Bars of Note: The Baxter Inn, Sydney

The Baxter Inn is not just one of Sydney's best bars — it's a bar with world renown. A regular fixture of the World's 50 Best Bars over the years, the bar has been named Australia's Bar of the Year more than any other.

The Baxter Inn
Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street
Sydney, NSW 2000

When The Baxter Inn made its debut in 2011, it changed what was possible in the Sydney bar world. Some nearly nine years later, it continues to be one of Australia’s very best bars.

How did we get here? The Baxter Inn was the second bar to come from the ownership duo behind 2010’s wildly successful Shady Pines Saloon, Anton Forte and Jason Scott. But whereas Shady Pines Saloon channelled a relaxed honkytonk feel (albeit with some of the finest service in the city), The Baxter Inn was Shady’s more grown up, more accomplished sibling.

The Baxter Inn, Sydney. Photo: Boothby
The Baxter Inn, Sydney. Photo: Boothby

Residing in a disused basement of an otherwise ordinary office block on Clarence Street in the city, the entrance to The Baxter Inn was hard to find in 2011 and it still is today — just sit across the laneway at The Barber Shop and see the steady stream of people asking them where The Baxter Inn is.

What is it that makes The Baxter Inn one of the world’s great bars? It could be the huge whisky selection, specialising in single malt Scotch, hundreds and hundreds of bottles on hand. It could be the short yet sharp cocktail list, or the well-drilled team’s dab hand with classic cocktails. It could be the atmosphere — it’s always busy and buzzy.

It could be the the look of this basement beauty of a bar, inspired by the Boston boozers of the 1800s; grab a seat at the long bar that runs the length of one side of the room, and marvel at that back bar. Or you could pop your head in and admire the beauty of their whisky room, where they keep some of their most precious and rare whiskies.

Essentially, it could be many things, because The Baxter Inn does many things very well. The attention to detail in every aspect of service is what sets this place apart.

That’s why The Baxter Inn has won numerous awards for their efforts down the years.

`The whisky room at The Baxter Inn in Sydney. Photo: Boothby
`The whisky room at The Baxter Inn in Sydney. Photo: Boothby

The Baxter Inn has landed on the World’s 50 Best Bars six times: in 2012 (#7), 2013 (#8), 2014 (#7), 2015 (#6), 2016 (#12) and 2017 (#45), a record only surpassed in Australia by Melbourne bar Black Pearl (which has landed on the list 10 times).

They are also one of the most awarded bars at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards, which are voted for by the bar industry.

Let’s also mention the fact that they are one of the busiest bars in town. In the pre-COVID before times, the best advice — and this holds true today — is to get to The Baxter Inn early, no matter what day it is: it’s not unusual to see a queue of people waiting to get into the bar at 6pm on a Wednesday.

That’s because those in the queue know just how good it is downstairs. It’s the kind of bar that bartenders love, and you’ll find many an off-duty hospo type — be they servers, bartenders or brand ambassadors — taking a moment at the bar. It’s the kind of bar staffed by a team of bartenders who give a damn about what they do, and who just so happen to be some of the best at their job in the country.

Which is all to say that The Baxter Inn is a must-visit bar on any Sydney trip — and long may she reign.

At the point of The Baxter Inn's bar is where you'll often find Sydney hospitality on a break. Photo: Boothby
At the point of The Baxter Inn's bar is where you'll often find Sydney hospitality on a break. Photo: Boothby
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