Mark Ludmon explores the best bars in Sydney for Bar magazine
From kitsch to classy, Sydney has a world-class bar scene that will satisfy any cocktail lover in search of something new and exciting. And there nowhere comes more kitschy than Hello Sailor in Darlinghurst, a nautically themed bar in the basement of an Italian diner. Serving up all the rum classics from a Daiquiri to a Pina Colada, it was set up two years ago by Luke Redington with Marco Faraone who has opened over 20 bars.
But it is not just about rum when it comes to cocktails at Hello Sailor. Expect a chunky garnish with a mini umbrella if you order the vodka-based Octopus’s Garden, while the Nova Scotia Yacht Club is a delicious combination of Canadian Club whisky, fino sherry, hickory apple shrub, citrus and a drop of stonefruit.
Kitsch is not far away at Shady Pines, a saloon bar with stuffed moose heads and Wild West cocktails, which was opened by Anton Forte and Jason Scott in Darlinghurst in 2010. They followed this with The Baxter Inn which resembles a classic American bar, with a fantastic range of spirits and cocktails. The World’s 50 Best Bars ranks The Baxter Inn seventh – above The American Bar at The Savoy in London – while Shady Pines sits at 48.
In 31st place is Eau de Vie, also in Darlinghurst, which was named best new international cocktail bar in the global Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans after it opened in 2010. Tucked away beyond the lobby of the Kirketon Hotel, it remains a must-visit – a moodily lit lounge with a back bar of over 500 spirits plus cocktails both classic and innovative.
Eau de Vie is part of Sven Almenning’s Speakeasy Group whose ventures include another Eau de Vie in Melbourne plus beer and whisky bar Boilermaker House in Melbourne which he opened in June with Greg Sanderson. Sven says openings in Sydney have soared since a shake-up in licensing seven years ago which introduced much lower licence fees for smaller bars.
Strict licensing hasn’t deterred new bars such as Bulletin Place, a diminutive bar with superb cocktails hidden down a side street in the Central Business District (CBD). Ranked 19th in the world, it was opened three years ago by Robb Sloan, Adi Ruiz and Tim Philips, who was Diageo’s global World Class winner in 2012. They are to launch another bar, Dead Ringer, in Sydney’s Surry Hills in September.
Two years ago, British bartender Mikey Enright, who has worked in Sydney since 1999, opened The Barber Shop, an award-winning bar accessed via an actual barber shop in the CBD. In one corner, you can see an Imperial Cocktail Shaker developed by bartender Jason Crawley based on an historic design which allows you to mix drinks in four silver shakers by turning a hand-crank.
Early this year, two accomplished young bartenders, Luke Ashton and Charlie Ainsbury, opened This Must Be The Place, with a bright Nordic-style interior specialising in fresh innovative spritzes. It was funded by Luke’s prize of $100,000 (nearly £50,000) from winning World Class in Australia.
Also this year, Sydney gained both a new bar and its first dedicated distillery since 1853. Archie Rose in Rosebery has been founded by Will Edwards with a team including former London bartender Nigel Weisbaum. The distillery produces a vodka made from Australian wheat as well as Signature Dry Gin, made with 13 botanicals including dorrigo pepper, river mint, lemon myrtle and blood lime from Australia. Malted rye and Australian barley are used to create the flavoursome twice-distilled White Rye, with aged whiskies planned for the future.
Visitors, especially bartenders, are being welcomed for tours, but the beautifully designed bar (pictured), with an imposing oak back bar and booths built from barrel staves, has also become a destination in itself for its spirits, wines and beers.
A shorter version of this article appeared in the September 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.