That's Six Cool Bars. One Street......York Street, Sydney.
'Stand a Drop of York' is an expression from the north of England meaning, well.... 'Pigs Might Fly' or in Aussie terms... STREUTH!!! However, in this case, I thought it was an appropriate name for a good old bar crawl. Plus if you like to go off piste there's two more great bars on Clarence Street just next door.... I'll also be recommending great food so you can line your stomach along the way. So here goes....
1. Uncle Ming's, 55 York St. Sydney NSW2000.
The story of Uncle Ming is of a sweet potato seller who started a life of crime collecting protection money from opium dealers. He then became so powerful he had to leave China and settled in Sydney... to open a bar!!
As you enter Uncle Ming's through a red beaded curtain, you realize it definitely has that 1920s opium den feel. Cocktails are named after Chinese gangsters but the drinks menu extends out through Asia to include Japanese beers, whiskey, sake and Korean spirits. The cocktails continue the theme, you can also get your cocktails in a teapot to share, iVisit suggests the Teddy Lee, Tanqueray Gin, passion fruit, lemon topped with blood orange soda. Amazing!
In keeping with the Asian style, the food on hand is steamed dumplings and yum-cha treats. iVisit recommends the chicken wings ( you get loads), pork dim sim, tempura prawns and Edamame, just for starters!!
Uncle Ming's is easy to miss so keep an eye on ground for a sandwich board leading the way down some stairs by a suit shop.
2. Stitch Bar, 61 York St, Sydney NSW 2000.
The great part about Stitch Bar is the entrance, there’s a shop front on street level filled with vintage Singer sewing machines just before you head down the stair well into the basement.
The bar counter is seemingly made from old sewing machines stacked on top of each other while sewing machine covers dangle from above. The light fixtures look like they came from a western saloon, sheet music is used as wallpaper in one area, there are booths as well as small barrel tables and blues music is played on the sound system.
The menu lists great cocktails, iVisit recommends Bitter Tears, Makers Mark bourbon, grapefruit marmalade, honey syrup and orange bitters and served short with a sugar rim.
Now time for your main Course, the kitchen here offers gourmet hot dogs and burgers, try the Mack Ducky Dog, made with duck, orange and pistachio sausage served with foiegras canard and truffle sauce or the Lamb Burger with creamed feta, red onion and curly fries dusted with paprika, so grab a booth and get stuck in.
3. Mojo Record Bar, 73 York St, Sydney NSW 2000.
Originally a vinyl store sourcing and selling classic and hard-to-find records, drinks are now on hand at Mojo Record Bar.
Descend the stairs from the street (yes, another basement bar) and you’ll find racks of records to your left and then a drinking den in front of you, dimly lit with low booth seating and tall stools before the solid wooden bar.
Mojo still remains a store to source vintage and obscure vinyl's and therefore isn't as 'hipster' as so many other small bars. Mojo had its point of difference and decided to build a bar around it, rather than the other way around.
That doesn't mean that the drinks menu is some kind of afterthought as the beer and wine list is good and solid and the cocktails have thought provoking names like ‘Smells like Gin Spirit’.
There’s no food here, but the playlist – made up mostly of blues and rock’n’roll, this place is about the music so rock up and enjoy!
4. The SG (Spooning Goats) Small Bar, 32 York St, Sydney NSW 2000. (cross the road)
This little basement bar was originally called the Spooning Goats but this was deemed an inappropriate name by the liquor police so its now known as The SG Bar. A glance in the door tells you that it’s very committed to the vintage retro fit-out, consisting of vinyl furniture, a few citrus hues and psychedelic wallpaper. They also have live acoustic sets and free showcases for emerging artists.
The drinks list is brief but boutique, having been drawn only from microbreweries located in NSW. The menu also has a local flavour offering home-made flaky pies, which shouldn't go untested if you're still peckish. They’re served up with commemorative teaspoons, which might be a reference to the origin of the bar’s name.
It has a games room feel to it as it features a six-switch Atari 2600, complete with wood panelling, a Donkey Kong as well as Connect 4 plus plenty of Star Wars references as wall décor, giving it an old school look.
5. The Barber Shop, 89 York St, Sydney NSW 2000. (Cross back again)
So far we've seen a bar in a record shop, so why not a bar in a Barber Shop? It is a functioning barber shop with an attached bar at the back
Climb the steps (it's the only bar on the list where you'll be climbing UP the steps) past the barber shop and you'll find yourself in a large room housing an elegant long bar covered with white tiles. Tables and chairs sit on concrete floors and tea light candles flicker. There's an outdoor area out back with dangling plants and funky old stools.
To drink, there's a good list of Australian beers and the wine list is heavy on the South Oz and the French plus take a look at their gin collection. Cocktail-wise, iVisit recommends a Pomegranate Rickey, pomegranate gin, lime, Grenadine and soda.
And if the lane way out back looks popular, that's because it leads straight to the doorway of The Baxter Inn...
6. The Baxter Inn, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000 (entrance at the back of The Barber Shop).
Baxter Inn - an intriguing, well-hidden basement bar in the centre of Sydney. Imagine a bar with every whiskey imaginable, well this is it. It comes with bearded bartenders who can pour you any drink you want, in any style you request. Its dimly lit and even with the slightly damp basement smell, you know you are in a cool place. It was also voted the 9th best bar in the world which makes it number 1 in Sydney.
With hundreds of whiskies stacking the walls behind the bar, you'd be forgiven for thinking that's all they do, but there are plenty of cocktails and other selections to try. Don't expect a food menu - the only food available is the free pretzels.
Baxter Inn is one of the trickiest bars in Sydney to find, even with the address. The easiest way is to walk through the Barber Shop and out the other side, turn left and what was a delivery door for an old Cue shop is now the doorway to Baxter Inn. There will probably be someone on the door which is the only clue it's there.
7. Lobo Plantation, 209 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
''Congratulations!!'' you have completed and hopefully still 'Standing a Drop of York' but it would be rude to stop there wouldn't it, so here's the rest and you can decide.
So now if you come out of Baxters and turn left down a dark alleyway you'll come out on Clarence street next to a cycle shop. Head across the road and you find Lobo Plantation.
The legendary Cuban sugar baron Julio Lobo, who built casinos and filled swimming pools with perfume for Hollywood beauties while championing the rights of low-paid workers, would be right at home here.
They've taken Baxter's whisky focus and raised it with an epic rum selection. Cocktails are elegant and serious with a Caribbean twist.There were lots of Communist Sours, Havana Especial, Aperol, lemon, orgeat syrup, orange bitters, egg white, is the iVisit favourite.
Wines aren't forgotten, with a dozen bottles to suit the opulent surroundings. They'll also sneak you a few bowls of banana chips, which are disturbingly tasty and addictive.
On the food note, as it now may be time for more munchies, there are a dozen Central American dishes that are very good and easy to share.
8. Grandma's Bar, 275 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000.
Further down Clarence street, we come to our final bar of the evening, Grandma's.
Grandma’s is a delightful little bar and must be the smallest in Sydney. Its lit up by candlelight and busy with small groups enjoying drinks. Its kitsch theme is subtle, giving you a sense of grandma’s house rather than being actually in it.
Again cocktails is their thing, meaning that there isn't an outstanding or large selection of drink to choose from on the back bar. Rum seems to take a strong focus and if you order right, you’ll get a side of fanfare and fire. A beer and wine list are on hand with some good niche labels if you fancy trying something new.
Try the ‘bartender’s favourite’ made from good home-made ingredients like a Paloma with fresh-made grapefruit soda, tequila and lime.
The food offering is toasties which may seem weak until you eat them then realize that's just what you wanted. So if you didn't eat in Lobo, get your midnight munchies here.
Double congratulations, you've completed the Full Drop of York Monty. I hope you enjoyed some of Sydney's coolest bars. If you fancy mixing it up a bit, next time why not do the reserve and start at Grandmas?
Finally remember to drink a glass of water with every cocktail and get a taxi home. Hope you had fun, sweet dreams!!