Gilt Lounge, QT, 49 Market Street, Sydney
Overlooking in-house restaurant Gowings Bar & Grill, Gilt is the kind of bar you’d expect to find in Sydney’s sexiest design hotel. Barrel-aged cocktails are the thing at this boudoir-esque bolthole, though it also proffers an extravagant list of freshly-mixed tipples – Killer White Lady, anyone? – and a good selection of bubbly. The downstairs bar connected to the Grill uses the same cocktail list.
Eau de Vie, The Kirketon, 229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
Hidden out the back of an inner-east boutique hotel, Eau de Vie’s trifecta of smashing cocktails, speakeasy vibe and cool crowd continues to assure its reputation as Sydney’s hippest bar. Served by award-winning bartenders, the drinks here range from the simple (3 Ravens pale ale) to exotic (a ‘noble experiment’ cocktail made with liquid nitrogen).
Marble Bar, Hilton Sydney, 488 George Street, Sydney
Spilling out on to a fourth floor terrace overlooking Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building, sophisticated Zeta was the bar that made Sydney hotel bars cool. But down on level B1, Marble Bar has the edge. Originally constructed in a nearby hotel in 1893, the opulent bar was dismantled and rebuilt – Corinthian column by marble slab – in the Hilton in the ’70s. Today it’s a popular live music venue.
Blu Bar on 36, Shangri-La Hotel
Commanding a bird’s eye view of the Harbour Bridge, Blu Bar on 36 is the best bar in town to gawp at Sydney in its twinkling, after-dark glory. Order a ‘harbour serenade’, snag a comfy seat next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, and drink in the view along with your cocktail. Tip: wear something nice.
Hemmesphere, Establishment Hotel, 252 George Street, Sydney
For delectable drinks served by beautiful people in luxe, Ottoman Empire–inspired surrounds, Hemmesphere is just the ticket. You’re spoiled for drinking options in the Establishment complex, with three additional bars (Establishment, Tank Stream Bar and Palmer & Co) along with a handful of restaurants.
The Australian Hotel, 100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
One of Sydney’s oldest pubs, no one could argue that The Australian Hotel lacks character. Drop in for a cold beer and a crocodile pizza, and a good ol’ AC/DC sing-a-long. Seemingly unchanged since Federation, the basic but homely hotel rooms upstairs feel like a living museum.
Drift, Ravesi’s, 118 Campbell Parade, Bondi
Boasting a pub, bar and restaurant, it’s easy to forget that Ravesi’s also has 12 boutique hotel rooms. Sharing the same floor as Ravesi’s respected Mod Oz restaurant, Drift is a chic alternative to the more laidback watering hole downstairs – no flip-flops up here. Make your way out to the balcony to enjoy the sea views on a summer evening.
Grain, Four Seasons, 199 George Street, Sydney
Combining elegant cocktails and modern Australian cuisine at surprisingly reasonable prices for an upmarket hotel bar, Grain feels like the kind of place where you can loosen your tie a little. The wood and earthy tones add warmth, and if you’re a fan of hip Japanese craft brews you’ll be happy to know they serve Hitachino.
WaterBar, BLUE Sydney Hotel, Level 2, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
The epitome of harbourside luxury, WaterBar is perfectly located for a pre-dinner tipple before moving on to one of the top restaurants that share its prime real estate on the Woolloomooloo finger wharf. Sadly, WaterBar lacks actual water views, but the glitzy decor – complete with Swarovski crystal curtains – cool tunes, and fruity concoctions make up for it.
The Bar, Park Hyatt, 7 Hickson Rd, The Rocks
Situated in Sydney’s reportedly most-expensive hotel, The Bar is a suitably refined boozer. While a roaring fire and hunting trophies wouldn’t go astray here, The Bar’s sophisticated, contemporary decor (think: marble tables, chocolate tones) creates a comfortable setting to indulge in an exquisitely poured drink or two. Swing by to sample some of the world’s best vintages – and we’re not just talking about the wine.
Sarah Reid is a Destination Editor for Lonely Planet covering Southeast Asia - and occasionally her home country Australia.