Sydney's best speakeasy bars
Prohibition may be long gone but the need to drink tequila like it’s 1920 is not, friends. It's just not.
By Jessica Wilkinson & Paul Chai
Speakeasy bars, also known as a blind tiger or blind pig (use that to impress your friends, why don’t you?), are those fun 1920s era illegal bars where shady men made shady alcohol out of potatoes or some shady stuff. Anyway, they’re back in vogue and popping up all over the place. The best part? It’s no longer 1920 so the alcohol isn’t potatoey anymore.
THE BEST HIDDEN BARS IN SYDNEY
This recent addition to Sydney's speakeasies likes to stay off the radar, with no website and no menu online (just a limited Instagram presence). Jack’s is a well kept secret, with a dark interior covered in vintage band posters, private booths and a long bar. They are big fans of classic drinks, and you'll get a perfectly made margarita. Food runs to fried chicken with a hint of honey and classic steak frites.
The Baxter Inn
Just across the road from Easy Eight is one of the longest-running speakeasies in town, headed by Sydney bartenders Anton Forte and Jason Scott, who were also behind Shady Pines Saloon. Unmarked from outside (standard), low lit within (also standard), and with a wall of whisky that requires a tall ladder to get to the top shelf stuff (oooh not so standard, now you’re talking), The Baxter Inn is the perfect spot for a whisky sour and some free pretzels. There is even a speakeasy-within-a-speakeasy here in the form of the concealed Whisky Room, where the really good stuff lives. It’s like a Russian Babushka doll but with less Russian Babushka and more whiskey.
Earl's Juke Joint
Earl's hides behind the facade of the old Betta Meats butchery that used to be here. Now, when you push through the front door, rather than meat you get big flavours in the quality cocktails slung from behind the raucous bar. And really, you can’t ask for more from a cocktail joint posing as a butcher, can you?
This place is totally like your grandma’s... if your grandma is an alcoholic who lives in a basement. The star drinks here are a range of exotic tiki concoctions and there are candlelit tables, a well trained cocktail crew often decked out in loud Hawaiian shirts, and an intimate bar space that is so cramped you will have no choice but to make new friends. Fun! Grab a signature mai tai, a hot jaffle (toasted sandwich) and get in on the joke at Grandma's.
Squeeze past the faux sweat shop on street level, down a dark staircase to the bar below to find Stitch packed full of old Singer sewing machines, spools of thread and ornate metal dividers in booths that echo the old machine's design. It's a whisky joint, so grab an old fashioned. If you are in need of a bite, the food is American-inspired heart-cloggers such as posh hot dogs and mac 'n' cheese balls.
Eau De Vie
Suit up for this one. Eau De Vie is like stepping back in time to prohibition days with its vintage glassware, retro drinks list and sharply tailored bar staff. Drinks go even further back in time with the Versailles Experience (gin, absinthe, lemon juice, pear puree and mint served in a silver and glass absinthe fountain) and the Aviator (gin, fresh lemon and dash of rhubarb served with a teeny paper plane as garnish). The surrounds are as classy as the drinks list, with wooden barstools, oil paintings and glass cabinets of paraphernalia.
Since I left You
Even the font that Since I Left You uses speaks to the time of prohibition and the Cotton Club, and this early adopter of Sydney's small bar laws has been a firm favourite among the city drinking crowd for the past six years. The big drawcard is the courtyard with original 19th century architecture, strings of festive fairy lights and live bands. Cocktails are cheeky twists on favourites, such as the Benedict Cucumberbatch (mezcal, cucumber, rosemary and lime). Food is crostini and toasties.
Love, Tilly Devine
Tilly Devine, infamous Sydney brothel madam and organised crime boss, would have been running speakeasies back in her day, but her modern namesake is an altogether more sophisticated, and less scary, proposition. Down a Darlinghurst laneway the Love, Tilly Devine set-up is simple: white-washed brick, top-end charcuterie and lovingly selected wines. Grab the prime spot at the window and tour the world via the 300-strong wine list.