Get ready to tipple your way to the top at Sydney’s best bars – from slick mid-century cocktail clubs to lively Euro-style wine bars and absolute tiki heaven.
Love Sydney? So do we, especially when it comes to a night on the town. This city offers incredible diversity in its bar scene, with more top-tier joints opening every year. That’s why we’re here to help you sort through all the ritzy hotel bars and themed speakeasies. Read on for our current list of the best bars in Sydney.
Old Mate’s Place, Sydney
If asked to describe Old Mate’s Place, co-owner Daniel Noble says it all in two words: Jumanji library. Picture Victorian dark wood interiors being reclaimed by banana leaves and a rooftop terrace that's like the Queensland tropics poking out from the seams of Sydney's concrete jungle. Cocktails here capture the bar’s ethos of turning lack of pretension into an art. Loosen your tie when you enter – the staff certainly do – and try the strawberry Pandan Airways, a musk-coloured gin concoction with emerald pandan-leaf paper airplane on top. Feeling whisky? Enjoy The Bakers Dozen butter-washed old fashioned, garnished with the world’s smallest croissant.
Cantina OK!, Sydney
Squeezed into a laneway garage meant to house a single vehicle, you’ll find Cantina OK! serving Sydney’s best margarita. Here, guests stand close between walls painted orchid, watching barmen pour drinks over hand-shaved ice, with limes juiced to order. Everything about this place is uber-craft, from the micro mezcal index that catalogues small-batch agave spirits in film print, to cocktails that hit the bartop on hand-labeled coasters. Drinks are tequila-fun-fusion – a perfect example, the mango-orange Fuzz OK! comes with a psychedelic swirl of lilac pineapple foam on top. For nibbles, expect the market's selection of exotic fruit served with spice and lime.
Maybe Sammy, The Rocks
Feel like you just stepped into an episode of Mad Men? Maybe so, or Maybe Sammy. With prime real estate in the Rocks, this swanky pad is everything to write home about. Stop in after work and snag a seat on the pink velvet banquette while gents in dinner jackets and gals in slinky dresses ply you with their showstopping innovations. Masquerading as an espresso martini, the Kissaten Martini’s black garlic, roast tea and rum notes might surprise you. Of course, the team here are still devotees of the real thing – in fact they roast beans in-house weekly to supply coffee cocktails on the mark. Visiting from out of town? A nearby stay at Rendezvous Hotel Sydney The Rocks might be in order.
Piccolo Bar, Potts Point
Take a wander to the skirts of Kings Cross where Piccolo Bar has entertained late-nighters since 1952. This Italian coffee shop-come-aperitif-hotspot’s 2020 makeover brought a whole new life to the joint. Stop in for pre-dinner drinks and be met by intimate seating, a red-tinted glow and bright yellow walls smothered with photos of the famous faces who have stopped in. They have, of course, ten variations on the negroni. And for the adventurous, there’s a fat menu of amari and aperitifs with helpful tasting notes. Bites feature only the best briny, tinned seafood to whet your appetite – Spanish anchovies, Italian sardines and top-rated Real Conserva mussels.
Bar Copains, Surry Hills
On an unassuming street not far from Central Station, Bar Copains has made a cosy home for itself. This wine bar – where lo-fi hip-hop bleeds from hidden nooks and the list consists mainly of bottlings you've never heard of – is clearly a passion project between two ‘copains’ (‘friends’ in French). You’re in the hands of two Sydney hospitality veterans, Chefs Morgan McGlone and Nathan Sasi, so expect an accompanying menu that upholds the bar’s understated sophistication with mouthwatering picks like carbonara-style pasta made with thick cuts of Western Australian truffle subbed for bacon or creme caramel drenched in amaro.
Alberto’s Lounge, Surry Hills
Discover in Alberto’s Lounge a hub of Italian funk and cool, well-hidden within the legal district. Baristas pour hip wines from Tuscany and Sicily and pair classic cocktails with innovative hand-pulled pastas (squid ink linguine with prawns and saffron butter tickle your fancy?). Every weekend, find a slew of DJs getting a crowd on its feet as they spin the best of blues, disco and world music on vinyl. No seriously, come for the Aperol spritz, stay for the 70s dream of ‘la dolce vita.’ Better yet, book a room at Vibe Hotel Sydney one block away and you can stay as late as you please.
La Salut, Surry Hills
Continue the European tour and raise a glass at La Salut. In classic Catalan style, this venue highlights the best of Spanish tintos and tapas, with a host of palate-piquing vermouths, including a self-branded bottling. The vibe is cool and cut back and lets the drinks do the talking. The list, composed of natural young wines made from vines indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, is broken down by region rather than varietal. Pair a bottle with Spanish standbys plated with undeniably Australian flair – think bright orange egg tortillas made with Andean Sunrise potato, prawns and fermented peppers.
Jacoby’s Tiki Bar, Enmore
Jacoby’s Tiki Bar is a straight-up slice of paradise stranded in the inner west. Step into the classic kitsch of thatched bamboo roofing, pictures of palm trees and macrame decor and trust you’re in for a good time. But know you’ve found something special when a flaming punchbowl shaped like a mollusc floats past, an eerie glow emitting from the smokey lagoon littered with watermelon rinds and passionfruit within. They serve classics too, vamped up with house-made rum grog. Just saying – don’t be surprised when that joker behind the bar wearing sunglasses and a lei doses you with the best Zombie you ever tasted.
Dean & Nancy on 22, Sydney
Stop by the top floor of A by Adina Sydney and try some cocktails with a view at Dean & Nancy on 22. This moody baby sister to Maybe Sammy shows her roots, from the slick black leather booths and burnished golden stairwell to the slew of playful cocktails on order. Let dapper servers impress you at the bar when they decant a smoking, raspberry-kissed espresso martini inspired by the pyramids of Giza. Or recline in the corner and sip the olive-oil-foam-topped blue bauble, Thera, inspired by the domes of Santorini, and let the grand piano ply you with sweet, sweet jazz.
Archie Rose Distilling Co., Rosebury
Known and loved for producing some of Australia’s best gin and rye since 2014, Archie Rose Distilling Co. made a libation sensation when they opened their doors to the public in 2020. Hands down, the forte here is spirit flights, served from a back bar lined with the brand’s entire range – plus exclusive private releases. A mere wall of whiskey-aging barrels separates the shabby-chic seating from the production floor and its copper-pot stills, but if you fancy a behind-the-scenes look, book a distillery tour or 'blend your own’ gin or whisky class.
Feature image: Cantina OK!
Looking for more inspiration? Allow us to tell you about Sydney’s Best Restaurants next.