Bars & Pubs

The Best Bars In The Sydney CBD Right Now

By Urban List Writers

While it's easy to assume that the CBD is awash with great spots to sink a beer, clink a cocktail or wind down with a wine, it can be a challenge to settle on a bar when you find yourself smack-bang in the middle of Sydney/Eora.

Urban List has sipped through the Sydney CBD to uncover the best cocktail spots, basement boozers and sleek wine bars worth visiting when you're a little thirsty in the heart of our fair city. For everything from knockoffs to kick-ons, here are the best bars in Sydney's CBD.

The Caterpillar Club

92 Pitt Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd the caterpillar club
Image credit: The Caterpillar Club | Instagram

A late-night bar and music venue hidden under the heart of the Sydney CBD, The Caterpillar Club stays open until at least 3am every night of the week, slinging classic cocktails (including Zombies on tap).

Under its unassuming entrance on Pitt Street, the space comprises a bar area with cosy two-person booths with a backdrop of 10,000 vinyl records, a stage-front space with bistro seating, larger booths in the back, and hidden Tiki bar The Bamboo Room in the rear offering even more exclusive sips.

Drinks are mostly classic cocktails with select wines and beers, and the snacks menu offers crab and avocado cocktail, cheese and spinach hand pies, and a fancy smoked cheeseburger available all night.

Maybe Sammy

115 Harrington Street, The Rocks

bars sydney cbd maybe sammy
Image credit: Maybe Sammy | Supplied

Having been named the #29 bar in the world, the best bar in Australasia and the most influential bar in the world, Maybe Sammy is a standout among Sydney CBD bars. Decked out with a '60s Palm Springs aesthetic, including bartenders in white jackets with a single red carnation, this spot's all about the glitz and glam.

The details change regularly, but you can expect bubbles, foams, washes and more on the cocktail menu that's centred around themes and developed by the whole team. Maybe Sammy also does $7 mini cocktails (including martinis, jasmine Negronis and eucalyptus gimlets) 4.30pm–5.30pm every day and $2 oysters on Saturdays.

The Baxter Inn

152/156 Clarence Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd the baxter inn
Image credit: The Baxter Inn | Instagram

The lights are low but the vibes are high at The Baxter Inn, where whisky is the main name of the game, from all corners of the Earth. You'll find this hidden CBD bar by heading down a carriageway and joining the queue to descend into a nondescript former storeroom—but trust us, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you make it inside.

Order up a cocktail like the Smokey Joe's with Aperol, Lagavulin 16, Amaro Montenegro, cardamom, honey and citrus, marvel at how the free pretzels are so tasty, and strap in for a big one: The Baxter Inn is open till 3am every day, and there are live tunes every Sunday for the Baxter Blues Club from 9pm.

Shell House

37 Margaret Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd shell house
Image credit: Shell House | Instagram

This isn't just one, but actually three Sydney CBD bars: ClocktowerSky Bar and Menzies Bar. On the ground, Menzies Bar is a Euro-inspired bistro with a striking marble bar and $10 mini martinis and lobster rolls between 4pm and 6pm.

Upstairs Sky Bar offers panoramic views, a breezy terrace and rich '70s-inspired decor, while Clocktower is an intimate, timber-lined space for after dark. Each bar has its own individual vibe—so you'll just have to plan a visit to all three.

Cantina OK!

Council Place, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd cantina ok
Image credit: Cantina OK! | Instagram

Set up in a single garage space that’s now shades of lemonade pink, mauve, gold and emerald, Cantina OK! is a small (seriously small) spot with a passion for agave-based spirits that makes it a must-visit in the Sydney CBD—just don't expect a seat.

There are about 100 mezcals and tequilas expressions on show, including rare and vintage selections and the menu changes often, but if you're not sure where to start, we love the house staple Margarita OK! with both tequila and mezcal, lime and orange oil.

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Jacksons On George

176 George Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd jacksons on george
Image credit: Jacksons on George | Supplied

The revamp of the notorious nightlife spot has turned it into a multi-level, multi-format affair—but if it's just a drink (and maybe some nibbles) you're chasing, we suggest you head up to Jacksons On George's open-air terrace/rooftop bar.

The breezy spot has a cocktail list developed in collaboration with renowned Sydney drinks creator Matt Whiley with sips like the Summer Negroni (white rum, coconut, Campari, Dolin Rouge, and strawberry) and plenty of wines perfect for your sunset moment. On the food front, it's elevated bar bites like a Spencer Gulf king prawn cocktail, jamon and manchego croquettes, and fancy burgers.

Alfie's

4-6 Bligh Street, Sydney CBD

Alfie's, one of the best bars in the Sydney CBDImage credit: Alfie's | Supplied 

Home to Sydney's frostiest martini, Alfie's is a fast-paced, energetic steakhouse that hasn't slept on its bar offering. Hovering over Bligh Street, the dedicated bar does a daily 4pm-6pm happy hour and one of Sydney's best snack menus. Think beef nuggets with brown sauce, juicy charred beef skewers, and a rotisserie beef hot chip butty with burger sauce and pickles. 

During happy hour, work your way through a menu of cocktails, wines, and snacks where everything is under $20—including the sub-zero Alfie's Martini and the chip butty. You can even get a $3 butcher of Grifters, making this one of Sydney's best spots for knockoff drinks. And, if you love a martini, here's where you'll find more of Sydney's best. 

Employees Only

9a Barrack Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd employees only
Image credit: Employees Only | Instagram

A sibling to the New York bar of the same name that consistently places on the World's 50 Best Bars, Employees Only is a fab underground haven for late-night fun, with burlesque performances on the bar, tarot readings and energetic routines from the bartenders.

The drinks are world-class and include a large selection of signature cocktails, but the bistro menu (with dishes like spanner crab tostadas, tableside steak tartare, and scallop and prawn dumplings in lemon butter emulsion) is worth a visit too. For all the fun for half the cash, go Tuesday–Friday for 50% off food orders placed between 5pm and 6pm, and 50% off house spirits, house beers, house wine, and Employees Only classic cocktails. Love a bargain? Check out more of Sydney's best happy hours.

Bar 83

Entry via Westfield Sydney, Level 4/108 Market Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd bar 83 sydney tower

Sydney's highest bar—enough said? Bar 83 is a retro-futuristic dream 245 metres above the ground with an unmistakable red and white interior, 260-degree view of Sydney, and a cocktail and food menu that features Australian ingredients.

Try the sunset-hued Aurora, with gin, rockmelon, vermouth, native bitters, lemon, salt and Peychaud’s paired with nibbles like steak tartare with lemon myrtle crackers, or tempura zucchini flowers with yuzu kosho.

Double Deuce Lounge

6 Bridge Street, Sydney CBD

Double Deuce Lounge is the retro-themed watering hole that is self-described as '70s porno chic—with timber-panelled walls, leather booths and bulb-framed mirrors—so the décor alone is worth a visit.

Cocktails are the main event at this Sydney CBD bar and continue the retro theme, with picks like the Full Bush blending Maker’s Mark, yuzu, grapefruit, rooibos and maple. There's also a snack menu with house-made French onion dip and Jatz. '70s goals.

Centro 86

86-88 Pitt Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd centro 86
Image credit: Centro 86 | Dexter Kim

Centro 86 is a basement tequila bar, inspired by a fancy Mexican cantina, from the award-winning crew behind Cantina OK!, Bar Planet and Tio's. It's all about agave here, with a 100-strong selection of rare and delicious tequilas, including a couple you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Australia.

Dressed in green waistcoats, the team delivers their signature low-key cocktail theatre, pouring drinks over fresh fruit and shaved-to-order ice. Grab a bag of complimentary popcorn laced with a new secret spice (yes, different to Bar Planet and Tio's) and order a few of our fave: the Royale, with Herradura Plata, champagne, lemon and yuzu.

Apollonia

Basement, Hinchcliff House, 5–7 Young Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd apollonia hinchcliff house
Image credit: Apollonia | Instagram

Hidden in the basement beneath Hinchcliff House, the four-storey Italian-inspired mega restaurant, Apollonia is a moody bar inspired by Michael Corleone's wife in The Godfather.

You'll find Italian and Australian amari, bitters, whiskies, and gins, with plenty of cocktails on offer like the Polka Dot Dress with pear vodka, eucalyptus, fino sherry and rhubarb, and the signature Apollonia Negroni, which comes off tap to impart a silky mouthfeel. There's a menu of Sicilian-style snacks available until 10pm, with a smaller offering through until late.

Little Felix

2a Ash Street, Sydney CBD

Little Felix is a moody cocktail bar in Merivale's ivy Precinct, inspired by Paris in the roaring '20s. As the little sister of Felix restaurant, you’ll recognise that elegance runs in the genes, with opulent interiors, a large selection of wines poured from magnum bottles, and indulgent French snacks.

Cocktails like the Red Cap Paloma (reposado tequila, passionfruit, red capsicum, grapefruit, lime and soda) pack big flavours and plenty of personality, and we can't go past caviar (or trout roe) blini, dainty prawn sandwiches and perfect French fries.

Vinabar

332 Kent Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd vinabar
Image credit: Vinabar | Instagram

Hidden behind a decoy banh mi shop frontage, Vinabar is a small CBD bar that packs big Vietnamese-inspired flavours, a gorgeous interior thanks to 60 handmade silk lanterns from Hoi An, and the cutest baby banh mi in Sydney.

Cocktails look like a Vietnamese iced coffee martini with Viet coffee, vodka, condensed milk and shaved coconut, the Vinagroni with smoked pecan, gin, Campari and vermouth, and a signature rambutan martini with vodka, rambutan, lychee and forest fruits. Best of all, Vinabar stays open until 2am, every night of the week.

Dean And Nancy On 22

Level 22, 2 Hunter Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd dean and nancy on 22
Image credit: Dean and Nancy on 22 | Instagram

From the Maybe Sammy team, Dean and Nancy is a sleek and stylish bar that positions you eye-to-eye with the Sydney CBD skyscrapers. Expect a black and gold palette, a baby grand piano, low leather banquettes, intimate lamp-lit tables and world-class cocktails.

There are signature concoctions written into a journey of a menu, including some high roller creations made with super premium spirits, and non-alcoholic cocktails too. The dining menu is generous for a bar, with nibbles like oysters, caviar, and truffle fries through to plates of mafaldine pasta, lobster rolls, and a brisket burger.

The Doss House

77/79 George Street, The Rocks

bars sydney cbd the doss house the rocks
Image credit: The Doss House | Instagram

Sydney has its share of fabulous whisky bars and The Doss House is the perfect home for this dark spirit; the historic basement has been a bootmaker's, boarding house, doctor’s surgery and opium den, and retains a lot of the intrigue and charm of the dockside precinct's original life.

Whether you opt for a cosy spot surrounded by sandstone and flickering candles or head up to the courtyard on the significant Nurse's Walk, you'll want to settle in and explore the spirit collection while grazing over a charcuterie board. Head in from 6pm on Sundays to experience solid craic with live traditional Irish tunes.

Eau-de-Vie

285 George Street, Sydney CBD

bars sydney cbd eau de vie
Image credit: Eau-de-Vie | Instagram

One of Sydney's most awarded cocktail bars, Eau-de-Vie relocated to the CBD from Darlinghurst for a new era of late nights and whisky flights. 

Led by the Speakeasy Group, the new space doesn't reinvent the wheel; instead, you'll find a similar dimly lit and jazz-soaked atmosphere, the signature whisky room, and private lockers for keeping your precious bottles. Cocktails are creative and extra, with favourites from the past lineup still hitting hard, like the Espresso Zabaione blending your choice of vodka, rum, or tequila, with cold drip coffee and a touch of maple syrup topped with a saffron and vanilla mousse, super chilled and frozen with liquid nitrogen—basically the best espresso martini... ever.

Rockpool Bar

66 Hunter Street, Sydney CBD

While Rockpool Bar & Grill is an iconic Sydney restaurant, the attached walk-in-only Rockpool Bar is also well worth a visit for a knockoff, luxe bar eats, or nightcap in an elegant CBD setting.

Signature cocktails (we are big fans of the martinis), a neat selection of wines by the glass, plenty of whisky and a few beers are on offer, plus Rockpool's extensive bottled wine program, plus the full restaurant menu and dedicated bar snacks. Rockpool Sydney also offers one of Sydney’s best happy hours; swing by between 4pm and 6pm, Monday–Friday for $12 cocktails, a $15 bar snacks menu and $4 fries.

Mary's

7 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay

Waving the grimy-but-great Sydney CBD bar flag since Frankie's closed, Mary's is a dive bar that turns everything up to 100, with cold beers, a selection of whisky and satisfying cocktails, including $10 margaritas on Thursdays.

Food looks like the iconic dirty burgers, buttermilk fried chicken pieces or nuggets, fries, mash with chicken gravy, and a huge selection of completely vegan offerings of the same ilk. Downstairs, you've got live music space Mary's Underground, where you can expect touring artists, appreciation nights and special events.

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Main image credit: The Caterpillar Club | Website

Urban List Best Of: has our highest stamp of approval—curated lists of the very best recommendations for you to eat, do, see, buy, or book, carefully chosen by our Editors.

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