Take an Irish folk tune, cross it with New York chic and a disregarded clothing house and the result looks a lot like The Wild Rover. The local Surry Hills Irish bar is one of Sydney’s worst kept but most-loved secrets, having spread its message of ‘swashbuckling, foot stomping, riotous escape from pomp’ far and wide.
The venue is the dream of boyhood mates Jimmy and Wazza, who met in 1992 and have barely been apart since. After travelling the world together and drinking their way through each city, they returned to Australia, opening up one of Sydney’s first small bars, Grandma’s. In 2012 they expanded their brand of boozing, partnering up with friend Kimmy McDiarmid to bring their shared vision of a good-time whisky bar, with a side of craic, to life.
For many people, the Wild Rover is their local hideout – the place they go to escape the daily grind and wash away the blues with carefully crafted drinks and a round of oysters. It’s a credit to the staff that the place feels like home; they’ll be greeting you upon entry and waving you goodbye when, or if, you leave.
Once you find the entrance and are welcomed by the friendly bouncer, start with a cocktail from the extensive list, featuring both long lost classics and better-known concoctions. The AA Meeting, named after the combination of apple and agave, features Tanqueray gin, fresh lime, agave, fresh apple and mint leaves and is served in a coupette. Meanwhile the Popcorn Treacle will treat your sweet tooth, with buttered popcorn-infused Pampero rum, sugar and bitters, served over chipped ice with a float of fresh pressed apple.
Coffee connoisseurs will want to try the Cold Drip Suburban, a tastebud-tickling combination of George Dickel Tennesse whisky, dark rum, port, cold drip coffee and black walnut bitters. If you can manage it, the Irish Penicillin is a must-drink. Created by Australian bartender Sam Ross, it’s one of the few recently created concoctions that most agree will become a contemporary classic. It’s no wonder why either – the combination of Bushmills Irish whisky, Lagavulin 16 year old, honey, fresh lemon and ginger boasts a banging kick that’s hard to deny.
It wouldn’t be an Irish bar without whisky. At the Wild Rover, more than 200 drams are sourced from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, America, Canada and Australia, offering whisky amateurs and experts a chance to try something new. The menu is split first by country and then by distillery, meaning you can track exactly where your drop has come from.
If spirits aren’t your preferred poison, there’s also a selection of bottled beer, tap beer, cider and wine on offer, all detailed on a recycled train timetable display.
The Rover is primarily a bar, so the food pickings are slim. Slurp a few oysters or scoff down a sausage roll before continuing your immersion into the wild and wonderful world of Irish drinking.