Are you looking for the best bars in Sydney? Look no further! This blog post will provide you with all the information you need to know about the best bars in town. From trendy rooftop bars to hidden speakeasies, we've got you covered. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring Sydney's best bars today!
Bars in Sydney can be a great place to have a good time. However, there are many different kinds, so it can be hard to know where to start. This list will help you find the best bars in Sydney that are perfect for your needs. So whether you’re looking for a fun place to hang out with friends or a romantic spot for a date night, you’ll find what you need here.
Best Bars In Sydney Right Now
The resilience that the hospitality industry has shown deserves a standing ovation, and with reopenings (and grand openings) on the horizon, there's never been a better time to get out and support the bars, pubs and clubs that are the heartbeat of our town.
Whether it's your local or a special somewhere worth travelling for, get out there – and when you do, be sure to treat the staff with kindness and respect and accept all regulations and restrictions with patience and understanding. Things continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and while we make every effort to ensure the details below are correct, we encourage you to contact venues directly or check social media accounts before popping in for the most up-to-date info.
We’ve whittled this update down to focus on what really matters most to us in a bar – what it is, why we love it and whatever hot tips we think will make your visit even better. However, the bottom line is still the same: if it's on this list, we think it's a winner – and we hope that you do, too.
This is the Time Out DRINK list, our picks for the best bars in Sydney right now, from fresh faces to tried-and-tested temples of great booze, ranked by our local editors. We’re looking for quality above all, with fun, flavour, atmosphere, creativity and value for money at every price point. That’s why you’ll find car space in a CBD laneway packed with mezcal alongside a Euro-style deli serving cocktails in cans, distilleries, a brewery and just about everything in between.
A gold light spills out onto the asphalt at the end of a service alley, a step back from the CBD bustle. There’s a scent of lime in the air, the sound of Boston shakers, and somewhere behind it, just a hint of danger. This is Cantina OK, the standing-room-only bar that since February of 2019 has plied Sydney with good, clean, sort-of illicit fun fuelled by mezcal and backed up by one of the sharpest bar teams in the city. Pick a day – any day – and the Cantina will be rocking it, two or three tenders ably servicing the 20 or so drinkers who cram in at any one time from when the roller door opens till close at 2 am.
In times where so many venues can stock their backbars with rare and obscure spirits, Cantina makes a niche out of mezcal, a spirit for which the phrase ‘rare and obscure’ could have been invented. Cantina OK is owners Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore and group operations manager Alex “Happy” Gilmour’s follow-up to Tio’s Cerveceria. Here, the focus – and dimensions – are tighter, and Gilmour has a licence to sate his insatiable thirst for agave-based liquor with frequent buying trips to the far reaches of Mexico.
This is a bar that takes you straight to the grindstones and the pit ovens, in everything from the striking travel-book-style menu to staff who’ve been schooled by Gilmour then consolidated the knowledge by going straight to the source. There’s no preaching, but if you ask, the team will run you through the multifarious species of agave, like papalome or vicuishe, and how they’re aged in glass or cowhide, then regale you with tales of Oaxacan mezcaleros harvesting under full moons, bulls hauling tahonas and suitcases of bottles smuggled through customs.
They’ll pour shot glasses (for sipping, mind) of the wicked, wild and beautiful stuff – some grassy, some floral, some burning, most smoky – and temper it with plates of mango or dragonfruit, perhaps, cut to order, sprinkled with spicy salt and served with a lime cheek.
Staff can go deep, sure, but they’ll also shake a mean Margarita. Made with a 50-50 mix of tequila and mezcal poured into a coupe kissed with flaked salt over ice shaved by a hand-cranked Nepalese ice machine, it’s bracingly sour, ultra-refreshing and dangerously drinkable, the texture peerless. So, yeah, they do the basics, too.
The folks that brought us, Love, Tilly Devine, Ragazzi and Dear Sainte Èloise, have set the standard pretty darn high in terms of Sydney wine bars (and the snacks aren't bad either). Their latest venture is a Catalan-inspired watering hole that isn't taking itself too seriously.
La Salut is a joint venture between the Love Tilly Group and newly launched hospitality and accommodation group the people_ (helmed by Paul Schulte and Andrew Taylor). It aims to be a little piece of Catalonia in the heart of Redfern, with all the colour and vibrancy that comes along with it. The 40-seat venue features blushing earthy tones and polished concrete, with outdoor dining along Walker Street.
Waiters will encourage you to start with a tipple from the extensive range of vermouths, and when in Rome (or Catalonia, as it were), it's not a bad way to kick off. Here, the fortified vino comes poured over ice, with three anchovy-stuffed olives and a little bottle of sparkling water, so you can choose your own adventure.
While La Salut is a wine bar for all intents and purposes – there's even an adjoining bottle shop where the old pokies room was – make sure you come hungry. The former sports bar corner of the Norfolk Hotel cleverly utilises the tiny space by churning out brilliantly simple, little dishes that largely come out of a tin. But don't feel shortchanged – Europe, and more recently Sydney at large has come to recognise that some of the best things in life need fewer flourishes and more can openers, such as a serving of smoked mussels paired with a handful of salted crisps, dusted with paprika. Sure, it may seem on paper a deceptively small number of humble ingredients borne of a tin or a packet, but the goal at La Salut is less about gorging and more about grazing; a fuss-free evening enjoying a few quality snacks while you savour a glass (or bottle). One could easily get lost in a plate of jamón ibérico, a dry-aged Spanish-style pork leg but if you want a quasi-religious experience, opt for the lesser-known paletilla iberico, a harder working shoulder cut that melts mere moments after it hits the tongue.
Big Poppa’s is an award-winning late-night bar and restaurant located on the buzzy main strip of Oxford Street in Darlinghurst. They serve modern Italian dishes, gourmet cheeses, a huge selection of hand-curated wines, cocktails galore and non-stop hip hop music until 3 am every night.
There is no typical guest at Big Poppa’s. Instead, people of all ages come from far and wide to drink delicious wine, eat good food and listen to banging tunes. Mondays – Wednesdays are generally more chill, whereas Thursdays onwards starts to ramp up for the weekend, with Fridays and Saturdays being peak party time.
While there is a bar upstairs in the restaurant, it comes highly recommended that you descend the winding stairs and enter Big Poppa's bar area for the full experience. Dark and moody with banging tunes and their Notorious B.I.G. floor mural for those perfect Insta photo opps, it’s the ideal place to cosy up with a glass of red or drink cocktails and dance the night away with your mates.
Snag a spot between 5 pm and 7 pm and take advantage of their Aperitivo, which includes $10 select cocktails and rotating snacks, like Brillat-Savarin with pane carasau and blood orange jam or crostini with nduja, buffalo mozzarella and pickled veggies. If you find yourself with a Biggie-type appetite, you can dine from the full restaurant menu both upstairs and downstairs. Don’t forget to grab a bowl of the lamb pappardelle. No trip to Big Poppa’s is complete without it!
The concept of Bartolo was born from a desire to have a venue that served amazing cocktails all throughout the day that were light enough to be enjoyed alongside delicious Italian dishes with a sophisticated wine list to match.
All the cocktails are low in ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and built around sherry or vermouth, with spirits often making up the smaller portion of the drink. This gives people the opportunity to enjoy tasting many different cocktails over the course of a meal.
The menu changes seasonally with six signature drinks available on each menu as well as Bartolo’s twist on some well-loved classics, such as the Riberry Negroni, with its focus on including native Australian ingredients, or the Bartolo Martini (order it and see what makes it special!).
Upbeat and welcoming, Bartolo is popular with all ages. Sit at the bar and have a front-row seat while your drink gets made. Feeling peckish? Order some snacks while you sip or move to the restaurant area if you’re wanting something more substantial (the full food menu is available throughout the venue).
During the day, Bartolo is light, bright and sun-filled. Come nighttime, they invite you to cosy up with some mood lighting and curtains to keep the outside world at bay. No matter the time of day, Bartolo’s got the food, drinks and service to make your visit one to remember.
Situated on buzzy Crown St in Surry Hills, Bartolo is also close to public transport (buses, taxis and Ubers) and is within walking distance to Central Station or Oxford Street.
Kittyhawk is a high volume cocktail bar focused on great cocktails and exceptional experiences. The venue is designed around the Liberation of Paris in 1944 and brings together an old-world charm with a modern and delicious food and beverage offering.
Being centrally located in Sydney’s CBD and within walking distance to public transport, taxi ranks and other popular Sydney destinations, Kittyhawk is perfect if you want to make a night of it. Catering to people from all walks of life, they strive to make everyone feel welcome. So on any given night, you can sit in comfort and sip your chosen drink while listening to soulful blues with a smattering of jazz and French swing. They are celebrating the liberation of Paris, after all!
Monday to Wednesday nights are typically cruisy, with things picking up later in the week as the weekend approaches. Fridays are a bustling night, with many people stopping by for after-work drinks. Thursdays are their free live music night, featuring a rotating list of live bands playing a range of music, including jazz, swing and blues.
For groups of 9 and under, you can book a table online via their website. You will be seated in the Lounge area, where table service will have you feeling like royalty. There will be no need to leave your seat ever again as your hosts take care of your food and drink orders and make sure you have everything you need. If you prefer a more self-service approach, the main bar area and Conservatory (when it’s not booked for functions) allow you to order from the bar as and when you please. Walk-ins are welcome every night of the week.
While they have a large selection of draught and bottled beers and a varied wine list, cocktails are where they really shine. Spirits of choice are rum and rye, and you can find an ever-changing selection of rum and rye old-fashioned cocktails on their extensive cocktail list. If that’s not your style, ask one of the bartenders or hosts to help you pick something more suitable to your taste. Their cocktails run the gamut from sweet to spicy, light to boozy, and everything. You’re guaranteed to find something you like.
Hickson House Distilling Co.
The hospo-geniuses behind two of Sydney's cosiest bars (The Duke of Clarence, The Barber Shop) are bringing you a brand new watering hole by the harbour: Hickson House. The newest hybrid venue featuring a distillery, bar and dining room is now open.
Part working distillery and part destination cocktail bar, Hickson House is set in the soaring brickwork and girders of the former Saatchi & Saatchi garage (the location of many infamous warehouse parties). The towering space boasts an extensive back bar with over 600 spirits and a menu crafted with locally-sourced ingredients.
Founders Mikey Enright and Julian Train are no strangers to the Sydney bar scene either, with over eight years of experience as co-directors of the Barrelhouse Group.
"Weaving the needs of a full production distillery and significant bar space into what is a unique heritage warehouse has been a challenge that we have embraced wholeheartedly," says Train.
The boys aren't holding back any punches and have brought ex-Manly Spirits legend Tim Stones on board. The bespoke range of Hickson Road Gin is the star of the show, but Stones will also be slinging out vats of housemade whisky, aperitifs, brandies and other speciality spirits.
To sample the creations, take a seat at the main bar — the interior is lined with dark polished timber and dotted with French blue bar stools, a reflection of the venue's harbour location. For a more intimate experience, the mezzanine High & Dry Bar overlooks the entire dining space and is the perfect spot for a cocktail and bite to eat.
Intimate distillery experiences, tours and private dining experiences are also all on the cards, so keep an eye on Hickson House's socials for any upcoming events.
Highlights of the botanically-inspired menu include slow-roasted lamb porchetta with juniper jus and mint gremolata ($75). Indulge in a decadent piece of gin and mango pavlova ($15).
After you've found a drop you like following dinner, you can also shop at the off-license spirits store and bring a bottle (or two) home to enjoy.
Old Mate’s Place
Starting off our list of the best bars in Sydney is Old Mate’s Place. Once you’ve ascended the four flights of stairs, you’ll see why it’s one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets. You’ll be greeted by friendly staff, who will offer a table inside or upstairs. So go upstairs, where you’ll find the coolest Sydney rooftop bar. Bask in the setting sun as you sink down spirits, beers, wines, or all of the above.
Little Felix is the 1920’s themed bar you didn’t know you needed in your life. Housed in a very small space, this is more of a date night spot than one for a pub crawl. At this Sydney bar, you’ll find your traditional cocktails and offer a slew of their own creations. They also host a snack menu that you simply can’t miss.
The Baxter Inn
At The Baxter Inn, if you order a top-shelf drink, your bartender may literally have to climb the shelf to prepare it. Behind this Sydney bar, you’ll find an array of wines and spirits that reflect like a stain glass window. The Baxter Inn is great if you want some high-quality spirits or a precision-made cocktail. Located on Clarence street, this also makes Baxters one of the best bars in Sydney CBD.
The bartenders at PS40 are more like mad scientists. Together they’ve concocted a cocktail menu inspired by global festivals and holidays, from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. They also have non-alcoholic cocktails for the designated drivers of the world. As winners of Timeout’s 2020 Bar of The Year Award, you’ll want to check this Sydney bar out for yourself.
Bulletin Place Bar
If you don’t know what to drink but are open to anything, Bulletin Place Bar is the Sydney bar for you. They’ve got a huge variety of drinks, with cocktails that are consistent with a great mix and quality. This circular quay bar is also super close to the station, just in case, it all gets a bit much.
The Wild Rover
The Wild Rover is so easy to miss with their unmarked doors, it’s almost like they don’t want to be found. So consider this a private invitation once you find the door. The Wild Rover is one of the great cocktail bars Sydney has tucked away across the city, serving tap beers, wines, and cocktails you’ll find hard to refuse. We recommend one of their lamb sausage rolls, made fresh to order if you're peckish.
The Lobo is a rum bar, with over 250 local and internal rums hand picked for you to try. The Lobo is essentially a Caribbean holiday in the streets of Sydney, with banana palms and rattan chairs dominating the décor. The bartenders like to show off here, so be ready for a show. There are lots of snacks worth trying as well, making it one of the best Sydney bars for food.
How you get into The Cumberland alone makes it one of the best bars in Sydney. Taking their secrecy to the max, you must first walk through a fridge in a deli, down a spiral staircase, before being shown to your table. The visually stunning cocktails will be just as Instagram worthy as the place's décor. The antipasti is also great to snack on if you’re in the mood for it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bars in Sydney
The term “bar” comes from the counter in which drinks are served. Also called a “saloon”, bars are drinking establishments that sell beer, wine, and spirits to consume in house and sometimes provides entertainment.
There are 6,743 Pubs, Bars and Nightclubs businesses in Australia as of 2022, an increase of 1.5% from 2021.
Pub tsar Justin Hemmes has cemented his position as the largest single owner of popular Sydney pubs, splurging more than $70 million on the purchase of three major hotels over the past three months.
Ballarat has a renowned history as being a pub town – in 1870 boasting over 500 pubs in the district as a result of the Gold Rush. “It is also well known for the brew “Ballarat Bertie” which unfortunately is only made now in special batches.
Whilst Surry Hills is loaded with pubs most are gentrified (not a bad thing but perhaps not what you want). Likewise Paddington has a pub on almost every corner but also gentrified.