When it comes to distilled juniper, Sydney is fast becoming a worthy rival for the global gin capital. Once you’ve managed to get enough of Sydney’s sun, sea and sand, we’ve gathered the top ways to experience Australia’s most beautiful blends in the harbour city.

A small bottle of gin lies on its side on a wooden bar top next to several empty gin glasses. A hand-written label on the green bottle reads 'juniper river mint blood lime lemon myrtle'.
Blend your own bottle of gin at Archie Rose © Archie Rose

Archie Rose

Sydney’s reputation for daring distilled juniper is attracting global attention. The unique native botanicals that give the clear spirit its unique Down Under flavour attract connoisseurs from far and wide. Indeed, at one of the daily distillery tours at Rosebery institution Archie Rose, I’m joined by gin enthusiasts from as far afield as Belgium and the US. 

Archie Rose – named for the fifth Earl of Rosebery – was the city’s first craft spirits distillery, first setting up shop 10 minutes from Sydney’s CBD in 2014. On the tour, our guide Glen shows us the modest still, affectionately named Ginnifer Lopez, used during the three-hour gin making process. 

The warmly lit interior of Archie Rose distillery, Sydney, showing a small copper still and large steel washbacks.
Visit Ginnifer Lopez on a tour of Archie Rose's distillery: she's real © Archie Rose

We’re surprised to find Ginnifer is hidden away within the distillery, which is dominated by two major whiskey spirit extractors, nicknamed Biggie and Tupac, naturally. ‘We actually started out distilling whiskey,’ explains Glen. ‘But we needed to make some money as our whiskey ages in barrels, so we came up with the gin.’ And gin is what catapulted Archie Rose into wider popularity; its Signature Dry, which is infused with 14 botanicals, has been locally and globally recognised as one of the best in show. 

Despite the seemingly nonchalant approach to such a successful alternative income stream, I’m told that Archie’s master distiller, Dave Withers, takes the process extremely seriously, using only native botanicals and local, seasonal ingredients. ‘If something is out of season, we’ll infuse with other flavours that are in season and wait for the other produce to go into season again,’ says Glen.

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Aside from daily distillery tours, the folks at Archie Rose also run infusion classes where you’ll get a gin history lesson before being given free rein on Archie Rose botanical distillates to create your own take-home blend. Anything goes here – this is the same team who created butter and Vegemite-style flavoured vodka, after all. 

Several people mill around a concrete bar in a bright white room decorated with ferns and ivy hung from the ceiling. The minimalist bar is lined with bottles of gin.
Not a bad spot to wet your whistle: Poor Toms Gin Bar © Rebecca Haddad/Lonely Planet

Poor Toms Gin Bar

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the character of Poor Tom is symbolic of madness, as once-sensible Edgar descends into his alter ego beset by poverty and insanity. In short, an unusual character to name your gin after. But then, Poor Toms gin is anything but ordinary. 

A brick wall painted white with a sign reading 'TAKE AWAY'. Underneath the sign different colour bottles of gin are arranged on an angular white built-in shelving unit along with potted plants.
Poor Toms Gin is one of the movers and shakers to watch on Sydney's gin scene right now © Rebecca Haddad/Lonely Planet

Distilled in a cavernous yet homely gin hall in suburban Marrickville since 2015, Poor Toms gin is infused with ingredients that, much like Shakespeare’s character, seem a little mad. The signature Sydney Dry, for instance, enhances juniper with fresh notes of green apple, strawberry gum leaf and chamomile. Things get wackier still when it’s shaken into a cocktail on the ever-changing menu. This month, you can enjoy it in a ‘Swanky Panky’: raspberry-infused gin, rose vermouth, blue cheese, chipotle (yep), finished with a splash of Fernet-Branca. A savoury libation best paired with the pizzas the bar staff are happy to order for you from nearby Pizza Madre.

The dimly-lit bar at The Barber Shop, Sydney. The walls and pillars are hung with lots of small, framed photos. The bar is covered in white tiles and behind it there are illuminated glass shelves packed with bottles of gin. There are antique rugs on the ground and darkly-varnished wooden furniture.
Just add punters: the bar at The Barber Shop © The Barber Shop

The Barber Shop

It’s these Australian ingredients that are key to the identity of Aussie gin. ‘I think Australian native botanicals are quite rare in spirits, and it’s been an incredible thing for Australian gins to be recognised on a global scale for those interesting native flavours such as strawberry gum and pepperberry,’ says Mikey Enright, owner of barber/gin bar concept The Barber Shop on York St. 

The establishment is home to just a few 700 gins, including the staple Aussie names and a few experimental ones. ‘We’ve got a few wacky ones in there like ant gin. I also recently tasted a truffle-infused one, with hints of beetroot and cumin… it actually tasted like an Indian curry!’ Mikey adds. ‘And I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of flavours… I think it’s just going to keep on growing. Australian gin is in a really good place right now.’

An old-fashioned barber shop interior with white tiled walls, framed photos, a small mounted deer's head and barbershop chairs
Head for Sydney's The Barber Shop if you like your booze with a short back and sides, please © The Barber Shop

To fully appreciate the variance of Australian botanicals on the world stage, start with the Australian Flight at The Barber Shop. The tasting will take you through samples of Archie Rose, along with fellow New South Welshman Brookie’s Dry Gin; Never Never, and an offering from Victoria’s Four Pillars (which is setting up shop in Sydney very soon). Afterwards, you may as well try and work your way through as much of the extensive gin compendium (‘menu’ doesn’t quite cut it here), accompanied by classic bar bites – meat, cheese, dips. 

Vintage cocktail shakers sit on a wooden bar top alongside a wooden platter of cheese and olives as well as a martini glass. Out of focus in the background we can see shelves stacked with various gin bottles.
Not a fan of whisky, but after something old fashioned? Get yourself to Moya's Juniper Lounge © Moya's Juniper Lounge

Moya’s Juniper Lounge

Gin is one of the world’s most versatile spirits; a staple of some of the most celebrated classic cocktails. It’s in that spirit (pardon the pun) that Charles and Jess Casben started Moya’s Juniper Lounge in Redfern. An ordinary visit serves as a crash course in gin’s global journey, with menu notes for each cocktail, enjoyed surrounded by period furniture and vintage decor. Moya’s cocktail master class takes you back to simpler times, but if you’re in the mood to kick back, take advantage of the monthly ‘Martini Club’. Drinks and jazz for the price of $10; why not pair your entertainment with some of the simple cheese and charcuterie offerings on the menu?

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