How to find Sydney’s best hidden bars

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, has seen a dramatic change in its nightlife scene in recent years.

After the Sydney lockout laws were introduced by the Government of New South Wales in February 2014, revellers migrated from the once party-centric King’s Cross towards the Central Buisness District (CBD), Surry Hills and Newtown.

Now, with a legislation that requires 1:30am lockouts and 3am last drinks, people are being smarter about their watering holes of choice and heading underground for a classy cocktail or three.

Below, we detail the best of Sydney’s hidden bars, along with how to find them and what to order when you’re there.

Shady Pines Saloon

Shady Pines Saloon is found behind an unmarked door off Oxford Street (Shady Pines Saloon)

How to find it: on Foley Street, just off Surry Hill’s Crown Street and parallel to the iconic Oxford Street, you’ll find an unassuming white door with no sign except for small print above that reads ‘Shady Pines Saloon’. Sometimes there is a bouncer outside, but if not just push the door open and follow the stairs down into the country music-playing saloon.

What to order: an Apple Whiskey, made with fresh apples juiced right in front of you.

Undoubtedly one of the best bars in Sydney, Shady Pines Saloon is a pure delight. Play ‘spot the couple on a first date’ while you order an Apple Whiskey at the bar and crack open peanuts at the table. Packed on both weeknights and weekends, this bolthole is guaranteed to have a lively atmosphere no matter when you visit.

Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern

How to find it: head to the corner of Park and Elizabeth Street and look for a black sign with three skulls where you’ll find a door to the basement bar below.

What to order: the Twelve Gauge Grog combines rum, citrus and bitters to create a divine cocktail catered to a sweet palate.

Tucked away on the corner of two of Sydney’s busiest streets, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern is found below the Toni & Guy hair salon, the only hint to its location being a sign with three skulls above. The vibe is of an old school dive bar, with pin-ups on the walls next to vintage photos of Sydney sitting above the cosy booths. With a small but more than sufficient drinks list, here you’ll find local wines, craft beers and interesting cocktails.

Stitch Bar

Expect an extensive drinks menu and American diner-inspired food menu at Stitch (Stitch)

How to find it: on York Street, just down from Wynyard Station, you’ll find a faux seamstress shopfront. Once you enter, head down the staircase to find Stitch.

What to order: order the Irn-Bro if you’re missing the UK while Down Under and want a unique take on an old Scottish classic. Made with whiskey, vermouth and a zesty mandarin soda, this is guaranteed to delight.

A favourite of Sydney city workers, Stitch is full of Southern glamour with wooden barrels, hanging lanterns and an extensive drinks menu. Hungry? Try the American diner-inspired menu with pork crackles, hot wings, tacos and a snicker’s smores sundae. Yum.

The Soda Factory

This faux-hotdog joint hides the entrance to The Soda Factory (The Soda Factory)

How to find it: at the top of Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills, enter the retro-looking Bobby’s Boss Dogs before opening the faux ‘50s coke machine door to reveal the bar hidden behind.

What to order: try the Hollywood Scandal for a cocktail of bourbon, peach purée, sherry, lemon and bitters topped with salted caramel popcorn.

Not only is the Soda Factory one of the coolest secret bars in Sydney, but it also has one of the cheapest meals options in the city. Every Tuesday is $1 (55p) hotdog night, meaning you don’t have to feel bad about scarfing down that fourth hotdog. Each night the bar hosts a different event, with bingo on Tuesdays, free movies on Mondays and soul music on Wednesdays. You’ll find the bar packed with young revellers come the weekend.

Grandma’s Bar

How to find it: at the lower end of Clarence Street, located underneath a guitar shop with no obvious signage other than the giant deer’s head on the wall. Follow the stairs down to the basement to find a bar oozing with retro and kitsch glam.

What to order: the peanut butter colada is a Grandma’s Bar classic. Golden rum, coconut cream, roasted pineapple puree, fresh pineapple and peanut butter are blended to create magic.

As soon as you enter Grandma’s Bar, the mood is set by the faded wall hangings, extensive rum collection and the well-worn chairs – it’s comforting, familiar and a tropical haven. The cocktail list is based on different countries – so try the pineapple express or the tea’s knees if you’re missing the UK.

Baxter Inn

Specialising in whiskey, bask in the glow of Baxter Inn’s impressive selection (Baxter Inn)

How to find it: located in an unmarked alleyway off Clarence Street, you’ll likely hear the line of people waiting to get in before you see it. Go through an unmarked door, down the stairs to the cellar.

What to order: a whiskey neat. The impressive collection of over 800 whiskies is found on a backlit wall behind the bar so ask your bartender for a recommendation.

The brainchild of Anton Forte and Jason Scott – the guys behind the aforementioned Shady Pines Saloon – the Baxter Inn is an underground whiskey cellar hidden in a CBD basement. With scrolling library ladders, dim lighting, free pretzels, a lively mood and a concealed Whisky Room that stocks more exclusive whisky, this is a whisky lover’s nirvana.

Old Mate’s Place

Old Mate’s Place can be found up four flights of stairs in Sydney’s CBD (Old Mate’s Place)

How to find it: another Clarence Street haunt, find the concealed ground-level entrance and take the lift or stairs up four floors to a generic office door. Push this open and you’ll find one of Sydney’s newest and coolest bars.

What to order: the Pistacia for white rum and sherry mixed with green grape, rhubarb, toasted pistachio and lemon thyme. Fresh, citrus-y and delightful.

The split-level bar offers the best of both bar worlds with a rooftop offering cityscape views and dotted with foliage above the moody indoor bar filled with more greenery, leather booths and book-lined walls. Guests are offered an amuse bouche cocktail on arrival before choosing from the curated drinks menu and munching on a Philly cheesesteak.

Earl’s Juke Joint

How to find it: from the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking Earl’s Juke Joint was a butcher with the moniker ‘Betta Meats’ strewn across the top of the façade and ‘top quality meats’ displayed on the window. Yet, walking in the door you’ll discover it’s a cosy bar, waiting to welcome you in.

What to order: the Espresso Diabolique for a tantalising mix of bourbon, espresso, orange, chocolate and cinnamon.

Located in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Newtown on King Street, Earl’s Juke Joint is a hedonistic escape filled with delicious cocktails, blues music, Art Deco lamps and corners to curl up in. While there’s no Earl on the premises – the name comes from New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer – there is an exciting cocktail list along with a range of craft beers and French wine.


PG’s unassuming shopfront looks like a bookstore (PG’s)

How to find it: While the door to the bar is clearly marked “PG’s”, the heavy velvet curtain and the bookstore façade can be misleading.

What to order: opt for the totally tropical ‘spread it on’ for spiced banana rum mixed with passionfruit and coconut.

Another King Street haunt, PG’s recently opened and has since made its mark on the Newtown drinks scene. With an ever-evolving cocktail list, potted plants, chandeliers and a daily happy hour, this place is lively and the food menu includes the must-try cheeseburger jaffle (Australian slang for a toastie).

The Barber Shop

Inside The Barber Shop (The Barber Shop)

How to find it: located behind a fully-functioning barber shop on York Street, pass through the Barber Shop partition door into a secret cocktail bar with a relaxed atmosphere.

What to order: for something fresh and fruity, try the Pyrus Cobbler made with gin, pear, blueberry, bitter gentian liqueur and lemon. The ideal summer tipple.

This multi award-winning bar is located in Sydney’s CBD and is a haven for gin lovers. With over 80 bottles of juniper goodness, have your beard trimmed before heading out back for a G&T and a cheese board. Hipster heaven.


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