Sydney City Guide
Words by Jane Ryan
Bartenders in the briefest of shorts, frosted beer taps pronouncing sub-zero temperatures and a figurative flood of whiskey apples and Espresso Martinis – you must be drinking in Sydney.
From its stretch of beaches, shading golden in the north to crisp white in the south, to its jostling CBD skyscrapers, busy harbour and pretty Victorian suburbs, Sydney can seem picture-perfect. Its bar scene however has had a tumultuous few years with restrictive lock-out laws shutting down whole areas of the city and placing a firm chokehold on live music, small bars and iconic dance destinations.
Early 2020 will see the removal of these laws, and while their impact won't vanish overnight, Sydney has already begun to rebuild itself back to its pre-2014 status as a major player on the world's cocktail scene. It is, however, the living, breathing embodiment of a city that has spread without consideration to its transport structure, so be prepared to book some Ubers.
In the heart of the city you'll find most of its heavy hitters, from Tales-awarded Maybe Sammy and 50 Best-ranked Bulletin Place down by Circular Quay to the smattering of bars on Clarence Street, including Lobo Plantation, Baxter's Inn and Old Mate's Place. It's here too that Merivale, the sprawling enterprise that owns the majority of Sydney's nightlife, presides, with venues such as Palmer & Co, Little Felix and J&M showcasing the group's cocktail prowess while the Ivy acts as a refugee for the need-to-seen crowd.
Despite a reputation for dress codes, Sydney has calmed down in recent years and a collar, or the lack of one, won't change your night out. A few security guards do still grumble about thongs (flip-flops) and stubbies (short-shorts) on blokes however, and if that bothers you then avoid the after-work destinations in the CBD and instead take a train to the likes of Redfern, Newtown or even Bondi where neighbourhood bars are on the rise and no one seems bothered by some exposed male thigh.