The 12 best
underground bars
in Sydney
Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait, Matty Hirsch & Elizabeth McDonald
Articles mentioned
In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney's CBD you'll find a Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don't let that put you off. For those of us who have been lying about having seen The Godfather their whole lives, good news. Every page of the drinks menu will run you through the storyline (spoilers lie within, but it's literally been 50 years).
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
It's almost a competitive sport trying to get into this underground whisky bar. Make it an early or a late visit if you want to get amongst one of the most expansive collections of the demon drink in the inner city without having to queue around the block.
The Baxter Inn
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Were it not for the sight of a security guard or a small queue of people on Bridge Street, you'd have no idea this subterranean '70s 'porno chic' boozer even existed. And that would be a shame, because good times are writ large down here – Boogie Nights-era soundtrack, banging cocktails, excellent banter and all.
Double Deuce Lounge
Photograph: Anna Kucera
With its emerald walls, rattan lamps and bentwood bar stools, Lobo captures the faded grandeur of a Caribbean summerhouse, but this one is found below street level in the heart of the city. Don't know anything about rum cocktails? This is the place to learn.
The Lobo
Photograph: Anna Kucera
There are no rules to an evening on the tiles at this party bar in a former comedy club. You can slam down a shit tinnie that'll only set you back six bucks, or savour a Cognac, but keep those spiced, crunchy corn kernels coming.
Ramblin' Rascal Tavern
Who knew the party was found behind a scuzzy door down in the financial end of the city. Down the stairs and through the pizza parlour is a good-times bandroom and bar where the glasses are plastic and the licence is late.
Frankie's Pizza
by the Slice
Photograph: Jamie Williams/City of Sydney
You'll likely be tempted to sit back, settle in for the long haul, soak in some live music, order a rotisserie duck and go home stuffed to the high heavens. But why not just start with a drink and see where the night takes you? (Pro tip: the wine list is worth a good, hard look.)
Mary's Underground
Photograph: Anna Kucera
One of the NYC originals that led the worldwide speakeasy charge has brought its brand of late-night cocktail wizardry to the Sydney CBD, complete with signature neon 'Psychic' signage, tarot card readings and chicken soup doled out to the faithful at closing time.
Employees Only
Photograph: Anna Kucera
They take the prohibition era brief pretty seriously at this late night bar featuring high rounded bare-brick ceilings decorated with old mugshots of rum runners and bootleggers, beautiful tiling, rare whiskies and rums and lighting that bathes everyone in a dirty warm glow.
Palmer and Co
This New Orleans-inspired cocktail den on King Street in the city is not exactly easy to find. The Swinging Cat hides underneath a Subway sandwich shop and boasts almost no signage. Of course, the place pumps regardless after knock off – Sydney booze hounds can sniff out good drinks at a thousand paces.
The Swinging Cat
If you've got a split seam on your hands they won't be able to fix it at this subterranean bar hidden behind a seamstress facade, but the lights are low and the cocktails are delicious, which should help you forget that everyone saw your Batman undies.
Stitch Bar
Photograph: Anna Kucera
This beautiful bar located beneath the Hilton Hotel features 100 tonnes of marble; Renaissance-style paintings of nudes; sky-scraping Corinthian columns; ornate fireplaces, arches and stained glass. It's as much a museum as a cocktail lounge.
Marble Bar