I learnt this the hard way when I used to write them for the SMH – and even though I’d always naively consider my lists a celebration of Sydney’s bars, I’d nevertheless receive a torrent of hate mail accusing me of every sin from bias to bastardry. Quite frankly, if I wanted to get that kind of abuse I’d spend more time with my cat.
This is why I never wrote a top 10 list specifically for Bar Zine and yet … well, after running this site for four years I decided it was time to grow a pair and just do it. Of course, I do so in the knowledge that you, gentle reader, are smart and sophisticated enough to realise this list is highly subjective, unscientific, based on my current whims and is ultimately the result of a highly flawed individual who makes far too many unfunny cat jokes.
And on that majestic note, here is the official Bar Zine list of Sydney’s best bars (in my humble feline-fevered opinion):
- Mojo Record Bar – As far as I’m concerned, this is the best bar in Sydney. I mean, some bars have great cocktails, some bars feel comfortable, but this one ticks all the boxes and then some. After all, it’s dark. Moody. Has great cocktails. Great rock and roll (not to mention a record store up the front!). Great staff. An atmosphere that feels genuine, rather than a cookie cutter offshoot of a bar franchise. Hell, they even have a great doorman.
- Bulletin Place Bar – This only recently opened and, at the moment, is the bar I’m most keen on revisiting because it combines the charm of a hidden small bar (it’s on the second floor of an old warehouse underneath a tattoo parlour) with bartenders that really know what they’re doing. The cocktail menu changes daily depending on what fresh fruit is available, and when I was there I ordered a Plum Blackthorn, made with muddled plum, sloe gin, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It was honestly the best muddled fruit cocktail I had in a year. I also like it because it’s next door to Tapavino, a new tapas bar that deserves being listed in this top 10 feature in its own right (you can sit at Tapavino’s bar counter, drink a great range of Spanish sherry and eat amazing tapas. What else could you ask for?)
- Midnight Special – This is the down and out, blues playing, laid-back small bar Enmore and Newtown desperately needed. It’s the bar I needed. It’s the reason I’m tempted to move to Enmore.
- The Mayor – To be blunt, this is on the list because I just feel comfortable here. There are other North Shore bars that have outstanding cocktails, such as White Hart (and I still love the Old Fashioned that Honey Rider serves), but I adore The Mayor’s old-school middle bar, the friendly service, the fact they use Basil Hayden’s bourbon in my Old Fashioneds, and so when I want to escape from my cat and have a quiet drink, this is where I invariably turn up.
- The Little Guy – This is my favourite bar in Glebe – I can no longer visit this suburb without going here. The cocktail list varies from day to day but the great popcorn, service, intimate vibe and quality of craft beers is a constant.
- Eau-de-Vie and The Roosevelt – I’m cheating by mentioning two bars instead of one, but I’m doing so because I like them for the exact same reason: they push the envelope when it comes to cocktails and hire the best bartenders possible.
- Frankie’s Pizza – Aside from Bulletin Place, this is the newest bar on the list and is from the people behind Shady Pines Saloon and Baxter Inn. To be frank (excuse the pun), I still prefer Mojo when it comes to rock and roll bars – but (at least for now) I get a kick out of coming here AND their $5 pizza slices are great. 50 Hunter Street, Sydney – open 7 nights until 4am.
- Stitch – I never get sick of how, from the street, it looks like a tailor’s shop. I also love the blues music, the fantastic cocktails that I think are amongst Sydney’s best, the booths, the hot dogs … hell, I love everything about this place.
- Hinky Dinks – The cocktails here are phenomenal, the decor has been custom made to look like a 1950s kitchen, the service is impeccable (last time I went, the bartender remembered my exact order from my previous visit two months before!), and they have one of Sydney’s best bar counters to sit at. I also love the alcohol-absorbing bar snacks here.
- Love Tilly Devine – I prefer spirits over wine, yet this small hidden wine bar is so fantastic and atmospheric that it’s absolutely worth checking out.
It honestly broke my heart to write this list because every single bar I reviewed on Bar Zine has something about it that I adore. I love the hotdogs at Goodgod, the steak poivre at Grasshopper, the Banana Old Fashioned in Gardel’s Bar at Porteno, the chicken nuggets at Hemingway’s, the shirts at Shirt Bar (my wardrobe is filled with them), the back alley entrance to Baxter Inn (not to mention their exhaustive whisky selection), the heritage and down-to-earth nature of the Lord Nelson (which is my favourite traditional pub in Sydney), the bartender at Bar Racuda who always smiles at me even though he has no idea I do Bar Zine), the dedication Absinthe Salon has to serving authentic absinthe (as opposed to the crap most people sell – and I’m honestly not just saying this because they advertise with me), the female bartenders at Gaslight who I always fall in love with, the …
I could go on – but I won’t. Instead, if you have a favourite bar (even if it’s just your local) then mention it in the comment section below: