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A Legendary Bartender Shares The Best Watering Holes In Sydney


Iain Griffiths/Shutterstock

You know how to EAT THIS CITY. With top chefs as tour guides, you’ve learned how to scout out hot spots for breakfast and brunch, where to go for a delicious date night, and how to feast like a local liege in the cities you love. But where do you wash it all down? Do you know how to find the best brewpub? Who makes the meanest of bloody marys and the most sparkling of mimosas? What bars transport you?

You’re about to find out. Welcome to DRINK THIS CITY!

Iain Griffiths has been behind some of the biggest bar movements in modern history. His partnership with Ryan Chetiyawardana — known in the bartending world as Mr. Lyan — brought the much-lauded and now iconic White Lyan, Dandelyan, and Super Lyan to the stage. Griffiths and Mr. Lyan’s London bars have consistently been ranked as the best in the world, year after year.

Griffiths didn’t start out on the bartending mountaintop. He started out on a farm in Australia as one of seven kids. At 15 he moved to Brisbane and started bartending as soon as he could. That led to turns in Melbourne, Sydney, and Edinburgh, Scotland before he wound up in London.

You’d think launching two of the world’s best bars in one of the world’s most iconic nightlife cities would have been enough. Griffiths was only getting started. With a “fuck ’em up” attitude, he and fellow Dandelyan bartender Kelsey Ramage started Trash Tiki — aiming to completely change the game by tackling waste in bartending.

We caught up with Griffiths when he was judging the Tahona Society’s Altos Cocktail Contest in Guadalajara and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get his picks for his favorite bars back home in Oz. And, who better really to give us a boozy tour of Australia’s biggest city than this legendary innovator, founder, and bartender?

Classic Cocktail Bar

Bulletin Place has a daily changing menu that champions the best of seasonal produce in refreshing and vibrant cocktails. The pedigree of owners & alumni alike make this place somewhere that never disappoints. From its launch six odd years ago it’s become a great staple and excellent example of how fucking great the bars in Sydney and Australia get!

Craft Cocktail Bar

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Open as normal from 5pm until 3am

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Big Poppa’s has an entire menu of late night food that is #fuckthatsdelicious upstairs. Walking downstairs, you’ll find a killer bar serving great drinks with a very typically Australian no bullshit attitude. It’s open ’til late by Sydney standards (three am) but a seat at the bar early on will give you one of Sydney’s best cocktail experience.

The wine list here is also one not to be ignored!

Tiki Bar

Sydney finally has a tiki bar! Just opened in September 2017, this is the second venue from local legend Pasan. His first venue, Earl’s Juke Joint, is definitely worth a visit when in Newtown too. This is not some unnecessarily tricked out tiki venue. Its drinks are classic. The decor is simple and on point and the guys slinging drinks really know their shit. The Scorpion Bowl (for two) might be one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Best seat in the house is, of course, the bar but they’re definitely rocking some damn comfy couches too.

Dive Bar

When small bar licenses launched in Sydney in 2009/10 this was one of the first. It was fucking busy from the get-go. This beast of honky-tonk whiskey awesomeness has shown no sign of slowing down. The interior is excellent, the drinks come thick and fast. And, while the light’s go up at midnight, that’s probably a good thing for what your next morning is gonna feel like. The purists out there will cry it’s not a true dive bar, as the craft beer list is excellent and cocktails they bang out are great, but you know what, fuck them. A dive bar is all in the attitude and these guys have that, and much more, nailed.

Brunch Bar

Australian’s fucking love brunch. In fact queues for brunch in Sydney far outweigh anything I’ve ever seen in Brooklyn or London. But if you want to dodge watered down jugs of margaritas and gallons of shithouse prosecco, get yourself just north of the bridge and spend a few good hours at Annata. The food is fucking ace. The wine list has almost as many awards as bottles listed. And Annata’s owner, Christian Blair, has spent a few good years showing Sydney he know’s how to make a great cocktail. Order the Freizling and thank me later.

Pub/Tavern

The legends that run this place are simply some the best humans you’ll come across and this venue is every bit a shining example of that fact. Cognac and shit tinnies (a can of beer for those not familiar with such a term) is the main vibe. But, honestly, whatever you’re drinking, it’ll be good. If you want a good night out, this place will give it to you. The cocktails are ace. The food is provided by Mary’s Burgers and the music is always the kind of shit you want to stand on table and sing along to, which happens fairly frequently. Go here.

Brewery

Walking around Sydney you’d be forgiven for thinking YH’s has been around for a decade or more. Yet, they’re just four years old. These guys are a great example of how good tasting suds, quality branding, and down to earth people behind it all will bring you greater success than any mass-market bullshit can provide.

Keep an eye out for their seasonal brews as they’re always on-point. Also, be sure to go drink at their Newtown joint to sample anything super limited they’ve made.

Hotel Bar

This is not a hotel bar. It’s an excellent cocktail bar above a fucking great restaurant. You know how hotel bars have that way of making you feel special with their polished and intimate service? This isn’t that. Bridge has bomb ass surroundings that really make your night a 10/10. There’s no venue in Sydney like this one and the drinks being poured over the bar are a big part of that.

And in case you’re asking yourself, the answer is yes, you should definitely try and get a table downstairs.

Themed Bar or Immersive Experience

Sydney does theme bars like nobody’s business, and in fact, there are probably some more obvious ones to put forward. But, frankly, a list of Sydney bars isn’t complete without Charlie Parker’s on it. Their “theme” if you will, is one very well executed and very close to our hearts. Their program of drinks are Australian produce-centric with plenty of sustainable/common sense practices in place and a menu that rotates so often that every visit is a new experience.

Charlie Parker’s sits below an excellent restaurant and is quietly going about making some of the best drinks around Sydney or anywhere for that matter. Their presentation style is simple. The explanation is only ever as much as you need to get really excited. And the service is slick, yet very neighborhoody and welcoming. This place just fucking rocks.

Bar Run By A Friend

Every bar mentioned above could fit this category. But holy shit, Tio’s! Nothing puts a cheesy AF smile on your face quite like this place. The back bar is a dream selection of agave spirits. The staff are all legends. The atmosphere is electric and VERY easy to get carried away with. And, ultimately, I know I’m not alone in saying Tio’s winds up feeling like you’ve found a new home every time you visit. Having a bad time here really isn’t option. Just smile, relax, and go with the flow. Tio’s will take care of the rest.

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