The best bars in Sydney are usually hidden (or at least hard to find), but lucky for you, we’ve taken on the challenge of finding them all, and trying their cocktails too.
No matter how many times we go to Stitch Bar, we still manage to walk straight past it, so if you spot the sewing machines and make it down the stairs, you definitely deserve a drink. We could talk about their cocktails all day but what we really want to talk about is the mac n cheese balls, because they are everything. We’re talking piping hot, cheesy goodness that even a lactose intolerant wannabe couldn’t turn down. Pair them with a wine and you really win.
Earl’s Juke Joint
Don’t be afraid (or confused) by the Bella Meats shop front - you’re in the right place and it’s welcomes vegetarians and vegans with open arms. Hidden behind a sneaky butcher façade, Earl’s Juke Joint adds a slice of New Orleans to Newtown. It’s dark, moody and everything you want your neighbourhood bar to be. Get down to ‘90s hip-hop and pull up a chair at the 11-metre bar.
Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern
Blink and you literally will miss Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern. One of those places you need to go to with someone who’s been before (so you can actually find it), this underground drinking den guarantees a good time. Leather booths, old-school tunes and a wild, wild whiskey collection mean you’ll be cancelling any plans and staying the night.
Finding the concealed fridge door inside a random pizza shop, which leads you to Huxley’s, is no mean feat, but once you find it, we promise you it’s worth it. The dimly lit NYC sports bar stocks every American beer you’ve never dreamed of and serves up diner style dishes designed to be devoured. There’s a hell of a lot of sport to watch (obvi) and a daily wing eating competition for those of you who are that way inclined.
We know, we know, The Baxter Inn is hardly “hidden” anymore, but it’s not your average bar and for those new to Sydney, it’s still damn hard to find! Tucked down an alleyway, just off Clarence Street, you’ll find the legendary underground bar boasting over 600 labels of whiskey and more. Snack on pretzels and make your way through the liquor shelf while enjoying the smooth sounds of old-school jazz and the fact that you found a seat.
If you somehow manage to find the lift to this hidden gem of a rooftop, you’re in for a real treat. Lobsters, burgers & liquor… what more could one person want? This self-proclaimed ginstitution is where you’ll want to stay all night when the weather is warm, so pop by for lunchtime lobster rolls and stay ‘til your heart’s content with cocktails.
The Wild Rover
There’s no such thing as too many whisky bars and The Wild Rover knows exactly how to turn on the Irish charm. Set in a very unassuming (aka confusing) shirt warehouse, this split-level watering hole is a neighbourhood favourite, booming with live folk bands and plenty of banter. The obscure cocktails will keep you coming back and the $1 oysters are pretty damn good too.
If you’re a fan of rum and hot Havana nights, Lobo Plantation was made for you. Descend the winding staircase and bunker down in this saucy saloon for a slice of Cuban paradise and instant tropical feels. The cocktail menu is fun and fruity, and the bar food has a Caribbean flare too.
When in doubt, head to Grandma’s. Laid back, easy and always comforting after a tough week of work, this eclectic underground bar is one of Sydney’s best. Kitsch décor, homemade cocktails and beer served in paper bags really does make it feel like a second home.
Love, Tilly Divine
It’s all about wine at Love, Tilly Divine. Named after Sydney's historically infamous brothel Madame and militia boss, Tilly Devine, this small laneway bar seats only 40 and offers over 300 grape varieties. The staff mean serious business, but aren’t so serious themselves, so grab a chair by the window and watch the world pass by with a glass (or three) of some of Sydney’s best vino.
Gunther’s Dining Room
Hidden at the end of the corridor behind Redfern Continental, you’ll find Gunther’s Dining Room. Not many know of this retro cocktail bar but those that do don’t really want the secret to get out. With plush green velour seats and a full blown disco ball, you know you’re in for a good time, so get yourself there stat before it gets too hot to handle.
Palmer & Co.
If you want to live like Gatsby for a night, navigate your way to Palmer & Co. for the ultimate 1920s speakeasy. Another Merivale masterpiece, this laneway bar is all about old-school charm. Suit up and get ready to get your whiskey on, or if you’ve got a long night ahead the espresso martinis are bloody good too.
The Barber Shop
CBD + Barangaroo
If you haven’t heard of The Barber Shop, it’s basically a hair parlour by day, cocktail bar by night, so in other words, it’s completely amazing. Get yourself groomed and drink up a storm. Entry is via the parlour doors, of course.
Shady Pines Saloon
Oh, good old Shady Pines. How ‘bout them apples? Whiskey apples that is. One of the first of it’s kind to hit the Sydney scene, Shady Pines Saloon is a dimly-lit drinking den, decked out with taxidermy and plenty of booze. Hidden behind Oxford Street, the only way you’ll spot it is by the permanent queue out the front. If you’ve lived here for 6+ months, it’s almost embarrassing it you haven’t yet been.
Prefer gelato to gin? You should probably check this out.
Image credit: Daryl Kong