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The Baxter Inn

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Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney

By Sam Bygrave

The Baxter Inn is the unicorn of Sydney drinking. It’s the one place that elicits envy from the most seasoned operators. Monday night? Yeah, you’ll have to queue. Tuesday? Again, stand in the queue. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday? Yes, you know you’ll be in that queue.

It’s worth the wait given the breadth of range and service-driven outlook of the staff. It’s the envy of other operators because Baxter — as it’s known to the local bar staff who frequent the place on their breaks or after a shift — will see a New York or London-style level of patronage on even the darkest nights of the week.

Every year it earns its spot on the World’s 50 Best list because it is the one Sydney bar that operates in that New York or London kind of schedule. Over the past year, it’s seen staff changes — much of the old guard has moved on — but the second and third generation have stepped up, with more responsibility, to carry the name and the service and the knowledge forward.

There are few bars in the region that can be as busy as this is without leaving any guests behind. The challenge of those seated at its long bar, greeted with a wall of whisky before them and a baying crowd for booze behind them is an easy one: it’s the 60-plus hours the bartenders put in each week that help them to help you feel like you’re the only punter in the bar. They’ll lead you by the hand to their whisky room, from which you can sample rare whiskies priced from below the $20 mark to more than an adequate salary. Their cocktail game, put together by group drinks genius James Irvine, will satiate the most adventurous.

But in the end it’s the hospitality, led by general manager Stuart Morrow, who continues the line established by those who went before him. The team at The Baxter Inn wants you to stay a while, forget what you had before you entered their doors, and get lost in what it does. No bullshit, no frippery, just a good time.