Top Ten Sydney Small Bars

Sydney small bars are experiencing a boom since the change in licensing laws. Vibrant, themed and at times quirky, the choice of drinking venues is diverse and one’s liver can trouble keeping up to date with a new bar opening almost every week.

Many times, we are asked to name our favourite bars, be it an email request from readers, a whispered question over a drink, friends and people we meet at social events. So, here it is, the Gourmantic guide to the top ten small bars in Sydney (in no particular order).

1. Eau de Vie Bar

Arguably the original speakeasy small bar located at the rear of the Kirketon Hotel in Darlinghurst. Dark, elegant space, jazzy tunes and top class cocktails with service to match. And the first to have ignited our passion for small bars. Best place to sit is, of course, at the bar. Read our review of Eau de Vie Bar – also here with Dr Phil.
Address: 229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
Open: Monday-Saturday: 6pm-1am; Sunday: 6pm-12am

2. The Baxter Inn

If there’s a whisky heaven, you’ll find it down the basement on Sydney’s Clarence Street. Worth lining up patiently in the queue in the dingy laneway. You’ll be rewarded with a choice of over 300 whiskies, highly knowledgeable bar staff and a fun ambience in a retro American style saloon. Read our review of The Baxter Inn.
Address: Basement 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney
Open: 4pm-1am, Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays

3. Tio’s Cerveceria

For Tequila, Mezcal and easy-drinking refrescos at $10 a pop, you can’t beat Tio’s in Surry Hills. The Guatemalan owl bar packs a fun-loving and chatty crowd. Although it moves at a very fast pace, the knowledgeable bar staff are more than happy to talk you through a range of Tequila or Mezcal shots to your taste and price bracket. Read our review of Tio’s.
Address: 4-14 Foster Street, Surry Hills
Open: Mon-Sat 4pm-midnight; Sun noon-10pm

4. Shady Pines Saloon

Raucous, lively, you’ll be drinking with taxidermied deers and wooden American Indians in a lively atmosphere no matter what day or time you visit. Good range of American whiskeys. Be warned, this is not a place for conversations if you have a soft voice. The place is LOUD, and that’s part of its ambience. Read our review of Shady Pines.
Address: 4/256 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Open: every day, 4pm till midnight

5. The Roosevelt

If you like to be seated at a bar, be served and have cocktails come to you via the nitro trolley or finished at your table, this is the place to be. The vibe is a a classy 1950s style with a top class team and unique cocktails. No, you can’t sit at the bar and check out/chat with the bartenders. Go for a different experience or take someone to impress. Read our review of The Roosevelt. Also here for the Roosevelt degustation.
Address: 32 Orwell Street, Potts Point
Open: Mon – Sat: 5pm-midnight; Sun: 5pm-10pm

Sydney Small Bars
L-R: Baxter Inn, Tio’s, Shady Pines

6. Pelicano

Built over three levels, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped on board a luxury yacht in the French Riviera. Classy, elegant and arty (check out the Matisse and Liechtenstein on the walls), Pelicano brings back the glamour days of Double Bay in the 80s but without the attitude. Read our review of Pelicano.
Address: 24 Bay Street, Double Bay
Open: Tuesday to Saturday, open till late

7. Palmer & Co.

Merivale’s 1920’s prohibition style bar ticks all the boxes in decor, ambience, music, and food. Three bars serve different cocktails, some changing daily. Choose from the easy drinking fruity style, to the Cocktail Collection and the more boozy Prohibition Cocktails. And you’ll get a different vibe depending on where you sit. Read our review of Palmer & Co.
Address: Abercrombie Lane, Sydney
Open: Monday to Thursday: 5pm – late; Friday 3pm – late; Saturday 5pm – late

8. Button Bar

With its warm wood decor, cozy booths and unique cocktails served in vintage glassware, it’s difficult to leave this bar on a cold winter’s night. Read our review of Button Bar.
Address: 65 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Open: 7 days, 4pm till midnight

9. Assembly Bar

Assembly is the type of bar that feels welcoming from the moment you step in. Great cocktails, a chillout ambience and it reminds you nothing of school. Read our review of Assembly Bar.
Address: Regent Place, 488 Kent Street (opposite Tetsuya’s), Sydney
Open: Mon to Fri: midday till midnight; Sat 5.00pm till midnight. Closed Sundays

10. Low 302

There’s a different vibe at Low 302 depending on what time you go there but you’ll always have a great time and cocktails to match. They also open late and serve some tasty bites. Read our review of Low 302.
Address: 302 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm to 2am; Sundays 6pm to 2am

Special Mention: Theloft

With its capacity for 400 persons, it is not technically a “small bar”. Fun, innovative and interactive cocktail list that takes you from the light and fruity to the more serious for booze hounds. Read our review of TheLoft.
Address: 3 Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
Open: Mon to Thu: 4pm to 1am; Fri to Sat: Noon to 3am; Sun: Noon to 1am

There are many more bars that we enjoy and an ever-growing list of bars yet to visit. And with new ones opening, you can expect a follow up listing in the near future.

Note: Opening hours are correct as of the date of the article and may be subject to change.

Other Guides in this series: Another Top Ten Sydney Bars (2013), Sydney’s Best Whisky BarsSydney’s Best Wine Bars, Sydney’s Best Tequila Bars, Sydney’s Best Rum Bars

UPDATE January 2013 – Don’t miss our updated Guide to Another Top 10 Sydney Bars.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.