Boothby Dozen: The 12 must-visit Sydney cocktail bars

When it comes time for cocktail hour, these are the Sydney cocktail bars we'll be visiting.

Boothby Dozen: The 12 must-visit Sydney cocktail bars
The cocktails at Double Deuce Lounge are among Australia's best. Photo: Boothby

Welcome to the Boothby Dozen — a collection of the 12 Sydney cocktail bars we think are essential stops on any night of good drinking in Sydney. A great cocktail bar — as opposed to a great bar — is a place that you feel compelled to have a cocktail in hand. The cocktails bars on this list aren't just the latest, buzziest places — most have been around for more than three years. But what these Sydney cocktail bars do share in common is a commitment to great hospitality, cocktails of the highest order (of course) and a way of giving you that 'I don't want to be anywhere else' kind of feeling. These are special places.

1. Maybe Sammy

115 Harrington St, The Rocks

There’s something about the jacketed bartenders at Maybe Sammy, which bills itself as a hotel bar without the hotel — they know how to host a heels up, that’s for sure. The Art Deco feel to the place puts you in a Martini mood, but don’t stop at the classics here: their cocktail list is inventive and playful, and the bartenders — any list of the world’s best bar teams has to include them — put the emphasis on fun.

They were named the 11th best bar in the world on the 2020 World’s Best Bars list.

2. Re

2 Locomotive St, Eveleigh

It’s quite possibly the most ambitious opening of 2021, and certainly one of the most delicious. Billed as the world’s first permanent no-waste bar, the focus is on flavour first. Their drinks have been the talk of bartenders around town (their Wimbledon Gimlet was one that came up again and again), often pushing the boundaries of what is possible, but always with the end goal of a tasty drink. Whenever you go, you’ll find something new and delicious on the list — it's guaranteed to be both memorable and unavailable anywhere but here. Expect Re to be setting the drinks agenda for years to come.

3. Eileen’s Bar at Four Pillars Gin Lab

410 Crown St, Surry Hills

As far as spirit brand showrooms go, this one — home to Four Pillars Gin in Sydney — is a world-beater. Then again, not many spirit brands have homes led by bartenders like James Irvine. You’ll get his world class drinks made with leading edge technique, drinks of a calibre that many of the world’s best bars will struggle to match. Throw in some attentive hospitality, and great bar design, and you’ve got a delicious night out.

4. Cantina OK!

5-7 Young St, Sydney

Billed as a micro mezcal bar, Cantina OK! really is small: there’s room for just 20 people inside. But it’s a little bar doing very big things. They’re pouring mezcal sourced from all, indie producers across Mexico — places they have themselves visited and discovered — and offer the best selection of agave-focused cocktails in the city. They’ve set the standard for Sydney’s Margie fanatics (their Margarita OK! is as good as it gets) and weekly specials see the talented staff flexing their cocktail skills. Throw in a deliciously designed cocktail list, and you can see why the bar debuted on the 2020 World’s 50 Best Bars list at number 28.

5. Apollonia

5-7 Young St, Sydney

Another 2021 opening on the Boothby Dozen, we’re led to believe that Apollonia channels a Sicilian bandit’s drinking den kind of vibe, but it’s a lot more luxe than that might suggest. Touches of dark marble, warm colours and brass highlights adorn the bar, cut deep into the sandstone beneath Hinchcliff House in Circular Quay. Run by one of the country’s best bartenders, Alissa Gabriel, with drinks from co-owner and veteran bartender Jason Williams, it’s a beautiful place to sit and burn a few hours.

6. Double Deuce Lounge

6 Bridge St, Sydney

Double Deuce Lounge is known for its somewhat 70s-inspired aesthetic — the idea being it’s a bar the cast and crew of a 70s porn movie would go to — and its aged mid-century design makes for some comfortable drinking surrounds. But look past the room and beneath the laidback and convivial service, you’l find there are some serious bartending chops here: a trio of bartenders led by Oliver Churcher who’ll rank on any list of the best, and riffs on classic recipes updated and refined for a modern palate. It’s also a damn good time.

7. PS40

Skittle Ln, Sydney

PS40 is where drinks go to become perfected. Bartender and owner Michael Chiem, along with his team of top flight bartenders, have fine-tuned the Pina Colada (it’s the best we’ve tasted), and created the Africola, a drink so beloved by those who taste it — once they wrap their head around its mind-bending play of hot and cold temperatures — that it has its own tee shirt. Set yourself up at this sleek bar on Skittle Lane in the CBD, and treat yourself to cocktails from a team at the height of their powers.

8. The Cumberland

17/19 Central Ave, Manly

The northern suburb of Manly isn’t exactly known for its quality cocktail options; that has begun to change thanks to The Cumberland. With Australian flavours and whisky two of its big focus points, expect elevated cocktails here, whisky from around the world, and the kind of top flight service one used to have to cross The Bridge to receive. Their signature cocktail, helpfully named as the Cumberland Cocktail, is a smoky, theatrical and rich delight you won’t find on the menu but you should certainly ask for.

9. Jacoby's Tiki Bar

154 Enmore Rd, Enmore

One step through the door of Jacoby’s Tiki Bar takes you further from Enmore Road than we thought possible; once inside, you’re whisked away to the classic Californian tiki bars of the mid-Century, updated for the modern era — which is to say that Jacoby’s is tiki done classically and tastefully. You’re drinking cocktails here, and — tiki or not — they’re among the best drinks in Sydney. Mango Weis Daiquiri, anyone?

10. The Lobo

209 Clarence St, Sydney

If you like your rum, you’ll love The Lobo. They really have quite a lot of it. This award-winning subterranean Clarence Street cocktail bar features some talented bartenders ever ready to meet your cocktailing desires: lovers of a classic Daiquiri with some snap, or those seeking some punchy rum drinks, will find themselves well looked after here but it’s The Lobo’s signature Old Grogham that is likely to capture your attention: the mix of in-house spiced rum, lemon, sugar, and stout vermouth is set on fire in a pyrotechnic display that literally lights up the room.

11. Charlie Parker's

380 Oxford St, Paddington

If you value seasonality and sustainability and love a good drink, well, that’s what they do at Charlie Parker’s. Led by head bartender Giacomo Franceschi, they grow many of their ingredients in their rooftop garden (which is also home to a hive of tens of thousands of bees); house-made ferments and mead pepper their menu. Though their methods and ingredients are more involved and a little unusual, the focus is always on flavour and hospitality.

12. Dean & Nancy on 22

2 Hunter St, Sydney

The newest bar on this list, Dean & Nancy on 22 was just a month into trade before Sydney locked down in June. From the same team that brought you Maybe Sammy, this classic hotel cocktail bar could land on any number of lists thanks to its room and its perch amidst the skyscrapers of Sydney city. But it’s more than just a good looking bar, it’s got great cocktails, a grand piano, and that ‘anything is possible tonight’ feeling.