Sydney loves this underground whisky cellar as fiercely now as the day it opened
When Shady Pines Saloon opened in 2010 we thought we’d met the bar we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. Then we met its little brother, the Baxter Inn, and there was a serious challenger for our eternal affections. Of course, we weren’t the only ones enamoured with the backlit wall of whisky, accessible only by scrolling library ladders or by having your well-coiffed bartender climb along the counters like some sort of arborial gentleman. The lines of admirers stretched from outside the tatty door in an old loading dock in the city and almost back out onto Clarence Street.
This is the kind of whisky collection that would make a strong man weak at the knees. The menu board starts at the ceiling and the three-column list eventually sneaks down under the counter and out of sight. Every Islay, Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands and Campbelltown distillery you can’t pronounce – and the small collection you’re confident with – is there, including rare bottlings and unusual releases. What room is left goes to Japanese and Australian spirits, and blends. The liquid assets in this bar could probably buy you property in Sydney.
It’s easy to go amber blind in here and forget that you are sitting in front of some of the best bartenders in the city – but not ordering a cocktail is a squandered opportunity. They have confidence and swagger behind the bar, but it’s been hard earned. They’ve mastered the classics for people who know what they like (Old Pals and Trinidad Sours all round!), but they also have a knack for finding the right match for an indecisive palate. And it doesn’t have to be whisky – a Tommy’s Margarita is always a good idea.
Just because it’s the classy upstart to the hard-wearing Shady Pines and heavy-rock loving Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice, doesn’t mean the Baxter Inn has ideas above its station. It holds true to the ‘no bookings, no functions, no door list – everyone welcome’ policy in place across all Swillhouse venues. The Baxter Inn is for great booze, mad skills and big nights, and Sydney is for Baxter Inn. Always.