The first thing that hits you upon entering Tio’s Cervecería is the smell of popcorn. But this is no movie theatre. Tio’s is a Guatemalan owl bar which ex Shady Pines bartenders Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore have opened this summer.
Tio is Spanish for “uncle” or slang for “dude” but in fact, this remote slice of central America is more like a tequila shrine in the Sydney small bar scene. Or simply put, what the Baxter Inn is to whisky, Tio’s is to tequila.
Dim red lighting, dripping candles, decorative owls and skulls, bare floors and lorikeet fairy lights give the bar an almost outdoors feel. Long benches and bar stools in the intimate space encourage communal sitting and conversations among chatty patrons.
Drinks menu / Especiales de la Casa
The drinks menu, or Especiales de la Casa, is handwritten on the back of postcards in cursive writing. There are seven Refrescos at $10 each with 2 cockteles, a margarita and a Tommy’s margarita made with agave nectar. The latter will set you back $17. A wine menu is also available if tequila isn’t your poison of choice.
Tequila con Limon (L) and El Roberto Especial (R)
El Roberto Especial is made with tequila, a mysterious three herb elixir, fresh apple juice, lime and cucumber – a refreshing drink where you can taste the tequila but is a little on the sweet side with a hint of aromatics. Tequila con Limon is a little more sour though it’s made with tequila, lime skin and topped with lemonade.
Both refrescos go down easy and have you ordering another. But beware of Bloody Maria. She slaps you around like a red-blooded woman and delivers a strong spicy kick that can numb the palate. Made with tequila, tomato juice and spice, the picked quail egg is now gone by popular demand.
Popcorn and El Roberto Especial
Tio’s doesn’t offer a food menu but you can snack on complimentary bags of salted popcorn flavoured with chipotle and sweet paprika.
Standing at the bar, you’ll see Calle 23 Tequila being poured into shot glasses and cocktails with incredulous speed. Mexican beer with a lime-salted rim is another popular choice. And when you’re done with beer and cocktails, it’s time to get serious and ask the bartenders for tequila shots.
Bloody Maria & Pacifico Mexican Beer; Partida Blanco Tequila
Ocho 8 Reposado Tequila
Ocho 8 Reposado Tequila is smooth and viscous with good complexity that makes it an enjoyable sipping tequila. A mixture of pineapple, coriander, jalapeno and mint drink smoothes the palate after the Bloody Maria. Partida Blanco Tequila has a soft floral aroma, hints of citrus and a smooth finish, one with which to finish the night.
Tio’s is a lively bar venue with friendly and attentive bartenders who make you feel like a regular. The vibe is buzzy, festive and can be a little raucous with loud music on a Friday night. Drop in for pre-dinner drinks, and work your way through the cocktail list. If you’re more serious about your drink, come back after dinner and ask the bartenders to recommend shots of Tequila or Mezcal. You’ll leave on a happy note, just make sure you’re not driving home.
Tio’s is featured in Sydney’s top tequila bars.
4-14 Foster Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Open Mon-Sat, 4pm-midnight