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Some nights you want a pot of beer that doesn't taste too bad and a bowl of chips that will do as dinner. But other nights you want a locally distilled spirit washed with something fancy like butter served with house-made bitters, just-cut ice and something that has been (or still is) on fire. For those times, these are the bars you want to head to — from an underground CBD den with 150 whiskies to a 'Twin Peaks'-themed bar shaking and stirring giant tiki cocktails till 1am.
You might need more dollars in your bank account, but, really, if you're going out for piña coladas, there is no room to be anything less than frivolous.
Images: Letícia Almeida
This King Street Wharf haunt knows how to get the party started — and keep it going.
This eastern suburbs bar boasts a bangin' rooftop and generous daily specials.
A slick one-stop spot in the CBD that delivers after-work food and drink.
It's all about drag and drinks, darling.
This Kensington Street townhouse is filled with 75 gins around the world.
After three years of operation, the distillers have opened a public bar in their inner west warehouse.
An old-world whisky bar in The Rocks.
Barangaroo's new small bar serving up rare Champagne and charcuterie boards.
The Darlinghurst original that spawned an empire.
Serving pizza and award-winning cocktails up the hill from the beach.
A decadent new dining room attached to Merivale's northern beaches pub.
Mosman's greenhouse-inspired rooftop with a gin room and a rosé bar.
A hard-to-find underground cocktail bar in the CBD.
The Hugos Kings Cross space as been reborn with a new concept.
A near-faultless small 20-seat cocktail bar from the team behind KOI dessert bar.
Enmore's 'Twin Peaks'-themed tiki bar will take you to another dimension of bowl-sized cocktails and free banana chips.
Summer Hill's long-standing milk bar is now a spot for Negronis, cheese boards and boozy milkshakes.
A fun bar and casual dining experience in the heart of the Redfern resurgence.
A Thor-inspired carvery doing modern Nordic food and exceptional cocktails.
Surry Hills' 1950s-inspired bar dedicated to The Fonz.
With an oyster bar, Aussie-themed cocktails and a view over the harbour.
This cosy, hidden gem feels just like a friend's lounge room.
We can’t keep Redfern’s retro Euro bar a secret, comrades.
Say hello to Queen Chow and The Smelly Goat.
Darlinghurst's film noir-inspired cocktail bar.
Find blues, soul and cocktails inspired by the notorious historic locals of Potts Point at this neighbourhood speakeasy.
Cosy basement bar at Fred's with exposed sandstone, seasonal cocktails and killer bar snacks.
The three-tiered Darlinghurst pub gets new life with an upstairs sports bar and rooftop terrace.
Sydney Harbour's Cuban-inspired vista bar.
Hello Sailor has been transformed into a cheese, wine and hip hop bar.
Combining a French military aesthetic with an end of war party vibe, and stocked with over 900 spirits — expect banging cocktails.
High-class French food in a subterranean space on Bligh Street. The chicken fricassée is the stuff of legend.
The 'open soda door' from former Bulletin Place, Sokyo and Der Raum folks.
This could be your CBD paradise.
Discover this hidden basement bar underneath Riley Street Garage.
Merivale's upstairs spirit den comes with personal drinks trolley service.
Waterside food and views worth a million bucks.
Creative snacks and cocktails in a damn good-looking bar.
Dine in your own private opium den
An LA-style social club from the team behind the Lobo Plantation.
Nautical food and liquor for landlubbers.
Slip into cruise control this Oxford Street basement cocktail bar.
The Palisade's luxe rooftop bar is the best place to take in Sydney.
Three high-end restaurants, 62 guest rooms and its very own custom-designed scent.
Bondi's beloved Asian-fusion joint has expanded to the Hills.
The Bulletin Place team reinvent Bacardi Breezers, Redskins and so many nostalgic favourites.
Boarded up for close to a decade, this bar gained a new lease on life in 2015. Keep things casual downstairs, or head upstairs for cocktails and a killer view.
Inspired by Cuban cocktail joints, the former Lo-Fi space is now a make-your-own G&T bar.
Warmth, spice and vibrancy emanates from the corner of Campbell and Crown Streets.
Darlinghurst's new Hamptons-inspired joint making some of the most hectic Bloody Marys in Sydney.
Bennelong is more casual and relaxed than ever before — but that doesn't mean the food isn't show-stopping.
Some of Sydney's best tequila and mezcal cocktails await at the Barrio Chino team's basement bar.
A sophisticated homage to New Orleans and its signature drink, the sazerac.
Head to this Oxford Street cocktail oasis for great spritz and natural wine.
A hidey-hole of a small bar off the beaten Woolloomooloo path.
Once a '20s gangster battleground, now a shady speakeasy.
Life's a beach at the imaginative Coogee Pavilion's beachfront rooftop bar.
Sydney’s new destination for the gin-uinely passionate.
A must-do with out-of-towners or when you're seeing a gig at the Opera House.
Panda Coladas flow until 5am at this recently-opened CBD bar.
This cement-walled drinking dungeon hosts live music, storytelling, burlesque and drink-and-draw classes.
Secret Garden Bar has once again reinforced that if you’re a fan of fun, the inner west needs to be your playground.
The West End Hotel is reborn as The Balmain, complete with Flamingo Room and a transcontinental menu.
Hustle in and flow out of Redfern's new hip hop-inspired drinks and beats spot.
The boys behind Grandma's inject a bit of craic into Sydney's bar scene.
Where every night is the dinner party you've dreamed of one day throwing.
Follow Bobby's for boozy spiders and '50s tunes.
The Bourbon is all about New Orleans Creole.
A prodigious example of in-the-know barmen strutting their stuff.
This rooftop bar will have you digging on lobster almost as much as our lobster-obsessed American friends.
Sprightly and whimsical, The Botanist is abloom with good food, great drinks and a fun, furzy mood.
The Cross' open-air diamond in the rough.
Gilt is Sydney's newest CBD hidey hole perfect for bona fide cocktail aficionados.
Grain is a prototype of eating and drinking decadence. A place of sultry looks, sophisticated liquor and inspiring service.
This York Street basement bar is a little bit kitsch and a little bit mysterious.
Double Bay, as many would have you believe, has long been starved of a healthy bar scene. Mrs Sippy, however, presents an argument to the contrary.
Tucked away behind Mojo Records on York Street lies this inner city drinking cave.
A fairy-lit small bar with a sweet little courtyard out the back.
This is one of the few basement level bars in the CBD that you can find without a compass and a lucky crystal.
Owners Peter Sulis and Aaron Fitton have united with the idea of creating a local's bar that never fails to surprise.
A hidden, but well-known, cocktail bar reminiscent of Sydney's notorious past of speakeasies, sly grog and razor gangs.
Good old fashioned fun in Bondi.
Assembly is a spanking new option on the city's map of small bars with the atmosphere of an adult's treehouse.
This is the small bar Newtown never knew it needed.
A subterranean bar with sewing machines and hot dogs.
A refined, NYC-inspired bar sending you back to the 1950s with champagne, plenty of cocktails and $1 oysters every Thursday.
Surry Hills' home of tequila, cocktails and free popcorn.
Redfern's dive bar with great tasting bottled lager for $5, free popcorn and beer-based cocktails.
Boysenberry cider, a 16-strong beer list and live music.
A cavernous whisky bar where the bartenders know their stuff and good times are at the top of the agenda.
The atmosphere of a writer's den, insanely long opening hours, fun and flavorsome food, a drinks menu that will keep even the most inspired drinker guessing, and not even the slightest degree of pretension.
Finding Freda’s is like stepping through the back of a magic wardrobe.
This aptly-named small bar is brimming with more than its fair share of goodness.
Darlo bar hoppers may not be starved for their pick of small bars, but Low’s got a little something the others don’t.
The Owl House is a secluded treat. If only for a conversation with the barmen, it's definitely worth a visit now and then.
While not technically a speakeasy, this cocktail bar is about as close as you can get to the guilty pleasures of Boardwalk Empire.
Pocket's grungy, laid-back aesthetic, unpretentious atmosphere and funky beats deeply layered with lo-end bass will make you empty out your pockets again and again.
A CBD cocktail bar with faded granny glamour.