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The Baxter Inn

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Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney

SYDNEY TAKES THE CROWN FROM Melbourne’s Black Pearl this year to become Australia’s highest ranking bar. The mighty Baxter Inn returns to its 2012 position of number seven, after spending 2013 in the shadow of Black Pearl.

Google Maps comes in handy to get you to the general vicinity of this bar, but when it comes to finding your way in, ditch the phone and follow your instincts.

This tricky basement boozer is sign-posted by a doorman and some random smokers in an otherwise abandoned alley. Descend to discover a rip-roaring, raucous bar, popular with Sydneyites and bar pilgrims.

The biggest pull here is the truly unbelievable whisk(e)y selection. In fact, it’s so big it’s a bona fide whisky library. When asked how many whiskies there are on the shelves, innkeeper Lewis Jaffrey says "currently sitting on 630". Is there actually any left in Scotland?

Fitting, then, that it towers in library-style shelves behind the bar and the only way for bar staff to reach the top-shelf whisky porn is to climb the wooden, Jane Austen-style ladder.
The bar is the work of Anton Forte and Jason Scott, the chaps behind that other Sydney venue, Shady Pines (number 48). It opened in 2011 to a five-star review from Time Out’s Myffy Rigby, who we’re lucky enough to have in our academy of voters. 

Sit up at the bar and get yourself an excellent local beer while you peruse the cocktail list or drool over the drams.
Punt for an Old Fashioned on tap and, while it’s not the world’s best, it’s pretty mean and it comes out instantly. Who wants to wait when your mouth has become a saliva-sapped salt dungeon, thanks to the never-ending pretzels? Not us.
It’s no place for whispering sweet nothings and, once you’ve found your way in, time will mysteriously speed up, leaving you begging for more come 1am last orders.

Back out in the alley, you realise the last metro has been and gone but frankly, who cares? You’ll probably do it all again tomorrow.

You can’t book and there’s no list, so get in there and stake your claim on a piece of Baxter Inn.