Whether your preferred tipple is grape or grain, shaken or stirred, or muddled and mashed, Sydney has got thirst-quenching covered. From basement bars, to places for a rooftop rendezvous, to vino bars and craft breweries, there’s oodles of sophisticated, kitsch and historic places to whet your whistle.
Lord Nelson Brewery
Claiming the title of Australia’s oldest pub brewery, this long-time resident of the historic Rocks precinct is a must for a drink, not only for the 1800s architecture and history, but for the ales brewed on the premises; and its 350 plus bottle wine list.
In the top thirty of the Australian Bar Awards World’s 50 Best Bars for three years running, this shoe-box sized attic bar near Circular Quay specialises in cocktails using the freshest seasonal fruit; with Australian beers, world-wide whiskies, and biodynamic wines amongst its extensive list.
Just like its name, this is like a visit to granny’s, with patterned crockery, floral wallpaper, vintage lamps and comfortable rocking chairs. The tongue-in-cheek bar calls itself a ‘retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour’. Its Tiki/Rum cocktails are heaps of fun.
The Wild Rover
The Grandma’s crew also run The Wild Rover, a rather more boisterous whisky and cocktail bar, with an Irish accent, in Surry Hills. The cocktail list here is also extensive, from Irish Penicillin to AA Meeting, a gin, agave, lime, mint and apple juice concoction.
This Must Be the Place
Named for the Talking Heads track, two of Australia’s best bartenders have combined to open their dream bar on Darlinghurst’s Oxford Street – and they take their hooch very seriously. They’ve reintroduced the spritzer to Sydney’s drinking menu, as well as some daringly original cocktail creations.
Gin & It
Set inside a shipping container, the newest pop-up bar to grace Wulugul Walk in Barangaroo specializes in gin, bragging a 180-strong selection behind the bar, including Gin 1495, recreated from a 500-year-old recipe. There's also a comprehensive wine list, plus beers for those who prefer.
Australian Heritage Hotel
The century-old Australian Heritage Hotel is a favourite watering hole for locals and a great spot to spend time sipping pints and sharing one of their signature pizzas, such as pepper kangaroo or saltwater crocodile. It still has many of its original 19th century features.
The Wine Library
The Wine Library, in stylish Woollahra, stocks more than 500 wines from around the world, best enjoyed by the glass with its accompanying menu of wine-friendly food. It’s quite an education, with the helpful staff always willing to provide tasting notes in an unintimidating way.
Sydney doesn't have a lot of rooftop bars, but of the few, The Glenmore in The Rocks has the best views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. It’s the place to be on a hot summer night, with a refreshing jug of alcoholic juice.
For a caffeine hit
It’s not hard to find great coffee in Sydney, but if you’re a true java connoisseur, Gumption in the Strand Arcade; Mecca Espresso in Ultimo; Single Origin Roasters in Surry Hills; and Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, consistently rate as serving the top brews in town.