — it’s an 1800s-style British tavern, somewhere Charles Dickens might have penned Great Expectations over a couple of ales and a pork pie. Everything from the floorboards to the leather couches and bar stools has been handpicked and shipped over from pubs and churches in the UK. The result is a cosy cavern, complete with nooks and comfy places to sit, that feels truly authentic. There are over 500 spirits, numerous imported and local wines and an interesting list of innovative cocktails, there really is something for everyone. But you’re here for a specific bourbon cocktail. The bartenders here are slinging a twist on the Gold Rush.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 7

    Despite taking its name from a raucous, rundown pub in the 80s flick Road House, Double Deuce Lounge isn’t a dive bar, it is a refined cocktail lounge with a touch of ’70s porn chic’. No, you won’t find Ron Jeremy lounging in one of the burgundy leather booths. Instead, you can expect loud geometric 70s wallpaper laid with vintage film posters, the likes of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield on heavy rotation and a cocktail list that arrives in a Deep Throat-esque VHS cover. Behind the bar, the team is shaking and stirring signature cocktails, as well as seasonal specials, which travel from the tangy and refreshing Sea Breeze and minty Stinger (with lots of Fernet and Cognac) and the classic Gold Rush cocktail with Beechworth Honey and Maker’s Mark.

    Image: Kimberley Low
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  • 6

    Knock three times on the brass pineapple and wait. Then head through the door, down a staircase and along a dark corridor. Enter the bar and drink. Simple as that. And that’s Door Knock. The cocktail and wine bar offers a different pace to the outside world. The cocktail and food menus change frequently due to seasonality and the team’s current obsession. The drinks offerings include a staked collection of signature cocktails, fortified wines and a wide selection of local and foreign wines with natural and preservative-free expressions showing up across red, wine and sparkling options. Door Knock is keeping with its signature style and is creating its own twist on the Gold Rush dubbed the Golden Brown with Maker’s Mark and Beechworth Honey, of course, but with macadamia, lemon and thyme to make it its own.

    Image: Door Knock

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  • 5

    The Rover has returned emerging as a sophisticated Surry Hills dining and drink destination tucked behind the same green door at the end of Campbell Street. It may have shed its dive bar energy but there are still hints of its Irish-themed past remaining with a plethora of whiskies on the drinks list, freshly shucked oysters and the repurposed train board listing. Seasonal cocktails join the drinks list curated by 2019 Australian Bartender of the Year Alex Gondzioulis, and this season the cocktail of choice is the classic Gold Rush Cocktail. Head down for a tipple on the ground floor bar and pair it with some of The Rover’s tasty nibbles.

    Image: Dominic Lonergan

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  • 4

    The pop-up venue has proven to be a hit with locals heading there for post-work drinks in the cool basement bar. The menu is built around small plates, cocktails and wine. Chef Joey Astorgo (ex-Cho Cho San and Smalls Deli) has helped pull together the selection of delicious numbers, snacks and late-night eats. If you do arrive taco-ready, there are various flavours on offer — jerk mushroom and a fancy take on fish fingers. Accompanying the tacos are Sydney rock oysters with pineapple hot sauce, spanner crab sandwiches, Albacore tuna with avocado and nori, and the house special Ginny’s mini Cubano sandwich. You know what could pair nicely with that sando? A Gold Rush classic cocktail.

    Image: Chris Pearce

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  • 3

    Behind the Betta Meats butchery facade, you’ll find a secret but beloved cocktail bar: Earl’s Juke Joint. It has been around since 2013 and remained a firm Newtown favourite since then. On the spectrum of masculine broody, the Earl’s decor comes in at about the ‘thick with bourbon’ mark — you could be forgiven for swearing there is a haze of cigarette smoke in the air. If you’re not so keen on bartender banter there are a few booths at the back of the room, and plenty of side tables if you’re after a touch of privacy. Move on down the menu to the cocktail list, which rotates through eight options every two months and uses native ingredients like saltbush and kaffir lime, it’s also slinging the classic Gold Rush cocktail.

    Image: Earl’s Juke Joint

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  • 2

    The next stop on your city bar hop, Papa Gede’s, boasts an entrance more Baxter than the Baxter Inn’s and the mandatory backstory of a converted garage, but it does not take long to realise this one is a curveball. A voodoo-inspired, jungle-walled cocktail bar that can tempt you from any dinner plans with popcorn and burger rings — and your mind with absinthe and a generous cocktail list is a generous mix of classics and signatures, including a Zombie that promises to resurrect the dead and the classic Gold Rush cocktail. It is pretence free, run by good friends (with some serious credentials) and dedicated to all things fun embodied in history’s greatest party animal, Papa Gede — who also happens to be Death, the first person to die, a fan of cheap cigars, apples, and… top hats? Daddy’s home.

    Image: Papa Gede’s

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    Originally built in 1893, but beautifully restored in 2005, the Marble Bar is as described: a luxury basement bar with iconic marble archways, a frosted glass ceiling and a beautifully restored mahogany bar. Enjoy the Victorian Gothic vibes combined with speakeasy energy as you sip on a glass of sparkling or stunning cocktails at this heritage-listed underground bar and music venue. The drinks and food bar harks back to the prohibition era with signature cocktails like the Autumn in New York (Olmeca Reposado Tequila, pomme vert, apple juice, agave, citrus), classic sidecar, the Charlie Chaplin (Plymouth Sloe Gin, apricot brandy and citrus) and the classic Gold Rush cocktail. There are live music events Monday–Saturday featuring a mix of jazz, pop and R&B to keep the chill vibes going. But take note, this is a classy joint so you’ll have to keep to a strict dress code — thongs, t-shirts, shorts and sneakers are no-gos in this underground bar.

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The Gold Rush cocktail is the product of a sweet partnership between Maker’s Mark and Beechworth Honey. We’ve teamed up with them to offer a totally exclusive Concrete Playground Trips deal to stay at Beechworth Honey’s premium accommodation The Hive Apartment and receive everything you need to enjoy the cocktail while exploring honey country.

Top Image: Door Knock

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