The Ten Best Cocktail Bars in Sydney

Long gone are the days where 007's "shaken not stirred" will cut it.

Lisa Omagari
Published on February 12, 2013
Updated on March 25, 2019

in partnership with

Long gone are the days where 007's "shaken not stirred" will cut it. Cocktails — they're far from just sweet concoctions for amateurs seeking out a tipple-induced buzz sans the bitter sting of alcohol. Sydney's love for them has grown steadily over the past few years and that can, in part, be attributed to our fondness of the small bar setting where an Old Fashioned seems the only thing appropriate.

And where to find some of the best? Well, fear not, because Concrete Playground is here to play guide. Let us present to you our ten best cocktail bars in Sydney to help you along your merry little way.

1. Eau de Vie

While not technically a speakeasy, Eau-De-Vie is about as close as you can get to the guilty pleasures of Boardwalk Empire. This Prohibition-style bar is tucked away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel. True to the form, it's well hidden: there's no signage, but the concierge will direct you through the black door at the back, past the restrooms and into this cosy chamber.

And the cocktails? Try the Noble Experiment ($20), whereby you concoct your own Martini as a salute to Prohibition's end, and don't think you can go past the Ladies' Leg Cosmo ($25 per person), which is offered to ladies only and served in a seductive leg.

229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst;

2. The Roosevelt

One part glam, one part retro and one part mixologist's fantasy, The Roosevelt is an irresistible mix that has almost immediately become one of Sydney's best cocktail destinations. Glass cabinets filled with antique cocktail making equipment line the room, swing is the soundtrack and the cocktail menu files its drinks into sections like 'Sexy, Ladylike and Seductive' or 'Cocktails on Wheels'. This second category includes the 'Nitro Colada' and the 'Blazer', prepared with much theatre and plenty of nitrogen smoke by waist-coated hosts in the centre of the room. Shared cocktails include further showmanship and trickery, including a playful Hamptons Summer Cup, served in a trophy cup, and a punch bowl which is set alight at the table.

32 Orwell Street, Potts Point;

3. Bulletin Place

Bulletin Place is a prodigious example of in-the-know barman strutting their stuff. And let's be honest, it's really Philips' cocktail expertise that makes this place stand out. Scribbled across a sheet of butcher's paper that hangs behind the bar will be any given evening's cocktail selection, inspired by whatever produce is freshest at the time.

First floor, 10 - 14 Bulletin Place, Circular Quay;

4. Grasshopper

Cocktails are the real drawcard at Grasshopper. All the drinks are numbered instead of having names, and they're just about all served in jars. The No.19, which features orange liqueur, cranberry juice, passionfruit and vanilla vodka, tastes like the sort of gelato you would find at Messina or Pompeii's. The No.14 - comprising blackberry juice and Fanta - is also a Buttermenthol-tasting highlight.

389-391 George St, Sydney;

5. The Hazy Rose

Hazy Rose offers a damn fine cocktail list. The Fernet Julep ($15) is an unusual take on this classic, with Fernet Branca replacing the usual sticky syrup. The Whisky Sour ($15-$25) is closer to what you'd expect, with your choice of whisky served over a block of ice. If you're feeling brave, opt for the Hamish ($18): a mix of Espolon Reposada, Taliskee, sweet vermouth and bitters. My favourite of the night, this had a wonderful smoky aftertaste. A good choice if you're after something a little more gentle is the Stanley Sidecar ($16), which treats you to the house's own apricot brandy along with Cointreau and fresh lemon juice.

83 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst;

6. Assembly

The drinks from mixologist/general manager Ben Taouss make this out-of-the-way cocktail haven one of Sydney's best. Our pick is the Lavender Hill Cappuccino ($17), a martini with Pop Rocks and an apple foam. There's also the Rasp'n'Co ($16), a 'vodka raspberry' with white chocolate or, for more serious drinkers, the Brooklyn ($18), a prohibition-style concoction of rye whisky, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, a dash of Amer Picon and a cherry on top.

488 Kent Street, Sydney;

7. Grandma's

There's no place like home. Except Grandma's. Grandma gives you a big hug, sits you down in her best, chintz-covered chair and gives you a treat. The "grandchildren" are a helpful and friendly lot, and shake their cocktails with wide-eyed glee. Start off with one of Grandma's favourite tipples — the Pink Pepper Martini, a mix of strawberries and a wink of gin, was truly delightful. But the drinks list is seemingly endless, with ingredients including Greek yoghurt, chocolate bitters and elderflower cordial.

Basement 275 Clarence Street, Sydney;

8. Gilt Lounge

Tucked away between Topshop and Sydney's iconic State Theatre is Gilt Lounge. As QT Hotel's sultry grown up cocktail lounge, Gilt takes things to a whole new mixology level. Shakers will be tossed in the air and drinks finished with a flourish. A must-try is the Applewood Bacon Old Fashioned ($19), a wild combination of Applewood bacon-infused buffalo trace bourbon, black peppercorn-infused demerara sugar, creole bitters chocolate covered bacon and flamed orange. Yes, you read right. Chocolate. Covered. Bacon. It's a flavour fusion gamble that definitely pays off.

49 Market Street, Sydney;

9. Different Drummer

Since ages past, the Drummer has been serving scintillating cocktails with a happy-go-lucky list of patrons who don't hesitate to share their thoughts on why the Agwacello (agwa coco leaf liquor, limoncello & cloudy apple) is the best cocktail on the menu. Settle in downstairs amongst the bordello-like luxury for your birthday or girls-night, or take a date up to the roof for a breeze and a good view. And lest we forget to mention the daily two-for-one cocktails. Damn right.

185 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe;

10. Button Bar

Button Bar is the third offering from the creators behind Stitch and Pocket bars. And it's time to batten down the hatches because with a seasoned crew on board, it sure is a ship not to be missed. The three page cocktail menu offers a diverse selection of tipples. The Lucky Charm made with below vodka, fresh strawberries and honey with prosseco ($16.50) is fresh as is the Pleasure Vessel, a combination of Appleton dark rum, Grand Marnier, orange marmalade, fresh grapefruit, fresh lemon juice and orange blossom water ($17).

65 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills;

By the Concrete Playground team.

Published on February 12, 2013 by Lisa Omagari
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