Sydney is a city renowned for its fantastic range of drinking spots, with bars, pubs, and restaurants littered everywhere – meaning you’re never too far from a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage.
However, with such a wide selection of impressive bars to choose from, it can often be difficult to find the best-suited spot for your cocktail-drinking needs.
With this in mind, our guide lists 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 with a modern twist, we’ve got you covered.
115 Harrington Street, The Rocks NSW 2000
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 favorites.
Each cocktail is inspired by the haunts of the Rat Pack, with many 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.
407 King Street, 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 for somewhere to settle for an evening of enjoyable cocktail drinking and conversation.
The cocktails here are refreshingly strong, from the refreshing tropical flavors of a Pina Colada to the bourbon-heavy smoothness of a Mint Julep. What’s more, this bar also serves a fine selction 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 (the smallgoods business that used to hold the lease). 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 incredibly popular!
The Charleston (now renamed The Charlie)
199 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037 / Tel: 0426 938 504
With the aim of bringing people together over a good food and cocktails, in the heart of the inner-west suburb of Glebe, the Charleston has undeniable charm.
The pink-hue to the decor has taken 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 plays homage to cocktails that reference the southern states of the US, including infusing the famous sweet teas, so synonymous of the region. The signature Charleston Sling includes rose hip tea with its lemon-grass infused gin, and the Carolina High Tea has peach iced tea alongside Bulleit rye bourbon and peach liqueur.
Designed for sharing, the menu is influenced by the beautiful seafood and BBQ flavours reminiscent of South Carolina. Head Chef Patrick Ngai has created a menu that is perfect to enjoy as part of a group.
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, but 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, a feeling the Charleston bar strives to recreate for the Glebe community as it hangs its own pineapple out the front.
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.
152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000
The next cocktail bar on our list is the Baxter Inn – 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), and since it’s arrival onto the scene, has earned rave reviews.
With a stunning backlift 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 with an indecisive palate.
Even if whisky isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other delicious cocktails on the menu.
4/256 Crown Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
The older sibling of the aforementioned Baxter Inn, Shady Pines Saloon is a dark and raucous bar which is renowned for its quality cocktails – especially 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, where wines and spirits are as little as $4.50, and Margaritas and Negronis can be bought for a very respectable $10.
Council Place, 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.
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.
85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery NSW 2018
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, and 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.
40 Skittle Lane, 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.
75 Campbell Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
This Irish-themed cocktail bar is a stalwart in Surry Hills, providing plenty of fun 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 are made with the formula of taking a classic drink and giving 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.
Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Clarence Street is home to many excellent drinking spots, but few are more impressive than the consistent quality of Lobo.
No matter what time of day you visit, the mood and atmosphere is always spot on with this bar, making you appreciate their top-of-the-range cocktails all the more.
One drink to definitely try when visiting Lobo is their signature creation named the Old Grogram, made with house-spiced rum, stout vermouth, and cinnamon.
Oxford Street, Paddington NSW 2021
The next cocktail bar on our list is Charlie Parker’s, which 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 pizzeria in the city.
9a Barrack Street, Sydney NSW 2000
One of the world’s most popular bar franchises, Employees Only, has opened 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, so your taste buds will certainly enjoy differentiating between all the intricate flavors.
Throw in some perfectly-cooked steak tartare, a group of burlesque dancers on the bar, and you’ll have quite the evening at this popular night time spot.
154 Enmore Road, Enmore NSW 2042
This raucous Tiki bar situated on Enmore Road is inspired loosely by Twin Peaks, and 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 if this is something you’d prefer.
6 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000
This next cocktail bar is the only one in Sydney that’s named after the dive bar in a cult Patrick Swayze film with a unique 70’s aesthetic.
While the whole premise may seem a little ridiculous, it works a treat as you squeeze yourself into a booth and belt out some classics from the Boogie Nights-era.
If you love coffee just as much as you love your cocktails, you’ll be all over Double Deuce’s speciality cocktail named the Discretionary, which is a tequila-based drink with cold-brew coffee, maple, and whey.
175 Victoria Street, Potts Point NSW 2011
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’re fancying, 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.
Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000
The final cocktail bar on our list, and by certainly no means the least, 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 if you fancy a booze-fuelled Saturday night with some top-quality food to boot.