Sydney is very well known for great night outs and secret bars offering the best drinks. Bar hopping is one of the best and most fun things to do. We have listed the best ones to guarantee you to have the best and most (un)forgettable – depending on the number of cocktails you sip on – night.
Basement lot 1/209 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
Named after Julio Lobo, the Cuban sugar king, this slice of Havana sits hidden underground on Sydney’s popular Clarence Street, serving specialty cocktails made of rum from all corners of the globe. Previously known as The Lobo Plantation, in reference to sugarcane distilled rum made popular in the Caribbean, The Lobo respectfully changed their name in support of the Black Rights Movements acknowledging the word ‘plantation’ had strong ties with slavery. This bold move by owner Jared Merlino sees a bar where everyone can feel safe and welcome to enjoy the unique atmosphere and extravagant beverages on offer. As you enter down the spiral staircase, take in the chic, Cuban charm. Be prepared to be pampered and enlightened as you take a rum tour around the world with their quirky waiters and talented bartenders. Not too sure what to order? We recommend starting with one of their cocktails, as their vast range can be overwhelming. The Old Grogram, their flagship cocktail is finished with flames and is sure to ignite your evening. For a more personalised experience, speak to the staff for a recommendation that won’t disappoint. Trust us!
The Baxter Inn / Barber Shop / Duke of Clarence
152-156 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
At what appears to be an old loading dock, situated down a dark, brick pathed laneway, hides three of Sydney’s best secret bars. As part of the YCK laneways (York, Clarence and Kent), these three gems sit side by side, emanate their own unique charm, and put the “hop”back in bar hopping.
The Baxter Inn – Left of entrance
Get in line as you will most likely be in for wait at the Baxter Inn. But as ques usually indicate, something amazing lies behind the rustic, beaten door. Tucked away in the basement, this speakeasy bar turns an average night out into a classy, yet idiosyncratic evening to remember. Popular for their extensive, exclusive selection of Whiskey, the walls are filled to the brim with liqueurs you can’t pronounce and appropriately served by expert bartenders with the ability to dazzle any pallet. Run by Anton Forte and Jason Scott, the dynamic duo who brought the popular Shady Pines Saloon to Darlinghurst, the Baxter Inn combines the lucrative qualities of a high-end bar, with smooth jazz tunes that marry perfectly with their ‘everyone welcome’ policy. Oh, and did I mention, free pretzels!
The Duke of Clarence
Brought to you by a boy from Liverpool, comes Sydney’s oldest (looking), coziest, pommy-est watering hole that could make any brit abroad feel right at home. Inspired by the British taverns he grew up in, owner Mikey Enright spared no detail, making sure every aspect was as authentic as his local. From UK imported furniture, a portrait of King William IV (who later became the Duke of Clarence) above a fireplace to modernised twists on 18th century cocktail recipes and, even the perfect Sunday Roast. Yes, that’s right, every Sunday, you can enjoy one of, if not the most traditional British meals, accompanied by a delicious Sticky Coffee Pudding. Finally, something our mates from the UK are chuffed about!
The Barber Shop
A popular trend emerging for speakeasy’s is to hide behind a deceiving front. Whether owners enjoy a bit of mystery, or value the element of exclusivity, many secret bars hide behind guises of record stores (Mojo Record Bar), tailors (Stitch Bar) and coke machines in hot dog joints (The Soda Factory), so why not a barber? To give full credit to Mikey Enright, owner of both the barber shop and the Duke of Clarence, the ‘front’ is so well disguised as a full-fledged barber, I’ve walked past cluelessly, one too many times. While the actual barber shop specialises in cuts and services for gents, an elegant gin bar with an admirable selection, hides behind the door at the top of the staircase. However, this isn’t the only entrance as night falls see’s the back door in the alley of The Baxter Inn become the main entry, which regulars would know best.
Old Mates Place
Level 4/199 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
A true ode to secret bars, Old Mates place combines rustic decor with a playful rooftop bar that’s so hidden, you’ll probably walk straight past on your first attempt to find it. Specialising in cocktails and extensive selection of Australian and International rums and gin, the drinks are great but the service is even better. With only 98 capacities, getting in may mean a long wait down the narrow stairs, but when you do, you’ll completely understand why. Look for the green door which looks like the entrance to an apartment along Clarence Street, head into the lift and go to the top floor. If there’s a line, jump in, if not, open the very deceiving door that looks like a fire exit and take in the charm at Old Mates.
40 Skittle Ln, Sydney NSW 2000
Ranked in the top 100 bars in the world, there isn’t another bar in town that is as innovative as owners Michael Chiem and Thor Bergquist. With a new cocktail list every month and their very own in-house soda, PS40 will raise your cocktail standards and to a new high and leave them there. Even a simple G & T just won’t taste the same unless you’re at PS40.
61 York St, Sydney NSW 2000
Another classic speakeasy with a deceiving front, Stitch Bar hides behind a small tailor that camouflages a lively whiskey bar serving classic american diner bites. From the wall of old sewing machines and spools of thread that mark the street entrance, lit by a collection of murky lights, Stitch bar is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney with a few good drinks and some very tasty food.
Basement/49 York St, Sydney NSW 2000
While on street level, Uncle Ming’s is still surprisingly hard to find. Maybe it’s the confusing suit shop next door which has larger signs or the complete lack of marketing that makes Uncle Mings so special. Specialising in Japanese Whiskey, Asian beers and a luscious list of soju and rice wines, Uncle Ming’s is a fun, quirky combination of eastern-asain culture right in the heart of Sydney. From tasty dumplings to bubble tea cocktails, to posters that teach you how to count to 10 in mandarin, Uncle Mings brings an almost novelty factor to their high-quality cocktail list. Ever tried a chilli tequila? Not until you head to Uncle Mings!
50 Hunter St, Sydney NSW 2000
If you’ve still got some gas left in the tank (or dollars in the account) head over to Frankie’s Pizza to check out one of the coolest bars in Sydney. While this isn’t a speakeasy, there is still a substantial amount of Sydney siders that haven’t been to Frankies. Open till 4, Frankie’s combines classic American diner decor with family photos, pinball machines and classic rock tunes. Sink a few of their own brew (Frosties Beer) or enjoy a freshly crushed apple and rum before you sober up with some of the most delicious pizza!
Are you excited for a night out? Which bar in Sydney is on your top list?