The Baxter Inn – a bar fit for Don Draper

The Baxter Inn – Basement, 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney.

It was 3.30pm on a Friday, C and I had just finished a day of eating and shopping. Given it was still early, we thought it would be a perfect time to grab a drink at one of Sydney’s new hidden bars. We picked The Baxter Inn. Little did we know just how hidden it was.

We arrived at what seemed to be 152-156 Clarence St – it looked like just another office block. We scanned the building directory and there was no mention of The Baxter Inn or even a basement level. Confused, we went up the lift – I’m not entirely sure why given we knew it was a basement bar – but were only met with solicitors and architects offices. Perplexed, we left the building and walked around the area but were still at a loss. So we asked the man at the 7/11 store, whose questionable grasp of the english language made it exceptionally difficult to get any help. Finally, when we said ‘bar?’ he pointed to go down and take a right.

And that’s how we found it. We took a right and then another right into what seemed to be a dump yard – a scene out of a New York crime thriller, where a small alleyway leads to a yard where you would no doubt run into some trouble. At 3.50pm, there was already a line outside a suspect looking door – we were here. The Baxter Inn opens at 4pm, we were told, so we waited patiently outside in the line. At 4pm on the dot, we were allowed into the door, which led down a dingy stairwell – into the Inn. A wide, handsome establishment reminiscent of old saloons in the USA.

Clockwise from top: the menu, the extensive whisky list, the bar area

As we were one of the first people there, we took a seat at the spectacular bar area for a close up viewing of the bartenders in action. I felt as if I was transported back into something out of Mad Men! The whiskey list on the blackboard was the most extensive I’ve ever seen – but then, I dont really frequent whiskey bars, so I’m not the best to judge. The cocktail list was incredibly charming (each cocktail is served in a different vessel!), albeit shorter, extending to only 6 choices.

The cocktails were spot on. What we drank:

  • Sunshine Fizz ($17): gin, orange, lemon, sugar, egg white served in a cooler
  • Brandy Smash ($17): brandy, mint, orange, lemon, sugar, smash served in an enamel tin
  • Laphroaig 10 yr ($10): a classic smoky scotch

Clockwise from top left: the cocktail list, the Sunshine Fizz, laphroaig, the Brandy Smash

I was a little disappointed to find that there was no food on offer at The Baxter Inn, except the complimentary pretzels we were given when we took our seat. But with a policy such as the below, we’re not really in a position to say anything…

absolutely no bookings, no doorlist, no functions

everyone is welcome.

Having being engrossed by the wizardry of the bartenders, we were unaware of our surroundings. By 4.30pm, the bar had filled up and by 5pm when we left our seats, we had to push past the crowd to get out, only to find a long line of people waiting outside to get their Friday arvo drink.

the verdict: 8.5/10 – extremely extensive whiskey list & a charming selection of cocktails. a very handsome bar that oozes prohibition. my only complaint would be the lack of some bar food and the crowd, but i guess it’s not their fault for being so popular!

dont forget to order: the brandy smash. and your favourite scotch 🙂

to try next time: the other cocktails!

The Baxter Inn on Urbanspoon


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