Calling all whisky lovers!
Fancy a dram? Well, we’ve put together a list of our top five whisky bars…
Kittyhawk transports you back to Paris circa 1944 featuring a French style fit out, with leather booth lounges, tables, and a bar that runs over 12 metres long.
The heroes at Kittyhawk are rum and rye whiskey, harkening back to popular spirit choices of the 1940s and 50s. Adding in a handful of Scottish whiskies, Japanese spirits, vodkas, gins and numerous liqueurs, there are ample offerings to compliment the detailed cocktail list.
With a larger space to do an extensive cocktail program on a much larger scale, Kittyhawk has up to eight bartenders working at any given time showing their flair with theatrical cocktails, and three to four waitresses running a lounge area where drinks and food are offered with full table service
Kittyhawk also boasts plenty of European and Australian wines, and has four beers on tap in addition to several bottled selections. The venue is complete with a cellar downstairs and a prepped kitchen offering up a menu of classic French share dishes, including items such as charcuterie, steak tartare and mussels vol au vent.
Address: 16 Phillip Lane, Sydney, CBD NSW
Phone: 0437 233 009
Opening Hours: Mon – Thu: 3pm – Midnight
Fri – Sat: 3pm – 2am
2. Elysian Whisky Bar
Kelvin Low and Yao Wong (both formerly of Whisky and Alement and Bar White Oak Melbourne) have opened a cozy neighbourhood whisky venue, The Elysian Whisky Bar in Melbourne’s trendy Fitzroy mid-December last year.
Located on Brunswick Street, Elysian features a very modest but eclectic selection of whiskies from around the world. The primary focus here is Independent bottlings of whiskies. Imagine drinking a Glenlivet, but from a single barrel, possibly finished in a red wine cask, and bottled at cask strength. The beauty of independent bottlings is that they offer a whole new range of flavours and possibilities that do not exist within the official bottlings of a certain brand.
Other than whiskies, there are seasonal fruits and herbs focused cocktails, an ample wine list and a small constantly rotating beer list. The smaller capacity of the bar (around 35) is specifically designed to enhance the personal interaction between patrons and the bartender. There are a small offering of snack items focusing on charcuterie and cheeses that will be on frequent rotation.
Address: 113 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC
Phone: (03) 9417 7441
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturdays; 4:30pm – 1am
3. Tokyo Bird
Let Tokyo Bird take you all the way to Japan. This small laneway bar in the heart of Sydney’s Surry Hills boasts one of the county’s biggest collections of Japanese whisky.
There’s an overwhelming rise in the popularity of Japanese whisky in Australia, and Tokyo Bird is the answer to this, with more Japanese whiskies in the venue’s back bar than many bars even in Japan.
The venue is headed General Manager Jason Ang and Bar Manager Yoshi Onishi.
Describing the venue, Jason said, “I wanted Tokyo Bird to look and feel just like a bar in Japan; a bit bigger, but something that people who have been to Japan would recognise – an intimate space with great drinks, great service and the potential to have a great time any night of the week.”
Aside from whisky, Tokyo Bird also serves delicious seasonal cocktails, as well as Japanese beers and sake.
The Japanese-style street food is definitely a highlight here too, make sure you try the popular yakitori – skewered chicken grilled over charcoal.
Address: Entry on Belmore Lane. Shop 2, 226-228 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 5:00 pm – midnight
4. Rob Roy Hotel
WITH A CLEAR AFFINITY TO THE COCKTAIL, THE ROB ROY HOTEL HAS A LONG AND ENTICING HISTORY, BUT GIVEN ITS FIRST LICENSE DATE OF 1840 IT SEEMS, IN THIS CASE, THE ADELAIDE BASED VENUE ACTUALLY PRECEDED THE POPULAR WHISKY BASED DRINK, WHICH ONLY DEBUTED IN 1894.
The Rob Roy Hotel is named after a Scottish outlaw and folk hero and has remained in unbroken existence since establishment affording it the title of the second oldest licensed hotel in the state. It has passed through several hands to make its way into the palms of Frank Vounasis and Kristian Livolsi, who have worked hard to restore the venue’s original 1840s charm throughout.
And of course, we cannot get far talking about a bar with Scottish heritage without a mention of the impressive whisky list, currently boasting 248 whisk(e)y varieties and still growing. Rob Roy Hotel is also a global partner of the Single Malt Whisky Society, hosting guided whisky tastings for its patrons daily.
The award-winning wine selection can’t be overlooked, as well as the generous beer offering – Rob Roy Hotel has beer 38 taps with six guest taps rotating monthly. There is certainly room for everyone to wet their whistle, no matter what their predisposition might be.
But unlike the plethora of speakeasy, themed bars filtering through the cracks of Australia’s bar scene, Rob Roy Hotel is still unreservedly a pub. Just look at its veneer and you’re instantly salivating for a Sunday steak and beer. This relation to whisky with none of the dressage perhaps makes it all the more exciting. A simple and understated wooden bar top is the closest you’ll get to the highlands.
Address: 106 Halifax Street, Adelaide (CBD), SA
Phone: 08 8223 5391
Opening Hours: Open seven days, 10am til late
5. The Baxter Inn
ANTON FORTE AND JASON SCOTT, OF SHADY PINES SALOON, ARE THE GUYS BEHIND THE BAXTER INN, A WHISKY-FOCUSED BAR IN A LANEWAY BASEMENT BEHIND 152 CLARENCE STREET, SYDNEY.
If there’s a queue you’ll hear keen punters from the main road, but if it’s quiet you’ll need your navigational wits about you; in keeping with the speakeasy bar tradition of New York.
The Baxter Inn boasts hundreds of different whiskies, and as Jason Scott puts it; “we found there was a huge demand for whisky, plus the labels look really cool on the back bar”.
“The vibe starts off with city workers having after work drinks, then it slowly changes into all-sorts”, said Scott.
Whisky is unmistakably the Baxter’s specialty, but the menu also features bartender favourites such as the Negroni and Gin Martini’s along with a range of bespoke cocktails.
This drinking den is full of surprises, with its natural cut back brick look and arched basement walls; you feel welcome from the outset. Service is in true Anton Forte and Jason Scott fashion and reflects their entry policy of – no door list and no reservations – Baxter’s is for everybody.
Turn up and join the queue.
Address: Basement, 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 4pm til 1am