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10 best cocktails in Sydney
Wine or beer too boring? Like a bit of organized chaos at a bar? This list will get you thirsty
When the Harbour City was first colonized, rum was the drink of choice, as the notorious New South Wales Corps ("rum corps") took charge of a governor-less colony to bootleg their trade.
But tastes change: a schooner (425 milliliters) of draft beer came to define the city.
More recently, New South Wales' plethora of vineyards has brought wine into vogue.
With a globalized drinking culture and need for style, however, cocktails have also joined the fray.
A cocktail is no longer judged by how a bartender flips a shaker, but gets graded like a gourmet meal. Bartenders have become alcohol chefs.
From pomegranate-infused Turkish delights to classics garnished with Japanese basil and edible foil, Sydney’s cocktail bars have a reputation for taking things off the hook.
Here are Sydney’s 10 most interesting cocktails and a look at the bars that make them.
1. Espresso Ice-Cream Martini @ Manta
Want a side of paparazzi with your cocktail? Head to Woolloomooloo Wharf where an array of harborside restaurants will leave you and your wallet breathless.
Jon Bon Jovi liked Manta enough to leave a $600 tip and told a radio station: “I can tell you this is one of the best restaurants I ever ate in. It was killer folks.”
Maybe he had an Espresso Ice-Cream Martini.
It helps punters who don’t like the sourness of coffee to appreciate the bean’s aroma and ability to stimulate. It contains a shot of espresso, a shot of Belvedere vodka and a shot of Kahlua with a scoop of homemade coffee ice cream.
First shaken over ice, it’s double-strained and served in a martini glass and garnished with coffee beans.
Manta Restaurant & Bar, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo, +61(2) 9332 3822, Monday-Sunday, noon-2.30p.m, 6p.m.-midnight, www.mantarestaurant.com.au
2. Papillon @ Brown Sugar
When Bondi’s Brown Sugar restaurant and café changed hands in 2006, regulars expected the worst. Instead they got a serious upgrade.
The new owners, siblings Neil and Leanne Gotheiner, still serve contemporary seafood, but have also juiced up the cocktail menu.
New concoctions pop up on the specials board every month, courtesy of French sommelier Allan Bourbon.
Papillon is built from Aperol -- an Italian aperitif, sweeter than Campari -- Cointreau, a half-measure of Stoli vodka, a few drops of bitters, a squeeze of lime, crushed ice and topped with sparkling blood orange juice.
Papillon is harder to put down than the 1969 novel by Henri Charrière it was named after.
Brown Sugar, 106 Curlewis St., (61) 2 9130 1566, Tuesday-Sunday 6:30p.m.-midnight, Friday-Sunday 8:30a.m.-2:30p.m., www.brownsugarbondi.com.au
3. Fig Daiquiri @ Café Sicilia
Marble counters and black and white floor tiles make the al fresco Café Sicilia a romantic, authentic Italian café.
The semifreddo al cioccolato –- a mousse and ice cream hybrid –- is excellent, while the Mediterranean-themed cocktails are about as subtle as Berlusconi. Italy is the home of the fig, so it comes as no surprise to see a fig daiquiri on the menu here.
The drink contains Bacardi Superior Rum shaken on ice with fresh lime juice and, of course, mama’s homemade fig marmalade.
Served with a float of Bacardi 8, it's very easy to drink.
Café Sicilia, 628 Crown St., Surry Hills, (61) 2 9699 8787, Monday-Sunday 7:00a.m. – midnight, www.caffesicilia.com.au
4. La Bomba @ Miss Marley’s
Not too long ago, Manly was a beautiful dag, where a night out was all about sinking beers and dodging punches. But the beachside suburb has a new breed of wine and cocktail bars, such as Miss Marley’s.
There, a chrome feature wall, patterned wallpaper and floor-to-ceiling mirrors have an odd but comfortable marriage with low-stung lights and grungy, garage-sale table and chairs.
La Bomba is Spanish for "the bomb," which makes no sense given the smooth, suave nature of this cocktail. But it’s the taste -- not the name –- where this drink hits the spot.
Containing Tromba tequila, fresh passion fruit, passion fruit syrup, Grand Marnier and lime juice, it’s double strained and garnished with a slice of passion fruit. Sure to cluster on your taste buds.
Miss Marley’s Pan American Restaurant & Tequila Cocktail Bar, 32 Belgrave St., Manly +61 (2) 8065 4805, Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight, Sunday 5p.m.-10.p.m, www.missmarleys.com.au
5. The Rose Porteous @ Longrain
Set in the basement of the up-market Surry Hills Thai restaurant of the same name, everything about Longrain’s cocktail bar is understated. Nude brick walls and a soaring ceiling house sweet soulful music and an interesting 30- and 40-something clientele.
The Rose Porteous is named after the super-interesting former Filipino lingerie model-cum-maid, who married iron-ore magnate Lang Hancock -- a man 40 years her senior.
It’s bound to seduce: containing lemon vodka, watermelon liqueur and watermelon and cranberry juice, it’s served in an old-fashioned glass and topped with crushed raspberry and blackberry bits.
Longrain Cocktail Bar, 85 Commonwealth St., Surry Hills, +61(2) 9280 2888, Daily 4p.m-midnight. www.longrain.com.au
6. Narli Mojito @ Efendy
Laid out in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion on the gentrified and stylish Balmain Peninsula, Efendy is a family-run Turkish restaurant and cellar cocktail bar that serves a range of Turkish-inspired cocktails.
The Turks like things sweet and the Narli Mojito is a copybook example. The bartender muddles mint, pomegranate seeds, castor sugar and fresh lime in a Boston shaker, then tops it with ice, Havana Club Anejo rum, Pama pomegranate liquor, soda water and more ice. And it tastes sweet.
Efendi Restaurant and Mezze bar, 79 Elliott St., Balmain, +61(2) 9810 5466, Monday-Wednesday, 5p.m-11:30p.m., Saturday 11a.m.-11:30p.m., Sunday 11a.m.-5p.m., www.efendy.com.au
7. Smoking Summer Punch @ Zeta
Bars set inside five-star hotels may be all the rage in some countries, but they’re positively dorky in Australia. Yet for every rule there’s an exception and Sydney Hilton’s Zeta Bar is just that.
The place is a bit of a labyrinth of rooms and bars, including a lounge spotted with leather ottomans and an outdoor terrace overlooking the Queen Victoria Building.
An adaptation of a Halloween party trick, Zeta’s Smoking Summer Punch combines Pinot Noir wine, Cointreau, Belvedere Orange vodka, Hennessy VS cognac, orange juice, grapefruit juice and Bundaberg ginger beer in a punchbowl with ice. It’s then placed in a larger bowl containing dry ice, to which water is added to make steamy smoke.
Zeta Bar, Level 4, 488 George St., Sydney, +61(2) 9265 6070, daily 5p.m-late, www.zetabar.com.au
8. Hell Yeah @ The Corner House
For three decades, Old Castile dished has out pizzas and pasta from its whitewashed stucco home on Bondi Road. But when the owner called it quits 18 months ago and a younger breed moved in -- the guys behind Bondi’s ever-popular Wine Bar -- and installed a wood-fired pizza oven and renamed it the Corner House. The place has been full of trendophiles ever since.
Reading The Corner House’s cocktail menu is like reading a flight manual in Russian: it’s pretty much nonsensical but you can make out a few words here and there.
Their bestselling number, Hell Yeah, is off the charts in terms of predictability, which makes it very interesting indeed. It contains Genever – a juniper-flavored gin from Holland -- and Green Chartreuse -- a 51-percent proof French gin. It’s added to raspberry juice ice, fresh lime and ginger beer, and topped with blended ice and garnished with a sour cherry.
The Corner House, 281 Bondi Road, (61) 2 8020 6698, Monday-Friday 5:30 p.m.-midnight, Saturday 3.pm.-midnight, Sunday 3p.m., www.thecornerhouse.com.au
9. Strawberry & Sisho Daiquiri @ Ocean Room
A lunch spot for locals and business travelers, Ocean Room is set on the Circular Quay waterfront with panoramic views of the Opera House and harbor foreshore.
The kitchen serves up Japanese cuisine with a heavy seafood emphasis, while the bar severs up a dozen different Japanese-inspired cocktails. Some have down right weird additives like wasabi and soy sauce.
The Ocean Room’s variation of ye olde daiquiri hits the nail on the head in terms of presentation and taste. Made with Havana Club Anejo Blanco rum, Licor 43 from Spain, fresh strawberries and garnished with an oversize Japanese basil leaf. Arigato.
Ocean Room, Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, (61) 2 9252 9585, Tuesday-Friday noon-2:00p.m., Monday-Saturday 6:00p.m.-10:00p.m.www.oceanroomsydney.com
10. Earl Grey Mandarin Sour @ White Hart
Set in the trendy new Grosvenor Street nightlife district in Neutral Bay, White Hart is marketed as a hybrid between an old English pub and a boutique cocktail bar. It has a New Orleans feel to it, and one of the most original and interesting cocktail menus in the city.
The Earl Grey Mandarin Sour is a clever take on the orange sour, and is built on Belvedere Orange vodka and citrus juice, shaken in a Boston shaker and served short over cracked ice.
It’s genius lies in the topping: Earl Grey tea, sugar and gelatin mixed together in a soda siphon to create a sweet, creamy foam known as "espuma".
White Hart, 19-21 Grosvenor St., Neutral Bay, +61 (2) 8021 2115, Monday-Friday, 5 p.m-late, Saturday noon-late, Sunday midday-6p.m. www.white-hart.com.au
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