Sydney is blessed with many world class bars but none can claim to occupy an iconic location such as the Sydney Opera House like Bennelong Bar.
Located within Bennelong restaurant with an interior reminiscent of a grand cathedral, this is indeed a place where you could worship at the altar of cocktails. The bar is headed by Bar Manager Aaron Gaulke previously at Eau de Vie and The Stillery. He has previously worked for Manu Fidel and Peter Evans in 2000 at Hugo’s Bondi, cooked for Janni Krystis when MG Garage was around as well as Tony Bilson and Lucio, and spent time working in the kitchen for Raymond Blanc.
The cocktail list has undergone a change in focus since the bar opened earlier in 2015, becoming less focussed on vermouth and aperitif style drinks and moving towards cocktails that are based on classics. You can read our in-depth article on how Aaron has devised a progressive cocktail list for this iconic venue over at Cocktails & Bars.
The Bennelong cocktails derive their names from their locales and many are inspired by performances at the House. The bar gives more than a nod to Australiana with half of the spirits on the back bar being Australian as well as using native ingredients in some of the cocktails. Synergy with Bennelong’s food offerings is a key element to the success of the bar.
You’ll find light Spritzers ($17-$20) such as Whispers on The Breeze with Sauvignon Blanc, lemon peel, cucumber, St Germain and soda and non alcoholic cocktails ($9-$15) that are based on classics but without the liquor.
Nitro Chilled Botanical Garden
If there is one drink that is set to become the signature, it’s the nitro-chilled Botanical Garden.
Botanical Garden ($21) is Bennelong’s answer to the Martini with rosemary and olive infused Ketel One vodka, sea salt and lemon peel to create a most delicious earthy and savoury drink. The vodka is infused for 72 hours and olive and salt strike a perfect balance without leaning towards a heavy Dirty Martini. The drink develops intensity as you get towards the olive at the bottom. As seasoned Martini drinkers, this is one of the best we’ve ever had.
Apple of My Eye
Apple of My Eye ($24) combines Applejack, Calvados, orgeat, lemon and ginger beer in an easy drinking style of cocktail that makes for sessionable drinking. Spice notes come from the blackstrap ginger beer and nuttiness from the orgeat marry well with the apple notes.
Don Pancho De Le Mancha
The Spanish influenced Don Pancho De Le Mancha ($23) is tequila-based with Aperol, pink grapefruit, raspberries and sparkling wine. Vibrant in colour and flavour, this is a delightful drink that’s a sipper and would convert anyone into drinking tequila.
Snugglepot & Cuddlepie
With Snugglepot & Cuddlepie ($21), you’d be hard pressed to pick it’s bourbon based. Buffalo Trace bourbon is infused with walnuts, sour cherry juice is used from the Bennelong’s kitchen, quince shrub, walnut liqueur and Peychauds bitters go into making the drink. It’s beautifully nutty, sweet and sour in perfect balance.
Dessert cocktails ($23-$26) don’t take back stage at Bennelong Bar. The version of the Espresso Martini uses local ingredients such as Fire Drum Vodka, Mr Black Coffee Liqueur, hazelnut and wattleseed mousse.
Coconut, Chocolate & Banana Split
Pina Colada meets Banana Split in the Coconut, Chocolate & Banana Split ($26) cocktail. English Harbour rum is fat washed with roast coconut and banana. There’s Coco Lopez marshmallow, toasted coconut, shaved 76% dark chocolate, maraschino, orgeat, Xocolatl mole and dehydrated banana spoon to scoop the top.
This is an adult version of a dessert you’ll come back to again and again.
When it comes to food, the Cured & Cultured menu offers accessible dining with a menu driven by raw and cold produce which you can enjoy at the bar such as the Raw Kingfish, artichoke, capers, ice plant ($27),
Roasted Carrot Salad
and a crisp and fresh Roasted Carrot Salad ($24) with almonds, sherry caramel, feta and amaranth.
Bennelong Bar has its own entrance and can be accessed from within the restaurant.
Bennelong Bar has already made its mark on locals, with visitors frequenting the venue pre and post performance as well as international guests. In the short time that it has been open, it has become a destination bar for birthdays, anniversaries and events. But don’t leave it for a special occasion. Sydney is blessed to have a cocktail bar of this calibre right on the harbour, and that is cause for celebration.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: (61 2) 9240 8000
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – late
Friday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Photo Credit: Leading photo by Brett Stevens, used with permission. Other photos by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved. Contact us if you wish to purchase our photographs.
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