While Australia might be synonymous with world-class wine, the best cocktail bars in Sydney give the country’s beloved wineries a run for their money. Margaritas, martinis or Sydney slings – finding a new favourite drink is easy in a city with so many excellent places to enjoy a cocktail. Join us for a tour of the movers, mixers and shakers stirring things up in Sydney, including two bars that rank among the finest in the world.
Named one of the world’s 50 best bars in 2022, the 50s-style Maybe Sammy brings Golden Age glamour to Sydney’s cocktail scene. This sophisticated spot is all white marble, blonde wood and polished brass – and the menu is just as chic as the interior design. For a taste of the past, try one of their vintage cocktails, which are made using antique spirits from the bar’s private collection. Like a 1970s Negroni, stirred with spirits that are half-a-century old. Maybe Sammy is a regular on round-ups of the best cocktail bars in Sydney – and after a sip of one of their signature drinks, you’ll soon taste why.
Waste not want not is the ethos at Re–. From décor to drinks, everything here is designed with sustainability in mind. Take the tabletops. They might look like terrazzo, but they’re actually made from recycled milk bottles. And that ‘leather’ seat you’re lounging on while sipping your cocktail is in fact wrapped in pineapple leaf fibre. Meanwhile, the ‘Never Wasted’ menu takes surplus ingredients from other Sydney venues and repurposes them for planet-friendly pours. Produce destined for landfill is saved and used to craft delicious drinks, including classics like a dirty martini or old fashioned. The goal of this pioneering bar is to cut food waste by 80% and the talented team at Re– is succeeding, without ever sacrificing flavour or flair.
A standing-room-only spot where the margaritas are the main event, the creators of Cantina OK! describe it as a ‘a micro mezcal mecca’. And it’s the mezcal that makes this place special. The team behind the bar travelled far and wide across Mexico to source, sample and then import the finest agave spirits in the land. And their efforts paid off, as Cantina OK! made the list of the 50 best bars in the world (one of only two Australian entries, along with Maybe Sammy). Much like the tiny venue, the cocktail menu here is small yet perfectly formed, consisting of a handful of reliable picks (including those much-loved margs) alongside weekly specials. No seats mean no reservations, so get here early to avoid missing out.
You can’t visit the best cocktail bars in Sydney without stopping for a drink at Opera Bar. In an enviable position beneath the Sydney Opera House, this sprawling venue has one of the best harbour views in the city. With its widescreen bridge backdrop, the picturesque terrace fills up fast, especially on a sunny day. So, what will you be sipping while drinking in those views? We recommend the Sydney sling; an Aussie take on a Singaporean classic. It’s made with Australian gin, fresh mint, citrus and elderflower, plus smoked lemonade made locally at PS40 (another cocktail hotspot that Sydneysiders love).
The Sydney suburb of Marrickville has previously been named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world. And one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world is just the kind of place you’d expect to find an indie distillery and bar like Poor Tom’s Gin Hall. Behind its unassuming warehouse façade lies a minimalist space of whitewashed walls, tumbling foliage and a marble-topped bar. But the real star is the still that stands proudly in one corner; a copper crucible where the house gin is born. That craft spirit is the inspiration for the cocktail list, which pairs fresh, seasonal produce with the distillery’s delectable range of gins. And if you get a taste for Poor Tom’s tipples, you can buy a bottle to take home. The piña colada gin is our personal favourite…
While Cantina OK! is all about the margaritas, Bar Planet is the home of the martini in Sydney. The base spirit for their house cocktail is a gin distilled at Poor Tom’s – so if you’ve already paid Poor Tom a visit, you’ll know that’s a strong start. The bar’s signature martinis are poured from porrons, large Spanish decanters that are chilled in the freezer to make your martini extra cool. Cocktail connoisseurs can hand-pick each element of their drink, including the gin, vodka and garnish, and whether it’s wet, dry or dirty. As for its interior design, Bar Planet is weird and wonderful. It’s a psychedelic, inter-planetary take on a classic bistro, where the terrazzo bar is adorned with stars, galaxies and suns.
One of the best cocktail bars in Sydney if you love rum, The Lobo transports its patrons to old-time Havana. There are more than 250 different rums on the menu, sourced from across the globe. Bottles from Barbados, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Panama and (of course) Cuba vie for your attention, while the heavily rum-based cocktail list features around 20 tasty tipples. The Lobo’s signature is the ‘Old Grogram’; spiced rum, cinnamon sugar, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and the house’s own stout vermouth. But it’s more commonly known as ‘the fire drink’, thanks to the cinnamon stick garnish that’s theatrically toasted with a butane torch. This cosy, lamp-lit basement bar is centrally located in the CBD, yet descend the stairs and you’ll soon feel like you’ve left Sydney behind for the Caribbean.