You might need to wander down some dimly lit alleys or open some unmarked doors to discover Sydney’s best whisky bars, but we can assure you it’s well worth the effort. Maybe you like a sweet and potent shot of America’s finest; maybe you’re more slanted towards a fine Scottish single malt whisky that’s old enough to order its own whisky. Whatever your flavour, these are the venues that’ll cater to your every malt, grain and wheat-based whim.
Sydney is now leading the country in small specialty venues, catering to an increasingly demanding and knowledgable clientele who know the difference between Islay and Speyside, and who are always on the lookout to try new things, drink their favourites in new ways and listen to what the bartender has to offer. Whether you’re a newbie to the brown spirit or a malt master – check out the best whisky bars in Sydney for your fix.
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.
Earl’s Juke Joint (Not Full-Fledged Whisky Bar)
Not specifically a whisky bar, Earl’s is rather an everything bar that just so happens to have a great collection of regularly rotating rarities, to keep things interesting. With an enormous back bar and a team of cocktail and spirit experts, the guys (and girls) at Earl’s know the recipe for a good night all too well. They also have a huge selection of beers, featuring classic, easy drinking lagers to seasonal frothies designed to sate even the thirstiest customer.
407 King St, Newtown
Grain Bar (Four Seasons)
As part of accomodation giant Four Seasons Hotels, Grain Bar has been serving up a huge range of top-shelf whiskies since its inception in 2012. Ranging curious sippers from each major distilling region, you’d be hard pressed to pay the team a visit and not find something you’ve never tried. They’re also dab-hands at cocktails and the sophisticated, elegant setting is perfect at any time of day, for just about any occasion.
199 George St Sydney
Shady Pines Saloon
The one that started it all for small whisky bars in Sydney, and the older brother of The Baxter Inn and Frankies, Shady Pines is arguably the cause of more Sydney hangovers than weddings and NRL finals combined. Born of a cowboy’s booze-addled dream, they boast some of the best whiskey around, focussing on North America, and have a team of (oft shirtless) professionals who know how to use it. They also serve up free peanuts and play both kinds of music.
Shop 4, 256 Crown St, Darlinghurst (entry on Foley Lane)
Want to see what all the fuss is about re: Japanese whisky? This is the place to do it. The tiny, almost hidden space in an ex-industrial part of Surry Hills has some of the best (and now, rarest) in the world. Also serving up delicious Japanese bar food (katsu nuggets, skewers of lots of different things, eggplant with miso) as well as whisky-laden cocktails, this is another feather in Sydney’s excellent-small-bar-obsessed cap.
Shop 2, 226-228 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills (Entry on Belmore Lane)
In true small venue style, this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bar is tucked in an alley behind an alley and boasts arguably the largest collection of whisky in Australia – scrap that – the Southern hemisphere. Well-dressed bartenders in clinical white aprons pour out drops from all around the world, including some of the rarest vintages out there, as well as their own house-aged stuff from the secret cellar that sits off the main room. Come for a cocktail before dinner, order a ploughman’s plate, call the restaurant to cancel your reservation and drink your way through the continents one nip at a time.
152 – 156 Clarence St Sydney
The Wild Rover
As the song so efficiently states ‘I’ve been a wild rover for many’s the year, and I spend all my money on whiskey and beer.’ If you’re one who enjoys your roving of the wild variety also then this is the place to spend all your money too. Perfect handles of Guinness, world-famous lamb sausage rolls and enough Irish whiskey to get you through the lengthiest of potato famines. Oh, and Shakin’ Stevens fans will appreciate the classy entrance.
75 Campbell St, Surry Hills
A Sydney whisky bar list wouldn’t be complete without a little something from Merivale, and this offering is one of their best to date. J&M is a small, unassuming space nestled above The Angel Hotel, which was the site of Mr. John and Merivale Hemmes’ first fashion boutique in the 70s. A huge whisky list takes pride of place amongst an already generous selection of drinks on offer, with cocktails and cracking service also on point.
1 Angel Place, Sydney
The Whisky Room at The Clock Hotel
Sitting above The Clock Hotel on Crown St in Surry Hills is The Whisky Room, a simple and elegant whisky bar to pull up a stool and drink some drams you’ve probably not yet tried. Featuring over 200 whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Australia, The US, Taiwan and New Zealand, there’s something for everybody with a few hidden gems, and the helpful history notes in the menu make it an unpretentious place to educate yourself.
470 Crown St, Surry Hills
Eau De Vie
While perhaps famous for their cocktails, small Darlinghurst bar Eau De Vie also boast one of the best rare collections in Sydney, and have a very cool way for you to try them. Join their whisky club for 20% off a selection of 40 different whiskies to graduate to ‘Malt Master’ status. Malt Masters enjoy huge discounts on their reserve list, in some cases over 50% off some of the rarest whiskies in the world. Neat.
229 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst
Eau De Vie’s younger brother, The Roosevelt delivers the glamour of a bygone era to Potts Point, offering one of the most well thought-out drinks menus in town and prime-quality dishes in a room fit for the king himself. While cocktails are the specialty of the house, this has to be one of the most opulent rooms to sit in and peruse the excellent selection of whiskies available.
32 Orwell St, Potts Point
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.