May is about to turn into one big booze fest for Aussies, as not one but two separate Australian cocktail festivals run across a swathe of award-winning small bars. First, Sydney will take exclusive rights for the World Class Cocktail Festival with a program of live entertainment, bespoke cocktails, and bar & dining collaborations from April 28 through May 2. Second, the love will spread to Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide as well, for the value-driven Australian Cocktail Month running until May 31.
After the year hospitality has been through, both Australian cocktail festivals will be a chance for some of the country’s best bars to spring back to life with what is the first batch of cocktail festivals to hit Australia in what feels like forever.
Australian Cocktail Month
Australian Cocktail Month will obviously be the most wide-spread, roping in curating “bar experiences” across 72 participating venues like Sydney’s Dead Ringer and Jangling Jack’s, Melbourne’s Black Pearl and The Everleigh, Adelaide’s Maybe Mae and Alfred’s Bar, and Brisbane’s The Gresham and Blackbird.
All the bars will be working with local and international brands, like Barossa Distilling and Glenfiddich, to create menus of exclusive cocktails only offered during the festival. A $20 ticket will be required and can be used at any of the venues to unlock the menu, where cocktails are $14 a pop, and low-alcohol or booze-free cocktails are $10 each.
World Class Cocktail Festival
Sydney gets the more focused World Class Cocktail Festival, which lasts five days between April 28 and May 2. The regular (obviously it didn’t happen in 2020) event will run through bars, venues, and restaurants like Paramount House, Maybe Sammy, Bulletin Place, and Cantina OK! with events curated by liquor giant Diageo and designed to bring a sorely missed festive vibe to the city’s cocktail culture.
Given Sydney will finally host the Global Bartender of the Year – easily the Olympics of the cocktail world – in 2022, the festival should serve as a nice preview, or at least reminder, Sydney’s considerable weight when it comes to Australia’s bar scene.
Most of the World Class Cocktail Festival events will take place across Surry Hills and Sydney CBD, with Paramount House serving as somewhat of the “main stage” of the festival with a number of luxury brand collaborations including experiences from Don Julio and Ketel One.
The whole thing begins Wednesday April 28, kick starting a program of live entertainment, pop-up events, and dining collaborations, as well as exclusive $15 bespoke cocktails at each of the participating bars (Barber Shop, Dead Ringer, Door Knock, Tio’s, Wild Rover, and more).
Even Melbourne talent will be jumping on board for the event, with bartenders from Above Board, Black Pearl, Byrdi, and The Everleigh all rocking up to take up temporary residence at the Golden Age Cinema bar each night of the festival.
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Other events include a Simon Johnson and Ketel One caviar and martini tasting session on May 1, a Sunday session from Cantina OK! and cult kebab shop Shwarmama, and a Spanish-style closing party at Maybe Sammy with live Latin music, Tanqueray cocktails, and the reveal of the new Australian Bartender of the Year who will represent the country as part of the global finals.
Those more in it for the food would be wise to block out a session on either Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to head along to Hotel Harry, where Duncan Welgemoed will bring his famed travelling Africola Sound System up from Adelaide to take over the venue with some inspired North African food paired with Don Julio cocktails.