Sydney’s hospitality landscape can be as huge and tricky to navigate as the city itself. If you’re on the hunt for a cocktail bar, it would be easy to become overwhelmed by the vast number of options available.
But you don’t want just any old cocktail bar. No, you want the best! Fair enough too, the experience of a cocktail bar is so much more than just the drink. It’s the lavish styling, the exciting decision of what drink to get next, and most of all being able to watch your bartender craft your cocktail with your own eyes.
Luckily we’ve saved you some time by putting together this list of 6 of the best cocktail bars in Sydney.
There’s no better place to start this list than at Old Mate’s Place. This hidden bar is a little difficult to find, built in a run-down office building on Clarence street in Sydney’s CBD. However, don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you, as inside you’ll find something truly special. The lower floor reminds you of an old estate home, with stately bookshelves, dapper furniture and apparent family heirlooms throughout.
If you’re lucky enough to nab a spot on the rooftop, you’ll be treated with a lush green garden and city views. You can tell from the decor and tasteful lighting that the intention behind this bar was not to create a gimmicky style. In the owner’s own words, they wanted it to look like “just a bar”.
Old Mate’s encourage creativity when it comes to their cocktail list. You’re unlikely to find the same menu visit to visit, as the bartenders come up with new wonderful concoctions built from their 300 strong back bar selection. Unlike many bars, at Old Mate’s Place you’re more likely to actually have a conversation with your bartender, as they help you choose a drink. Customer service is really important to these guys and you’ll feel very welcome and at home here, almost as if you were indeed in an Old Mate’s Place.
Signature Drink: No point choosing one, as it will be different next week!
Opened in 2019 and arguably the best bar in Sydney, Las-Vegas themed Maybe Sammy has received much critical acclaim. Maybe Sammy took out 43rd place on a list of the 50 best bars in the world – the only Australian bar to be included in the list. How lucky we are to have this world-class bar right on Harrington St, the Rocks.
Named after iconic American musician Sammy Davis Jr, Maybe Sammy is quite the opposite of our previous listing. The bar is decorated in a suave 1950s Las-Vegas style, with plenty of green, pastel colours and gold trim, with bartenders kitted out in pale pink dinner jackets to boot.
The selection of cocktails here includes the classics, and ranges all the way through to some more exciting options for the adventurous drinker. Page one of their menu features their selection of martinis and with good reason. You might think it brave to pin your reputation on what is arguably the most iconic cocktail of all time, but the risk pays off due to their infallible execution.
If, however, a Martini is not your cup of tea, you’re sure to find something else to tantalise your taste buds. Maybe Sammy offer a wide selection of vintage cocktails, some of which you’ve probably heard of, and others which could have easily been lost to time.
Signature Drink: Gin Martini (Classic, Dirty, Gibson or ‘Australian’)
Since its founding in 2016, PS40 has been one of the more unique cocktail bars in Sydney. Where it may be common for many venues to have a cellar door, PS40 have what they refer to as a ‘soda-door’. They’ve created a range of exotic sodas, designed to be a fresh take on the classic mixers we’re all used to. Smoked lemonade and cola with wattle present a wonderful shake up on the norm, whether you’re mixing them with spirits or not!
In 2020 PS40 also started what has become a very successful delivery service, offering their artisan cocktails for patrons to enjoy at home. They started this service so that people who can’t (or can’t be bothered to) make it in can still have the experience from the comfort of their sofa. While this is a nice option to have, chances are that if you’re reading this you’d rather experience the real deal for yourself.
The decor of PS40 might be described as modern, or even a bit brutalist. Large black furnishings and walls meet the crisp white ceiling, creating quite a stark contrast. In many ways, this draws more attention to the vibrancy of their cocktails. The cocktail menu changes weekly and at the time of writing this there appears to be a tropical theme, with not one, not two, but three watermelon based cocktails!
Signature Drink: This week, the watermelon margarita. Next week, who knows!
Moving from modern to classic, Little Felix is like the 1920’s style Parisian hotel bar of your dreams. Located on Ash street in Sydney’s CBD, right next door to its big brother Felix, Little Felix really is just that…little. If you’ve got a large group for a bucks or hens night, stop reading now as this is not the cocktail bar for you.
The interior of Little Felix is classic and classy, while remaining welcoming and warm. It’s the perfect place to visit before or after the theatre and an equally perfect place to take a date you’re trying to impress. The bartenders in waistcoats and delicate tablecloths add a touch of premium feel to this cocktail bar.
Where you might expect the cocktail menu at Little Felix to be something straight out of a Clark Gable film, instead they take influence from the cocktail bars of days gone by and enhance these with a modern twist. Their ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ is a delightfully potent cocktail and pairs beautifully with the charcuterie selection, or chicken liver parfait available on their equally enticing food menu.
Signature Drink: We’ll Always Have Paris – Noilly Prat, Cassis, Monkey 47, Gentiane de Lure
While most cocktail bars use the good old spirits you know and love, Cantina OK! are champions of the often overlooked mezcal. Both mezcal and its more popular cousin tequila are both made from the agave plant, however, the distilling process for mezcal involves cooking the agave in earthenware ovens which gives mezcal its signature smoky taste. While popular in Mexico and other parts of the world, mezcal is still relatively unknown in Australia and Cantina OK! are taking it upon themselves to introduce this new flavour to the Aussie masses.
Cantina OK! is located in a tiny garage at the end of a delivery laneway in the CBD and while it’s small, it makes up for this with attitude. Amazingly, they have made space for the impressive 140 bottles of spirits on the walls and even an ornate Nepalese ice carving machine! Often playing Afrobeat music, Cantina OK! has a style of its own and is certainly worth checking out.
If you do visit Cantina OK! make sure to come with an open mind and a readiness to try something new. There’s no need for trepidation, as the bar staff here are extremely passionate about what they do and will take great care of you. If, however, you decide after your first taste that mezcal is not for you, worry not as there are plenty of tequila-based cocktails as well as some familiar favourites to see you through.
Signature Drink: Margarita OK! – Tequila, mezcal, lime, sugarcane & orange zest
Archie Rose is a unique entry in this list because, along with being one of Sydney’s best cocktail bars, they’re also a fully functioning distillery. The brainchild of founder Will Edwards, Archie Rose is the first distillery to open in Sydney since the 1850s. Attached to the distillery, the main purpose of this bar is to sample the impressive range of Archie Rose gin, vodka, rye whisky and single-malt whisky.
The fit out of Archie Rose is almost as impressive as the artisan spirits they produce, with a huge central pressed copper bar and elegant leather & timber booths styled as whisky barrels. Ceiling-high racks stacked with actual whisky barrels and industrial fittings and finishes give Archie Rose an industrial-chic vibe, perfectly complementing the attached distillery.
Given the team here are experts in the spirits they craft, it stands to reason the cocktails that are made to showcase these are of equally high quality. The cocktail list is full of creative concoctions designed to show off each of the Archie Rose spirits, with drinks ranging from bright and fruity to dark and sultry. We recommend you try a few of these on the night, then make sure to take home a bottle of your favourite spirit, so you can experiment with your own cocktails at home.
Signature Drink: Kanye Zest – Archie Rose Signature dry gin, grapefruit & citrus oleo
Now, it’s understandable that you might still be finding it difficult to choose which of these 6 cocktail bars to check out and with good reason! They’re all wonderful but unique in their own way, with styling ranging from classic to contemporary and drink menus to match.
Possibly the best news is that given they’re all so close to one another, you could easily visit two or even three bars in one night. All within walking distance of Veriu Sydney Central, you could start your evening with something classic like a vodka martini (shaken not stirred, naturally) and later move on to a creative cocktail that makes you feel like you’re in a tropical paradise.
Whichever you end up choosing, do yourself a favour this weekend and go and check out one of these, the best cocktail bars in Sydney. You’ve earned it.