The jazz is jumping, uni students are bathing underneath brothel-style red lights, the walls are padded with black cushions and a toy train occasionally runs loops on a track suspended above the bar.
Call it what you will, but there’s no doubt the Different Drummer marches to a different beat than other Sydney bars.
Having said that, the décor is considerably more restrained now than it was in the old days, when mannequins leered from corners, horror movie posters were tacked to the wall and an assortment of tack such as rubber spiders and stuffed animals were perched in various nooks and crannies – but the Different Drummer is still quirky. The aquarium in the outside courtyard is still there, as is the peacock sculpture that’s inspired endless men such as this Bar Zine correspondent to preen to the women nearby. We do, however, miss the bar stools that used to be lined against the counter.
The Drummer serves sangria ($12 for a half litre), beers from a fridge (a Little Creatures pilsener cost us $8.50) and wine here, but the best bet is the cocktails, which range in price from $12. Our favourite is the margarita ($12), which is great for the price – not too sweet (despite being rimmed with sugar and not salt), not too sour, and tastes like it’s made from real juice and not some ghastly pre-mix. The caipirinha ($16), incidentally, is also recommended – for those not familiar, it’s a cocktail made from cachaca (a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane) and muddled limes. This verdict on these drinks is considerably different to what it was when we were here in mid 2007, when we weren’t anywhere near as impressed – back then the only cocktail we liked here was the gin martini. This time around we also try the sangria, which is decent (we end up going through three half-litre bottles of it) but unfortunately we’ve yet to find a place in Sydney that serves sangria that matches what we drank in Spain.
The tapas here is all $11 and varied: on one hand you have Spanish fare such as meatballs, tortilla, pan-fried sardines and chorizo and on the other there’s spring rolls, wontons and Turkish bread with dips – but the quality of the food is good for the price. We order the pan-fried chorizo with tomato and basil as well as the Spanish meatballs, and are happy with both.
Happy hour runs from 6pm to 7.30pm, allowing you to get two-for-one cocktails, and even on a Tuesday night the bar is packed at that time. The Different Drummer also has a late night license and is the only bar in the area open after midnight.