Cocktails are like presents we give to ourselves on special occasions…

…or whenever.

These concoctions of joy are a welcoming gift to all, perfect for celebrating achievements or whenever your tastebuds yearn for something different. Whether you want a drink sweeter than chardonnay or a tastier bitter blend to substitute your lager or IPA, cocktails never disappoint. Sydney is no virgin on this matter, featuring an eclectic mix of bars serving up some scintillating creations for your wild heart. So what are the best bars in Sydney serving cocktails? Here, let me show you:

Zephyr Sky Bar

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@zephyrbarsyd]
The best cocktail bars—without a doubt—are the ones that share fantastic rooftop views. Zephyr Bar does just that, sharing a 180-degree view of Darling Harbour atop the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The added bonus here, of course, is their cocktails. They have a smart collection of classics and a wild collection of signatures, including a specialised list of gin and tonic mixes. We recommend their Zephyr Red Sangria: Cognac, vermouth, dry orange curacao, orange juice, red wine, fresh seasonal fruits, topped with ginger beer and lemonade – served to share in a punch bowl.

Gin Lane

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@ginlanesydney]
Kensington Street near Central Station has become a foodie haven as of late, featuring all sorts of a food and drink inventions. And on this little strip of bliss is Gin Lane, specialising in the crafty spirit with spectacular efficiency. But while you’ll surely come for the G&T’s, you’ll definitely stay for their unique signature cocktails that are as theatrical as they are tasty. How about a Gunpowder plot, with Gunpowder Tea-spiked gin, Fernet-Branca liqueur, gunpowder syrup, dandelion and burdock bitters with fresh citrus – served in a smoking cloche with Gunpowder twigs.

PS40

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@ps40bar]
PS40 is an experimentally fun bar on Skittle Lane, serving up the classics as well as a few courageous and seasonal cocktails for your tasting pleasure. They are also the creators of PS Soda, a brand of specially designed mixers for drinking as is or mixing experimentally with spirits, wines and beers. Their collection of cocktails changes with the seasons, so we recommend saying “surprise me” at the bar.

Door Knock

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@doorknock_sydney]
Getting here is half the fun. Once you find the right door on Pitt Street, head on down the flight of stairs and along a concrete corridor. Follow the signs until you reach a hefty entrance featuring a cute pineapple acting as a door knocker. Knock twice and wait, then soon you will enter the classy realm of Sydney’s underground, better known as Door Knock. May we recommend My Ex Paloma, a bittersweet cocktail consisting of hopped mezcal, smoked grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, agave, sea salt and a jello worm. Your lips will surely pinch.

Employees Only

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@employeesonlysyd]
Despite the name, customers are welcome too. Well, heartily recommended, actually. Employees Only is one of the latest flagship bars from the original establishment in New York. Its roaring 20s interior mixes well with some sort of upper-class hipster vibe. Think American Horror Story: Hotel, minus the evil Lady Gaga. A quaint cocktail pit stop. Ask for Amelia and you will receive a shaken blend of vodka & elderflower liqueur with fresh lemon & puréed blackberries.

Dulcie’s

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@bulletinplacesydney]
No, Kings Cross is not dead despite what the media says. There are a few watering holes still going strong, just like the cabaret cocktail bar of Dulcies. No need to Google what “bohemian” looks like, just head to this bar for an evening soiree and you will find out. Do you want something a little daring? Go for Fifty-Fifty Club, featuring Prohibition Bathtub Cut (69%) Gin stirred with a 50/50 balance of Regal Rouge Bold Red and Castagna Vermouth, then finished with Marionette Dry Curacao and a dash of cacao and macadamia bitters.

Bulletin Place

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@bulletinplacesydney]
Bulletin Place Bar isn’t that hard to find, as it’s situated in a small laneway. But it’s hidden just enough to be cool and underground. The interior is rustic, laced with dimmed lighting, charming furniture and interesting wall art. But the cocktails are the staple here. Classic cocktails are available on request, along with a range of daily-changing signatures. If you’re feeling a little creative, maybe throw them a recipe of your own. Or, if you trust them enough, you could just say “surprise me”.

Palmer and Co

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@palmerco]
There are a handful of hidden secrets in Sydney; they exist in sheltered laneways, dark corners, and through dimly-lit doorways. Palmer and Co, however, is stashed behind a metal doorway somewhere along the skinny Abercrombie Lane. The interior is a whirling blend of the 20s, 30s, 40s and the occasional 50s, but it could also be a whole other realm altogether. Perhaps some French Polynesian is in order; their Tahitian Rum Punch is a palatial combination of Palmer Spiced Rum, Appleton Jamaican Rum, Tempus Fugit Creme de Banane, Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc, citrus, brown sugar and pineapple.

Blu Bar on 36

Image: Sourced from Instagram [@shangrilasydney]
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: “The best bars—without a doubt—are the ones that share fantastic rooftop views.” How about a birds-eye perspective of Sydney Harbour from Blu Bar on level 36 at the Shangri La Hotel? And not to mention a special conglomeration of cocktails to woo your tastebuds. We recommend the Harbour Spritz, with Aperol, Limoncello, pink grapefruit juice, yuzu and Prosecco. It’s the perfect accompaniment for you and your lover while you both gaze over Sydney’s glorious harbour.

The Baxter Inn

Image: Christopher Kelly

If you stay in Sydney long enough, you’re bound to come across The Baxter Inn in conversation or on a night out. Despite the fact they’re too known to be secret anymore, they still exude the same 1800s saloon vibe and they still have one of the best collections of whisky in Sydney. And as well as serving pretzels as free bar snacks, they also do crazy liquor concoctions―from classics to signatures. The guys behind the bar are quite adept in ascertaining your particular tastes and mixing up a concoction to match.

3 Replies to “Sydney’s Best Cocktail Bars”

  1. Hi Christopher,

    I would just like to ask out of curiosity what your basis was for judging your top cocktail bars above? I feel like you might have left out some bars more worthy in your book in terms of service, design, awards, and cocktail balance. Places that come to mind are, Charlie Parker’s, Lobo plantation, Burrow Bar, Old Mates Place, Maybe Sammy’s, and J&M. If you haven’t been to any of these places, I would highly recommend you check them out before or during writing up your next article for some fresh inspirations. Cheers 🙂

    1. Hi Gerard,

      Lists like this are never going to please. I have heard of these places you mention, and I’ve yet to visit, but they didn’t charm me enough to be on the list, which I’ve been strict to keep at a maximum of 10 (gotta be nice to the reader, who would feel overwhelmed if the list was up to 20). This list includes both personal loves and friends’ recommendations, and the ones that offer a quirky experience, namely the joy of getting there or wonderful views.

      But I’ll definitely keep your list of worthy cocktail bars for any upcoming features. Perhaps a bar crawl is in order…

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