Sydney is a city renowned for its fantastic range of drinking spots. There are bars, pubs, and restaurants littered everywhere. And this means you’re never too far from a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage.
However, such a wide selection of impressive bars can lead to problems. After all, it can be difficult to decide on the best spot for your cocktail-drinking needs.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the best cocktail bars in Sydney to try when you’re in the Harbour City.
So, whether you’re in the mood for a refreshing Mojito after a busy day of sightseeing, or a classic Negroni after work, we’ve got you covered.
Location: 115 Harrington St, The Rocks, NSW 2000 Ph: (02) 9241 4970
The first cocktail bar on our list is the Las Vegas-inspired Maybe Sammy. Led by a team of award-winning bartenders, this cocktail bar has a small menu of eight signature cocktails which are modern remakes of classic favourites.
Each cocktail is inspired by the haunts of the Rat Pack. And adding to the fun, many are accompanied by a magic trick or presented alongside a sensory performance. It’s worth noting that there’s also a small tasting menu of mini cocktails that you can try for as little as $10.
As a leading light in the Sydney bar scene, it’s no surprise that they did well in the 2022 Boothby Drink of the Year Awards. Their pretty, peachy The Prince & The Showgirl popped up at No. 11, whilst their elegant Cold Irish Coffee was 31st.
Location: 407 King St, Newtown, NSW 2042
With a sprawling wooden bar and one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find anywhere in Sydney, Earl’s Juke Joint is one of the funkiest places to go if you’re looking to settle for an evening of enjoyable cocktail drinking and conversation.
The cocktails here are refreshingly strong, from the refreshing tropical flavours of a Pina Colada to the bourbon-heavy smoothness of a Mint Julep. What’s more, this bar also serves a fine selection of popular craft beers and natural wines.
You’ll find this eclectic establishment in the buzzing inner-west suburb of Newtown behind the Betta Meats facade. It’s an unusual location, but the small goods business used to hold the lease. The result is that Earl’s Juke Joint is both deliberately hard to find and pleasingly self-aware.
Just keep in mind that if you’re planning on visiting Earl’s Juke Joint during peak time on a weekend, prepare to queue if you haven’t got a booking. It’s understandably incredibly popular!
The Charleston (now renamed The Charlie)
Location: 199 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, NSW 2037 Ph: 0426 938 504
We’re staying in the Inner West for the next of our best cocktail bars in Sydney.
Situated in Glebe and aiming to bring people together over a good food and cocktails, the Charlie has undeniable charm.
The pink-hue to the decor takes its inspiration from the pastel-coloured homes of South Carolina and the interiors take some cues from Charleston’s historic waterfront. It’s an intimate and relaxed venue, with alfresco drinking and casual dining to the fore.
The drinks list includes the Mexican inspired Mamacita – tequila, passionfruit, lime, chilli & agave. Or maybe you should pander to your inner child with the Fairy Floss Martini? A fruity combo of sloe gin, lychee, cranberry, lemon, egg whits & fairy floss.
Designed for sharing, the menu is a globe trotting odyssey, that flits from Italy, to Korea and then to the US. It’s perfect for splitting with a group of friends.
You’ll likely notice the pineapple logo/ motif around the bar and on the website. The story of the Charleston Pineapple is very interesting.
Pineapples aren’t native to the USA, and don’t grow in Charleston, and yet have become the symbol of the city.
From the late 17th century, seafarers would often travel home to Charleston via the Caribbean in order to gather the rare and exotic pineapple for their return. Once home they would spike a pineapple on their fence as a notice they had returned safely. However, more importantly, the spiked fruit was an open invitation to all their neighbours to come in, share a meal and exchange stories.
Over time, the pineapple has become a symbol of welcome and friendship. It’s a feeling the Charlie bar strives to recreate for the Glebe community as it hangs its own pineapple out the front.
If Mexican is your thing, check out these top Mexican Restaurants in Sydney
2022 update – After a recent renovation and renaming, The Charleston has come back to life as The Charlie. The bar now makes greater use of its stunning beer garden and has a striking indoor/ outdoor vibe.
The Charlie is blessed with great natural light by day and, when the sun goes down, clever lighting and design makes a sparkling atmosphere under the stars.
Location: 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW 2000
The next cocktail bar on our list is the Baxter Inn. This is a relatively new addition to the city, but already one of the most popular.
This underground whisky cellar is the younger brother of the Shady Pines Saloon (our next recommendation). Excitingly, since its arrival onto the scene, it has earned rave reviews.
With a stunning backlit wall of whisky to choose from, not ordering a cocktail from this bar is a missed opportunity. The bartenders are the best in the business and have a knack for finding the right drink for those who are indecisive.
Even if whisky isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other delicious cocktails on the menu.
Location: 4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
The older sibling of the aforementioned Baxter Inn, Shady Pines Saloon is a dark and raucous bar renowned for its quality cocktails. It’s especially known for those made with dark spirits such as cognac, bourbon, and rum.
Not only is Shady Pines a great spot for a drink, it’s also the place to be for some of the biggest nights out.
This is due in part to a daily happy hour which spans from 4pm to 6pm. In this 2 hour slot, wines and spirits are as little as $4.50, and Margaritas and Negronis a very respectable $10.
For a wide selection of eateries and bars and killer ‘Harbour views, see our Best Restaurants in Barangaroo
Location: Council Pl, Sydney NSW 2000
Tucked away at the end of an unassuming laneway, this tiny but vibrant cocktail bar is one of the drinking spots you have to visit if you’re ever in Sydney.
And when we say ‘tiny’, we’re not joking. This dinky little bar has no seats – it’s that small.
The crowning feature of Cantina OK is the Margarita they serve – a benchmark on the market. The popular cocktail is shaken with an equal 50/50 blend of tequila and mezcal, as well as some shaved ice and orange oil.
This Margarita alone makes Cantina OK! one of the best cocktail bars in Sydney.
In fact, that not-so-humble Margarita OK! came in 14th on the Boothby 2022 Drink of the Year Awards. But even better, the cocktail Teal was No. 10.
Location: 85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery, NSW 2018 Ph: (02) 8458 2300
Winner of Best International Bar at the International Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, Archie Rose is a stylish bar with the impressive Archie Rose Distillery attached.
While Rosebery may not be the first suburb that comes to mind when you’re after a night of cocktail splendour, it’s only a few kilometres south of the city. What’s more, the warm welcome and highly awarded distillery makes Archie Rose a must-visit.
It’s a wonderfully atmospheric bar, just metres away from the original Archie Rose distillery. The bar showcases the full range of Archie Rose spirits, many of which are award-winning and all are of high quality.
The bar also serves a range of cheese and charcuterie platters to both line the stomach and complement the spirits.
Location: 40 Skittle Ln, Sydney, NSW 2000
If you’re looking for a cocktail bar that offers something a little different, PS40 may be the place for you. Situated on Skittle lane, this bar is renowned for its unique take on classic drinks.
For example, not many places will serve you a Rye Whisky Sour with the addition of sage and sweet potato. Or a breakfast-style Negroni infused with banana bread.
What’s more, PS40 also hosts Takeover Tuesdays where talented local chefs come to the bar and serve up delicious set menus with cocktails to match.
Since first publishing this article, PS40 has taken out both the 1st and 5th spots at the Boothby Drink of the Year Awards for 2022. Their Salted Pina Colada came in fifth. Meanwhile, their hot and cold wonder – Africola – was the overall winner. So really, what more could you do to make our list of the top cocktail bars in Sydney?!
If you adore fish, prawns and calamari, see our rundown of the Best Seafood Restaurants in Sydney
The Wild Rover Also known as The Rover
Location: 75 Campbell St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010 Ph: (02) 9000 7544
This Irish-themed cocktail bar is a stalwart in Surry Hills. It promises a good craic and an all-are-welcome ethos that will make you feel right at home the moment you step through the door.
All of the cocktails in the Wild Rover follow a tried and tested formula: take a classic drink and give it a fun and unique twist.
For example, their Kilpatrick Bloody Mary is made from vodka laced with bacon (yes, you read that correctly)! Also, make sure you try their now-famous spiced lamb sausage rolls.
Location: Basement Lot 1/209 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Clarence Street is home to many excellent drinking spots, but few show the consistent quality of Lobo.
No matter what time of day you visit, the mood and atmosphere is always spot on at this bar. It’s a balance that makes you appreciate their top-of-the-range cocktails all the more.
One drink to definitely try at Lobo is their signature creation named the Old Grogram. This a belter of a drink made with house-spiced rum, stout vermouth, and cinnamon.
Location: The Paddington, Basement/380 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW 2021 Ph: (02) 9114 7332
The next on our list of the best cocktail bars in Sydney is Charlie Parker’s. This is an extension of Fred’s, a farm-to-table fine diner.
While Paddington’s Oxford Street may be home to a vast number of pubs, giving the area a distinct beer-drinking atmosphere, Charlie Parker’s is an elegant bar trying to change that.
One of the most popular cocktails they serve is the Salted Grapefruit which is a delicious combination of sherry, tequila, and lemon myrtle verjus. What’s more, this bar serves wood-fired flatbreads that are just as good as any pizzerias in the city.
Location: 9a Barrack St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Ph: (02) 8084
One of the world’s most popular bar franchises, Employees Only, has it’s very own cocktail bar in a heritage-listed basement underneath the CBD streets.
The drinks menu mainly consists of complex and sophisticated cocktails. We predict your taste buds will enjoy differentiating between all the intricate flavours.
Throw in some perfectly prepared steak tartare and a group of burlesque dancers on the bar, and you’ll have quite the evening at this popular night time spot.
If you’re over in Melbourne check out our guide to the Best Bars in the city.
Location: 154 Enmore Rd, Enmore, NSW 2042
This raucous Tiki bar situated on Enmore Road is loosely inspired by Twin Peaks. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, it is ideal for a fun weekend night.
What’s more, if you’re a passionate cocktail fan and love the tropical flavors of a Mai Tai, this is definitely the place to go in Sydney.
While this bar is in full party mode on the weekends, it’s a surprisingly quiet and relaxing spot for a sneaky midweek drink.
Why not pop on in and give it a go?
If you live Northside, here are our Best Restaurants in North Sydney
Location: 6 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW 2000
This next cocktail bar is named after the dive bar in a cult Patrick Swayze film Roadhouse. So as you might expect, it has a unique 70’s aesthetic.
While the whole premise may seem a little ridiculous, it works a treat. Squeeze yourself into a booth and belt out some classics from the Boogie Nights-era and you’ll see what we mean.
If you love coffee in your cocktails, you’ll be all over Double Deuce’s speciality cocktail named the Discretionary. This is a tequila-based drink with cold-brew coffee, maple, and whey.
Incidentally, the Double Deuce Lounge won the 2020 TimeOut Sydney Cocktail Bar of the Year Award. Well, if that’s not a recommendation, we don’t know what is.
And adding to that they took out 9th spot in the Boothby Drinks of the Year Awards 2022 with a tequila and coffee concoction named Discretionary. But that’s not all. They also scored 25th place with their Seabreeze.
All up, the Double Deuce Lounge is a worthy entry amongst our top cocktail bars in Sydney.
Location: 175 Victoria St, Potts Point, NSW 2011 Ph: 0417 020 071
The experienced and knowledgeable staff at this popular jaunt in Potts Point can make you just about any mixed drink in the book. So whatever you fancy, it’s likely that you’ll be in luck.
Just keep in mind that the food is equally as good as the drinks, so a couple of casual drinks may well turn into dinner.
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Location: Level 4/199 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Lastly on our rundown of the best cocktail bars in Sydney is Old Mate’s Place. If you love a secret rooftop and some seriously tasty cocktails, this bar might just be the perfect choice for you.
What’s more, this unsuspecting CBD spot is open until 2am on Sundays. So you can settle in for dinner and stay for an early morning drink. And many people do, as the food is great.