The Baxter Inn is so much a bar I created a “Bars” section on the blog to host it. Seriously. I almost didn’t end up finding it, with half an hour to spare and a only a Google Map and a Time Out review to help locate it, I had trotted around in a giant circle wearing a pair of Fendi platform stilettos which have about a 100m life-span at the best of times. I was about to give up when thankfully, the heavens opened up and before us appeared a giant archway leading down a back alley where we followed two suits to the entrance.
Having already wasted plenty of time finding the place I wasn’t pleased to find a bouncer with a clicker and a line of people waiting to get in. One of those “two out, two in” affairs, this can be as painful as watching grass grow. Thankfully, we arrive just as the end of day “business meetings” are wrapping up and as we descend the stairs and walk in, I am so glad we waited.
I am always fascinated about these kinds of places. Set in a basement under a nondescript building and down a back alley, what was here before? There is no time to find out, with only 15 minutes to order and drink a cocktail before heading to dinner at Sepia we are on a deadline. My date kindly heads into the milieu to arrange drinks, while I hold the fort on our meant-to-be-stools which were being vacated literally the second we arrived. I have asked for something with orange in it. In my head I am thinking something Old Fashioned-ey, but without being too much of a whisky connoisseur I can’t remember if my mental picture and reality are aligned.
What I receive is exactly what I had been after. My boyfriend is somewhat of an expert on the subject of whisky (and everything else, for that matter) and has decided to give my cocktail a citrus twist, choosing Cointreau as a substitute for Grand Marnier which is noticeably missing from the bar list. A little sweet and not too smokey, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the bowl of free pretzels which is brought over to us. This is, in fact, the only food available at this “abandoned Chicago sport bar with no sport” according to owners Anton Forte and Jason Scott of Shady Pines fame (quote from the Time Out Baxter Inn write-up).
The place has literally hundreds of whiskies to choose from, and apparently sports an exclusive wine list and safe in which it can be consumed, although with a selection of over 200 whiskies spelled out in gold lettering on the old-school announcement board, it would be hard to go past having at least one to start. There are old black and whites of famous and not-so-famous boxers everywhere, candelabras dripping from exposed brick walls, plush floral carpet and saloon-style booths as far as the eye can see. The crowd appears to be going through a change-over while the suits vacate and the cooler evening crowd descends. There is even a guy in a football jersey who looks like he stumbled over from Redoak across the way, which is refreshing as some places won’t allow you inside in such attire.
We quickly finish our cocktails and reluctantly wander back out into the street, passing the below sign on the door. Not wanting to spoil a thing with flash photography, the Canon G12 is struggling to keep up but as I look back on the image, it has captured the exact mood of the Baxter Inn, smokey in flavour and a little blurry, which is how I intend to leave on my next visit.
156 Clarence Street, Sydney 2000