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The Baxter Inn

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Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney

THERE ARE FEW – IF ANY – AUSTRALIAN BARS THAT HAVE HAD THE SUCCESS SYDNEY’S THE BAXTER INN HAS. The Baxter Inn continues to lure both whisky aficionados and novices down an alleyway, and down what looks to be a fire exit, to a stately bar that has become a bastion of good booze, great banter, and even better whisky.

Hundreds of bottles of the amber stuff line back bar. If the bartenders don’t have it, chances are either you don’t want it, it’s on its way, or they just sold the last bottle available in the country.

The great wall of whisky that graces The Baxter Inn back bar is just part of the attraction of this place. Being part of the Swillhouse Group (owners Anton Forte and Jason Scott also own the bartender-attracting bars Frankie’s Pizza and Shady Pines Saloon), The Baxter Inn has always been able to draw upon a talented pool of bartenders. The staff here know a lot, they work hard, they pull big weeks, and there is rarely a night that isn’t busy – every night is Friday night for the subterranean Sydney bar. And they don’t often leave – staff retention rate is one of the best in the business.

What does that mean? It means that, even though the bar is full at 7pm on a wet and wintry Tuesday night, you’re going to get some of the best, most attentive service in town.

If a mark of a good bar is how often you’ll see other bartenders in a place, then The Baxter Inn scores highly on this measure, too. Walk in most nights and you’ll see bartenders from a five-block radius (and from some very good bars of their own) gathered down the left hand side throwing back a beer and a shot on their breaks (as well as handfuls of the bar’s signature sustenance, the complimentary bowls of pretzels).

They’ve opened up a smaller whisky tasting room at the bar, where you’ll find the whiskies that are truly extraordinary (and expect to pay in the order of hundreds of dollars for a nip). Here you’ll find some whisky they’ve been ageing themselves, too.

You will nonetheless be just as happy sitting at the bar. While the bartender is making your drink (perhaps it’s a whisky and fresh apple combo that the bar’s become well known for – and oft-imitated), take a look around at the thought put into the details of this bar. That’s a Swillhouse hallmark, and that’s why you’re here.