With Melbourne’s lockout law-free nightlife nipping at our heels, Sydney is fighting an uphill battle to maintain the raucousness it once claimed for big nights out.
As such, big, loud, doof-doof venues are slowly being replaced by a handful of small, stylish and secret watering holes dotted around the city in some of the most unexpected places.
Check out our list of the coolest hidden bars Sydney where you can wet your whistle well into the night in sleuth-y style.
#1 The Barber Shop
89 York Street, Sydney
Tucked behind York St’s inconspicuous office buildings you’ll find The Barber Shop. At night, a dimly lit parlour entrance that makes way to a buzzing environment reminiscent of small, classic European bars with a little nod to the Brits.
The Barber Shop’s famed cocktail bar a wide range of artisanal spirits, boutique bottled beers and a mouth-watering selection of Aussie and European wines. By day, The Barber Shop becomes an actual parlour-styled barbershop, offering a range of grooming services for discerning modern gents.
#2 The Baxter Inn
152-156 Clarence St, Sydney
You’d walk right past one of the most hidden bars Sydney CBD’s Baxter Inn if you’re more cultured and sober friend didn’t guide you in the right direction.
In an unmarked Clarence St alleyway and down a flight of stairs meant as an old loading dock you’ll enter the dimly lit whisky-focused den that is The Baxter Inn. A whopping 10-metres in length, The Baxter Inn is home to a impressive list of almost 800 whiskies, as well as the usual spirits, cocktails, wine and beer…and a killer negroni.
The Baxter Inn is SO good that it was even named among the World’s 50 Best Bars last year, described by judges as “a bastion of good booze, good banter and even better whiskey.”
#3 The Lobo Plantation
Basement Lot 1, 209 Clarence St, Sydney
Sick of the overbearing skyscrapers and concrete jungles of Sydney? Venture past the QVB, down into a basement and you’ll find The Lobo Plantation, a little taste of South America right here in Sydney. Rum cocktails, Cuban pastelitos, pulled-pork tamales and ceviche in a bright and bustling interior decorated with cane furniture, palm trees and dim candlelight await you.
Lobo’s cocktail offering is possibly the hidden bar’s best kept secret. Cheeky named concoctions like the Pineapple rum ‘Mr Magoo’, mulled wine and gin ‘Mull It Over’, a cucumber-infused ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Hendricks’ and fruity rum twist ‘Cuban Pay Phone’ are among Lobo’s drinks list, further adding to the bar’s quirky charm.
#4 Papa Gede’s
348 Kent St, Sydney
If you’re planning a last-minute first date and need to be somewhat close to your office, Papa Gede’s could be the intimate drinking nook for you. The Voodoo-themed Kent St hotspot is tucked behind the same sort offices as The Barber Shop, but offers great wine, funk, soul, reggae and rituals of relaxation.
“From the drums and the rums of voodoo practice in Haiti and New Orleans, to our corner of Sydney CBD”, you’ll expect to find punchy cocktails and laid-back comedy at Papa Gedes.
#5 Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern
199 Elizabeth St, Sydney
Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern is one of those places you’ve probably walked past a million times without even knowing it was there. Located down a flight of sticky stairs on the corner of Park and Elizabeth St in Sydney’s CBD, this dimly lit drinking den comes from the same boys behind The Baxter Inn.
Perfect when you’re painting the town red after work with the boys, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern is more often than not filled with slurring suits and a couple of tattooed hipsters but it’s sort of an all-rounder when it comes to drinking. You can keep it casual with a ‘shit tinnie’ for only $6 or splash out with heavy cocktail, usually in favour of whisky or cognac.
#6 The Wild Rover
75 Campbell St, Surry Hills
From the outside, Surry Hills’ Wild Rover looks like just another part of the suburb’s sometimes grimy and graffitied landscape. The inside, however, is a true reflection of the restaurant’s famed food and booze offering.
Described as a “swashbuckling, foot stomping, riotous escape from pomp”, The Wild Rover looks a bit like an Irish folk barn met New York chic for an unassuming good time.
As well as a rotating craft beer list and two hundred-plus whiskies, The Wild Rover knows that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, with $1 oysters and house-made sausage rolls which are known and loved all over the city by comfort eaters and foodies alike.
#7 Palmer & Co.
Abercrombie Ln, Sydney
Tucked down an alley and hidden underground, Palmer & Co. is a time warp to the era of prohibition with bootleggers, sly-groggers and the like. Here, you will find dapper barmen, dazzling flapper waitresses, an extensive menu of spirits, carefully crafted cocktails and late night bites.
“Settle in for a night of seasonal tipples with raucous yet refined debauchery,” the website states. Palmer & Co is the perfect place relax, unwind, get intimate and escape the mundane.
#8 Since I Left You
338 Kent St, Sydney
Just a stone’s throw or drunken stumble from Papa Gedes is Since I Left You, a cosy art deco-style bar located in a heritage-listed storehouse that pairs a welcoming relaxed feel with old-school decadence and charm.
SILY’s cobblestone courtyard is perfect in summer, but if it’s still miserable outside, escape to the warmth of the bar’s slick interiors. Keep it simple with gourmet toasties, SILY cheese fondue and classic cocktails plus sweet treats like the Don Juan or Little Grace.
#9 Earl’s Juke Joint, Newtown
407 King St, Newtown
Taking you out of the city and to a suburb unaffected by lockout laws you will find yourself at Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown. Occupying the old Betta Meats butchery on the suburb’s main drag, Earl’s Juke Joint is a hole-in-the-wall hotspot giving off serious New Orleans vibes that has garnered it a cult following from Newtown’s hipsters.
Like Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern, Earl’s is perfect for a cheap palate cleanser, perhaps a Young Henry’s, a more sophisticated French wine or dirty south-inspired cocktail.
#10 Frankie’s Backbar, Sydney
50 Hunter St, Sydney
You might’ve already heard of Italian restaurant turned CBD bar Frankie’s, but have you discovered the Frankie’s Backbar? Apparently, Frankie’s Backbar was originally set up as a space for bands to hang out after their sets and for staff to enjoy a sneaky bevvy or two, but now it’s been opened up to the public…if you can find it.
Down a flight of stairs on stage right you’ll find a door that leads to a tiny bar with three booths, bluegrass on the stereo, tinnies on ice and some sexy and secluded vibes.