Fun times beckon, from brew-pubs and tequila bars to neighbourhood meeting spots and specialty cocktails.
Named after Michael Corleone's beautiful but short-lived Sicilian bride in The Godfather, the low-lit basement bar of Hinchcliff House is all about strong Italian cocktails and hunkering down in dramatic leather chairs. Charcuterie and something amaro-based is the right idea.
5-7 Young St, Sydney, 02 7228 1400, apollonia.sydney
The many toast-based snacks at Arms Length. Photo: Supplied
When was the last time you ordered a Mai Tai? Or a Spiked Iced Tea? If it's been a long time between drinks, make a beeline to this Redfern newcomer. Order a side of salt and pepper calamari with Kewpie mayo to sit alongside your tall glass of refreshment.
648 Bourke St, Redfern, armslength.com.au
You may not get to Barcelona anytime soon but you can, at the very least, saddle up at Nick Stone and Aparna Gehlot's Potts Point bar-restaurant for a plate of jamon, a tin of very good sardines and a glass of sherry.
Shop 4/65 Macleay St, Potts Point, 02 7906 8388, barsopra.com.au
Chocolate tartlet, creme fraiche and cloud berry sorbet at Bar Suze. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Skagen fans will be in heaven at the marble bar of what is Sydney's most Scandinavian bistro. Drop in for the Swedish prawn toast and a suitably briny martini; stay for natural riesling and mashed potato-covered scallops topped with caviar. This is definitely not a place for the dill-averse.
54 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, barsuze.com
The Barber Shop
Haircuts up front, party in the back. More than 700 unique gins are waiting to be stirred down for a martini or swizzled with tonic and citrus at Mikey Enright's parlour-style house of close shaves and juniper. Take a dive into the rare genever list while you're there.
89 York St, Sydney, 02 9299 9699, thisisthebarbershop.com
It's a subterranean whisky party, and everybody is invited. Even the people who don't particularly like the spirit. That's the beauty of this city bar – their cocktail and craft beer credentials are as strong as their 300-plus whisky collection.
152-156 Clarence St, Sydney, thebaxterinn.com
The Bearded Tit
Inclusive, colourful, creative and wild. That's the ethos at this local bar, where the DJs spin late and the jaffles come hot and cheesy. It's all about easy good times over polish here, and that's why we love it.
183 Regent St, Redfern, 02 7209 4047, thebeardedtit.com
Open for avo toast in the morning and tagliatelle at night, locals flock to this all-purpose hangout for group catch-ups and bohemian vibes. A courtyard provides the best seat in summer for a Smoking Gun – that's tequila, mezcal, pineapple and a habanero shrub.
6 Belgrave St, Manly, 02 9976 6548, belgravecartel.com.au
Inside the colourful Cafe Freda's. Photo: Edwina Pickles
A magnet for young creatives, the vibe here is luxe casual with a side order of good times. Nothing is taken too seriously, from the lunchtime dan dan noodles to the kombucha spritz sundowners, but the level of care is high.
191-195 Oxford St, Darlinghurst, 0401 950 515, cafefredas.com
The pandemic has made rare mezcals harder to source but the cocktails remain as refreshing as ever. The new menu is inspired by the "trinity of human happiness" – peace, joy and lust – and all those chemicals they promote. Hit us with that dopamine, bartender.
Council Pl, Sydney, okokok.com.au
Merivale has no shortage of bars in its portfolio, but the hideaway underneath Fred's remains our favourite. Exposed sandstone and soft lighting are a welcoming atmosphere for botanical-forward drinks made with super seasonal produce.
380 Oxford St, Paddington. 02 9114 7332, merivale.com/venues/charlieparkers
The Courthouse Hotel
A dedicated pinball room, a tree-lined courtyard and a bistro serving all the pub classics you know and love (hey there steak Diane. Good to see ya, nachos). It's no wonder this Newtown mainstay has such a large and loyal following.
202 Australia St, Newtown, 02 9519 8273, courthousehotel.com.au
Dean and Nancy on 22
A bar snack menu from chef Jane Strode and a cocktail menu from the legends behind Maybe Sammy? That's two solid reasons to travel 22 floors. Two more would be the tiramisu profiteroles and the rum and pineapple shrub.
Lvl 22, 2 Hunter St, Sydney, deanandnancyon22.com.au
Hankering after a Woo Woo, a White Russian or a Stinger? The team behind the Ramblin' Rascal have you covered. After something slightly less esoteric, but just as classic? Make for the amaretto sour and sink back into one of their plush booths.
6 Bridge St, Sydney, doubledeucelounge.com
Make it a double: Double Deuce Lounge. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Pub gigs are a big selling point here, but this Enmore stayer has had a makeover on the food front too, thanks to chefs James MacDonald (ex-Restaurant Hubert and St John) and Doug Alvarez (ex-Porteno). Wood-fired treats ahoy.
148 Enmore Rd, Enmore, 02 8317 3057, thedukeofenmore.com.au
Porchetta roll at The Duke. Photo: Supplied
Earl's Juke Joint
Tropical dancehall vibes meet New Orleans grandeur meet the inner west at this King Street stayer, where the Daiquiris are nuclear, the beer on tap is Reschs and the wine is most likely Georgian.
407 King St, Newtown, earlsjukejoint.delivery
The East Sydney
This establishment is popularly known as "the last country pub in Sydney". And you can see why: no pokies, outdoor seats on the footpath for crowd watching, and a front bar that hasn't changed since Paul Keating was in Parliament House.
Cnr Crown and Cathedral streets, Woolloomooloo, 02 9358 1975, eastsydneyhotel.com
Four Pillars G&T with salt and vinegar gin chips at Eileen's. Photo: Supplied
Four Pillars distillery opened this luxe showroom for its many gin varieties last year. There's more to the cocktail list than martinis, however, largely thanks to the clever creations of drinks wizard James Irvine. Who's for a tall glass of olive leaf gin with hops and lemon myrtle fizz?
410 Crown St, Surry Hills, 02 9062 8430, fourpillarsgin.com/eileens-bar
For a hard-earned thirst, head to the former home of The Sly Fox. After a handsome lick of new paint, the pub is open for cold schooners, Aussie nostalgia and very good pies. Try a slow-cooked beef and beer number between rounds of pool and Chisel spins on the jukebox.
199 Enmore Rd, Enmore, 02 9171 0847, enmorehotel.com.au
Sure, it's a city-based pasta shop but this little side-hustle from the crew behind Ragazzi, Love Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Eloise also does a fine line in little snacks and after-work negronis.
161 King St, Sydney, 02 9064 8495, ciaofabbrica.com
Set up by veteran bartenders Dylan Howarth and Jason Crawley with a strong tequila and mezcal offering, it's unbeatable for a pre-Enmore-Theatre-gig martini. Caught a bad show? They're on hand for a conciliatory Tommy's margarita.
105 Enmore Rd, Newtown, 0418 400 618, fortunateson.com.au
The best small bar in Leichhardt to kick back with pet-nat and potato scallops on a lazy afternoon. Super-friendly staff shake cocktails with all-Australian spirits, such as the Norton Street Sour featuring Mobius vodka and house-made peach liqueur.
53 Norton St, Leichhardt, 0423 666 746, goldengullybar.com.au
The Grifter Brewing Co
Natural light floods the tap room of this much-loved Marrickville brewery, where locals flock to sample new seasonal releases and pale ale from the source. A country pub-style pool room provides the entertainment while a rotating fleet of food trucks keep punters well fed.
1/391-397 Enmore Rd, Marrickville, 02 9550 5742, thegrifter.com.au
Just the ticket for post-swim spritzes and cut-above bar food. In the lovely tradition of Pubs That Actually Service Their Community, this is family-friendly, minutes from the beach and has a dedicated dining room serving a heck of a rotisserie chook.
29 Moore Rd, Freshwater, 02 9905 3434, harbordhotel.com.au
A Marrickville community favourite with a heavy focus on a family-friendly atmosphere and local sports. It's a hot ticket for Saturday afternoon sessions, with a pub menu built for fun (hello, chips with rosemary rooster salt.)
91 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville, 02 9171 1868, thehenson.com.au
One of the city's longest-standing pubs has seen a few things during its 105-year-watch over Millers Point. Currently, it stands as an excellent solution to the where to eat and drink before seeing the latest STC Production.
35 Bettington St, Millers Point, 02 9018 0123, hotelpalisade.com.au
Jacoby's Tiki Bar
If you like Pina Coladas and other big, fruity cocktails with little umbrellas and bamboo straws, this fun-loving rum cave can provide. Hunker down in the rattan-walled back room to channel Blue Hawaii-era Elvis with an expert-level Mai Tai.
154 Enmore Rd, Enmore, jacobys-tiki-bar.com
The kind of place where everybody knows your name and staff sling Charlie Chaplins with aplomb. A full menu and live music may well lead to steak frites followed by Randy Newman covers and a Red Hook.
175 Victoria St, Potts Point
The Lansdowne Hotel
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, but the trek to the Mary's Group rooftop boozer is a must for anyone fond of whisky and burgers at sunset. Meanwhile, Broadway's loudest pub continues to host ripper local and touring bands every week. Have at it.
2-6 City Rd, Chippendale, thelansdownepub.com.au
CBD bar The Lobo is rum central. Photo: Supplied
Got any rum? Indeed. This lush basement bar boasts more than 250 types of sugarcane spirit, from Australia to Guyana to Martinique and beyond. Big, comfy banquettes are perfect for a night of empanadas and palmettos with mates.
209 York St, Sydney, thelobo.com.au
The Lord Dudley Hotel
One of the only English-style pubs in town where you can drink your beer without a care on the footpath. It's also one of the comfiest pubs to while away an afternoon or grab a post-gallery drink (Roslyn Oxley9 is just around the corner).
236 Jersey Rd, Paddington, 02 9327 5399, lorddudley.com.au
Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Even with fewer international tourists, it can be hard to score a weekend seat at Sydney's oldest continually licensed (and pokie-free) pub – such is the majesty of knocking back oysters and house-brewed porter surrounded by heritage sandstone. Three Sheets by the pint is essential.
19 Kent St, The Rocks, 02 9251 4044, lordnelsonbrewery.com
The Marrickville Hotel
A newish one from the team behind Redfern bar Arcadia Liquors. The focus is a mix of mainstream (VB, Reschs) and hyper local (Grifter, Waywards) beers in a space that wouldn't look out of place in '80s Murwillumbah. Just the way we like it.
244 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville, 02 8387 8482, themarrickvillehotel.com.au
Maybe Sammy in The Rocks. Photo: James Brickwood
This Rat Pack-inspired drinks parlour rocks a cracking martini any which way you choose, but don't miss the clever signature creations either. The All of You stars carbonated gin, apple, chardonnay and house kombucha. Play it again, Sammy.
115 Harrington St, The Rocks, 02 9241 4970, maybesammy.com
Popular pub, this. While fine diner Bert's attracts the Northern Beaches jet set, outside it's all families and twenty-somethings having a great time, scoffing fresh prawns by the bucket, blistered pizza and zippy prawn tostadas. Late afternoon rosé with views across to Pittwater is most definitely the go.
2 Kalinya St, Newport, 02 9114 7337, merivale.com/venues/thenewport
Top shelf: Nick and Nora's rooftop bar.
Nick and Nora's
A big, boozy bar buzzing with the same speakeasy energy co-owner Sven Almenning nailed at Darlinghurst's Eau de Vie a decade ago, albeit from an open-air terrace 26 storeys above ground. You won't find a better French 75 or Sazerac in the west.
Level 26, 45 Macquarie St, Parramatta, 02 8646 4930, nickandnoras.com.au
Glebe Point Road has been blessed with a brand-new bar in a very old terrace, a two-step from the Saturday markets. Nice enough to take your mum, and casual enough to take a group for a margarita-fuelled brunch.
92 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, 02 9571 9292, no92gpr.com.au
Old books at Old Mate's Place. Photo: Supplied
Old Mate's Place
There's more stair-based cardio to reach this hidden bar than that for a Manhattan walk-up, but the drinks at the other end of your quest are worth the puff. Start with a bone-dry Gibson and end with a Trinidad sour. It'll make the walk back down very interesting indeed.
Level 4, 199 Clarence St, Sydney, oldmates.sydney
P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants
Choose a bottle, choose a courtyard table, drink, snack, repeat. Sydney's leading natural wine and independent liquor trader has set up its Paddo outpost with shaded seats for charcuterie and by-the-glass good times, or any bottle from the shop for $25 corkage.
268 Oxford St, Paddington, 02 9054 3158, pnvmerchants.com
Philter's sour beer and pale ale slushies. Photo: James Brickwood
Philter has taken the "breweries are the new pubs" concept to another level with a tap room tipping its hat to public bars of the '80s. The beers are no-funny-business modern classics too, made for summer sessions and Hawaiian pizza from the brewery kitchen.
92-98 Sydenham Rd, Marrickville, 02 9199 9655, philterbrewing.com
Thor Bergquist and Michael Chiem's city bar is more than a sum of its cocktails (though they deliver sharp, original drinks in spades). It's also a small-scale soda factory that hosts restaurant pop-ups featuring some of the brightest chefs in the biz.
40 Skittle Ln, Sydney, ps40bar.com
Ramblin' Rascal Tavern
From a divey booth-lined basement underneath the CBD, Rascals sets a benchmark for high-low deliciousness by way of cheap tinnies and top-shelf cognac. You haven't had a Boilermaker until you've experienced Emu Export with a side of Sullivans Cove brandy.
Basement, 60 Park St, Sydney, ramblinrascal.com
Re is aiming to become a zero-waste venue. Photo: Tom Ferguson
Matt Whiley leads a gun team at one of Sydney's most ambitious and smartly designed bars. With an aim to be completely waste-free, surplus market produce inspires almost improbable cocktails such as a Manhattan Riff featuring salvaged mushrooms and blackcurrant-leaf vermouth.
Shop 8, 2 Locomotive St, Eveleigh, wearere.com.au
Rosenbaum and Fuller in Bondi. Photo: Christopher Pearce
Rosenbaum & Fuller
Named after owner Lee Potter Cavanagh's grandmothers, this date-friendly bar celebrates native produce by way of a menu spruiking warrigal green hummus and kangaroo snags. Australian wine, beer and spirits inform a highly agreeable drinks list.
13 O'Brien St, Bondi Beach, 0448 808 300, rosenbaumandfuller.com
You probably know it as "that place in Surry Hills with all the taxidermy and the country tunes". And that would be a true-enough analysis. But it's also a place to get a perfect Manhattan and a bowl of complimentary peanuts.
4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst, 0405 624 944, shadypinessaloon.com
Kanpai! You don't get much closer to feeling like you're in Tokyo than knocking back Asahi tallboys and sake at Crows Nest's tiniest bar. Hyper-coloured bric-a-brac covers every wall, and if it wasn't for all the yuzu highballs, Tachinomi could double as a Japanese thrift shop.
Shop 1, 20 Burlington St, Crows Nest
With respect to Cafe Pacifico (long may it be loved and remembered), this cerveceria is Sydney's first dedicated tequila bar. Big party energy is the name of the game where frozen watermelon margaritas are slung with the same friendly attitude as top-shelf sipping tequilas.
4/14 Foster St, Surry Hills, tios.com.au
The ultimate tiny bar slipped in between Marrickville's many excellent Vietnamese restaurants, and a stroll from the Factory Theatre. Grab a taco, whatever small batch brew is on tap and pull up to the bar.
337 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville, 0437 008 334, titusjones.com.au
With a big focus on sustainable vineyards and organic wine growing practices, this Marrickville wine bar also boasts sommelier Bridget Raffal, previously of Stanmore fine diner, Sixpenny. Like what you drank sitting in? They also sell wine to take away.
236 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville, 0481 759 182, wheresnick.com.au
Willie the Boatman
Smack bang in St Peters – the heartland of inner west brewing – is this microbrewery and bar. They serve, in the words of founders Pat McInerney and Nick Newey, "great beers, wild yarns, and terrible love advice".
Precinct 75, Suite 601, 75 Mary St, St Peters, 02 8556 7528, willietheboatman.com
It's a street party every weekend at this microbrewery and bar, where the Newtowners and Natural Lager flow freely. Refill your growlers, stop in for a tasting, and grab a taco if the guys from Los Gueros are about – they pop up at the brewery regularly.
76 Wilford St, Newtown, 02 9519 0048, younghenrys.com.au
This article features in the Good Food Guide 2022 magazine, published on November 30 with presenting partners Citi and Vittoria Coffee, and free with The Sydney Morning Herald. Also on sale from December 7 in newsagents and supermarkets.