I was late.
Pulling my trench coat tighter against Sydney’s early spring winds, I scurried past the hawkers and buskers and guys on the make towards York Street.
Being a Cocktail Bar Super Sleuth can be a dangerous game.
Was I being tailed?
But who can say for sure?
The Barber Shop, my snitch had said. A speakeasy behind, well, a barber shop. Sure enough, as I approached, I could see there were wise guys aplenty, on the receiving end of haircuts and the only kind of close shave you get into ONLY by choice.
Out front, I met my drinking pal, a plucky dame with plenty of moxie, and we sauntered in like we owned the place. Situated at the rear of the shop and up a short flight of steps was a metal door.
Nice set up, I thought.
Fellas in the mood can stop by for a shave and a haircut, stock up on pomade, and then slip out back into something more comfortable…
I made a mental note to thank my snitch later: well groomed men and cocktails? What a combination! The metal door slid conspiratorially to the side as we approached, and I could just tell we were in for a swell time.
The Barber Shop promises first class cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere, and specialises in gin. Despite the name, this ain’t no clip joint. The menu reads like a taxonomy of craft gins, to be enjoyed neat, or beautifully offset by a fine tonic.
Tempting as it was to sample, I was here on business. I went straight to the listing of original and vintage cocktails, all featuring gin or its slightly older sibling, Genever.
A limited but quality selection of other spirits, beers, ciders and wines rounds out the menu nicely, so if your Rat Pack doesn’t appreciate the juniper spirit, fear not: this place has something for everyone.
The bar tenders had plenty of swift and I had my cocktail in no time.
A Fascinator for me (to go with my personality) and a Fleet Street for my pal.
As cocktails go, the Fascinator is about as old school as it gets. It features in the Barber Shop’s Vintage Britain menu, and consists of Bombay Sapphire, Campari, Sweet and Dry Vermouth and lemon.
I was pleased to see it given a respectful stir in a vintage cut crystal decanter, and strained through a copper-plated Hawthorne strainer into a properly chilled glass.
I was doubly impressed when my businesslike Bartender carefully zested the lemon – I like my conversations pithy, not my drinks – and appreciated his attention to detail. The twisted zest draped across the glass like a Vaudeville starlet.
Vivacious and tart.
The Fleet Street, from the Collections menu, was shaken on ice. An intriguing blend of Bombay Sapphire, Yellow Chartreuse, fresh pineapple, lemon and bitters, it came garnished with a wafer thin slice of dried pineapple that made it almost too pretty to drink.
And the flavours packed a punch.
Not the kind likely to land you in the back of a meat wagon, more like the kind that takes you back to your first experience of locking lips with someone who knew how to kiss you good and proper.
Despite the fresh and dried pineapple, the Fleet Street was pleasantly sour and refreshing.
My Fascinator was thoroughly warming: I was first hit by the heady notes of the gin, followed by the semi-sweetness of the vermouth, then metaphorically smacked on the ass by the bitter tang of the Campari and the citrus.
The complexity of flavours intensified as I slowly sipped over about 20 minutes, and I found myself wishing I could have one of these babies whipped up for me every afternoon.
That’d be the life.
Reclining on the green velvet chesterfield, I enjoyed my surrounds as much as my cocktail. The music favoured subtle, sultry jazz and Motown classics over the ubiquitous dance-pop of other venues. It was also set at a volume that allowed for discreet sharing of secrets and intrigues instead of frustrating, shouty exchanges.
Every detail has been well thought out, from the bespoke glassware and the dimly flattering lights, to the artwork and the palms that provide handy hiding places for when you’re on the lam.
Out back is a neatly packaged courtyard which will be perfect for soirees and banishing the old ennui when the weather is fine. Service is cordial and efficient: no pointless chit chat, just get it done.
And when hunger strikes, there’s a small selection of classy snacks (think marinated olives, cheeses and charcuterie) which can be ordered from the bar.
My snitch came up with the goods this time: the Barber Shop is one gin joint that lives up to its fine reputation. I can tell we’re gonna get along just fine. I wonder where he’ll send me next?
Get Wise to the Barber Shop
- 89 York Street, Sydney, through the Barber Shop
- Entry also via the alley way out back, off Clarence Street.
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thisisthebarbershop/
- Instagram @thisisthebarbershop
- Twitter @barbershopthe
About Our Contributor
White collar professional by day, intrepid cocktail Super Sleuth by night, she snoops out the best little drinking spots in town – wherever she may be.
She buys her own drinks, all views are her own and she don’t get paid nuthin’ by no one. We’re lucky to have her.