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Discover Sydney's hidden bars

Negroni Series, Apollonia Credit: Steven Woodburn

A selection of negronis from Apollonia's Negroni Series, courtesy of a stack of celebrated international bartenders from The World’s 50 Best Bars.

#feelnewsydney

Discover Sydney's hidden bars

Negroni Series, Apollonia Credit: Steven Woodburn

A selection of negronis from Apollonia's Negroni Series, courtesy of a stack of celebrated international bartenders from The World’s 50 Best Bars.

#feelnewsydney

Hashtags #feelnewsydney

It may appear to be just an average shopfront, or an unmarked door down a mysterious alleyway, but for curious drinkers, nondescript facades can be an entrance to another world. From a dimly lit whisky bar behind a fridge door to carefully crafted cocktails inside a butcher shop, Sydney’s speakeasies offer some of the city’s coolest sips... if you can find them. Seek out some of Sydney’s best hidden bars and discover the thrill of the unknown.  

Centro 86 

Hosking’s Place laneway, a tiny alleyway off Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD, may not look like one of the hottest places to drink in the city, but head through the fire exit (with the illuminated Centro 86 sign above it) and you’ll enter a subterranean tequila-filled party palace. From the team behind some of Sydney’s best cocktail bars (Cantina OK!, Bar Planet, Tio’s) Centro 86 fits in with the family. Find 100 different tequilas, five different margaritas, fruity shaved ice concoctions, cosy booths, and their signature free spiced popcorn. 

Apollonia 

This little Sicilian cocktail bar is tucked away in the basement of heritage-listed sandstone building Hinchcliff House, a stone’s throw from Circular Quay. Named after the tragic wife of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Apollonia is moody and intimate, dimly lit with flickering candles and detailed with marble, wood and gold finishes. The drinks menu is Italian-inspired (pineapple negronis, lemon myrtle limoncellos) and the food is of the same flavour (arancini, goats curd crostini, cheese and cured meats). 

The Library Bar 

It’s one of Sydney oldest and grandest buildings, yet even many Sydneysiders don’t know that the rooftop of the State Library has its very own cocktail bar. Peek around the side of the building to the aptly named Shakespeare Place, find the lift and head up to the rooftop. Along with up-close city skyline views, the open rooftop offers a lesser-known panorama of the harbour and Royal Botanic Garden. On the menu you’ll find an ode to NSW suppliers, from pinot noir from Tumburumba to Hickson Road gin and local cheeses. 

The Doss House  

The best speakeasies are the ones that tell a story, and The Doss House, an intimate whisky bar housed in a 170-year-old stone building in The Rocks, has plenty. Before it became the upscale cocktail haven it is today, this historic underground lair lived many lives: a former convict hospital, bootmaker’s, opium den and boarding house. Now, the heritage-listed bar features intimate rooms, an original fireplace and a 150-strong collection of whiskies.  

The Cumberland, Manly, Sydney Credit: The Cumberland

The Cumberland, an underground drinking den in Manly, Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

The Cumberland, Manly, Sydney Credit: The Cumberland

The Cumberland, an underground drinking den in Manly, Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

Negroni Series, Apollonia Credit: Steven Woodburn

Negroni Series, Apollonia

#feelnewsydney

Negroni Series, Apollonia Credit: Steven Woodburn

Negroni Series, Apollonia

#feelnewsydney

The Cumberland    

Don’t be fooled by the cheese and charcuterie, Cove Deli in Manly is a portal to one of the most stylish bars on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. A 1920s-era refrigerator leads to a descending spiral staircase into The Cumberland, an underground drinking den where reclaimed timber and antique brass mix with original convict-laid brickwork. There are more than 250 whiskies to choose from along with craft beers, natural wines and cocktails. And, if you’re peckish, meat and cheese boards from the deli above can be sent down by dumbwaiter.  

Employees Only   

When the original Employees Only opened in New York City it was located behind a clairvoyant’s salon on Hudson Street. These days a neon ‘Psychic’ sign is also found above the speakeasy-style bar in Singapore, Los Angeles and central Sydney, where you can walk down the stairs off Barrack Street to find a tarot reader in a heritage-listed basement. The cocktail list at Sydney’s Employees Only includes nods to New York with the West Side and Penny Stocks (a Manhattan with the addition of Guinness syrup), while the menu goes full luxe, with seafood platters, Tomahawk steak and more.    

Double Deuce Lounge    

A lone security guard on Bridge Street signals the entrance to this underground bar, a love letter to the ‘70s with wood panelling and red leather banquettes. The Double Deuce Lounge was named after the dive bar in the Patrick Swayze movie Road House, but feels more like it’s tapping into Boogie Nights with its adults-only VHS menu covers and fur-covered walls. As you may have guessed, it’s all about cocktails and flirty fun here.   

The Baxter Inn   

It’s easy to lose yourself in Sydney’s laneways, but getting lost in the CBD’s small bar precinct, YCK Laneways, can only end in high spirits. Down an alley off Clarence Street, basement bar The Baxter Inn resembles a vintage sports bar with a penchant for high-class whisky. From the team behind Shady Pines, the bartenders here have a story for every amber bottle. Considering there are more than 800 of them, that’s saying something.   

Employees Only, Sydney Credit: Mark Namnoun

The speakeasy-style Employees Only on Sydney’s Barrack Street.

#feelnewsydney

Employees Only, Sydney Credit: Mark Namnoun

The speakeasy-style Employees Only on Sydney’s Barrack Street.

#feelnewsydney

The Baxter Inn, Sydney Credit: Dan Boud; Destination NSW

The Baxter Inn Sydney CBD

#feelnewsydney

The Baxter Inn, Sydney Credit: Dan Boud; Destination NSW

The Baxter Inn Sydney CBD

#feelnewsydney

Palmer & Co  

Walking into this CBD bar off Abercrombie Lane is like a step back in time – Palmer & Co’s Prohibition-era bar sports black-and-white photos on the wall and antique shelves filled with apothecary bottles. But the real artistry comes on the drinks menu, with a long list of new, classic and forgotten cocktails (try the Paloma – Codigo Rosa, salted grapefruit, hops and soda). If you’re bringing your dancing shoes, live music plays every Friday and Saturday nights, with Sydney’s best jazz, swing, jump blues and boogie bands.  

Shady Pines Saloon    

Finding Shady Pines Saloon involves walking down an unassuming Darlinghurst alleyway and looking for an unmarked white door. Another door leads to a staircase and then – welcome to the wild, wild West. Leaving may be more difficult, however, because at this cowboy saloon-themed bar you can drink whisky and apple juice under the gaze of a vintage stuffed buffalo before joining a country singalong while peanut shells crunch underfoot. It’s honky-tonk fun you’ll want to stick around for.    

Ramblin Rascal Tavern   

Near the corner of Park and Elizabeth Streets in the city centre, a black sign with three skulls lets you know you’ve found the staircase to the basement to join the Ramblin Rascal Tavern crew. Down here the drink of choice is a good cognac, but if you’re not ready to join that revolution you can rest assured that their cocktail game is on point, beers are all Sydney local and their bar banter is strong. Dive into a booth and be entertained.    

Stitch   

It may look like a seamstress’s shop with sewing machines and spools of thread, but once you step through the doors on York Street in Sydney’s YCK Laneways and make your way down the grand staircase you’ll find a bar named Stitch. Take a seat in a leather booth where the vintage lights are low, sip a classic whiskey sour, and browse the American diner-inspired menu featuring hotdogs (both classic and duck sausage), burgers (a jackfruit option is available for vegans) and tacos. Happy hour flows from 4pm to 6pm. 

Earl’s Juke Joint   

On the outside, Earl’s Juke Joint, in the inner west suburb of Newtown, looks like a 1950s butcher shop. On the inside you’ll find dark timber floorboards, a tin-covered ceiling, posters of blues legends and an inviting, 11-metre-long bar. Southern US-inspired cocktails, craft beers and natural wines are the stars of the drinks list.    

Palmer and Co., Sydney Credit: Destination NSW

Couple ordering cocktails at Palmer and Co., Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

Palmer and Co., Sydney Credit: Destination NSW

Couple ordering cocktails at Palmer and Co., Sydney.

#feelnewsydney

Stitch Bar, Sydney CBD Credit: Destination NSW

Guests at the Stitch Bar Buenas Noches Long Lunch event, Sydney CBD.

#feelnewsydney

Stitch Bar, Sydney CBD Credit: Destination NSW

Guests at the Stitch Bar Buenas Noches Long Lunch event, Sydney CBD.

#feelnewsydney

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