Venturing into the new Maybe Sammy bar off Sydney’s Harrington Street in The Rocks is like stepping back in time to an elegant Hollywood cocktail lounge of the 1950s where you might expect to encounter Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jnr himself.
Owned by Maybe Frank founders Stefano Catino and Vince Lombardo, as well as Maybe Frank’s Creative Director, Andrea Gualdi, the new cocktail bar, which opened on 9 January, is billed by the trio as ‘a classic hotel bar, minus the hotel’.
Upon entering, I fall in love with the vintage elegant Hollywood Regency and Vegas-style interiors by LD Studio. An accent wall features striking tropical pink and green palm-leaf wallpaper above a decadent baby pink velvet L-shaped sofa. A textural teal green pleated wall looks too good not to touch – I suspect I won’t be the only patron to give in to temptation.
I’m torn between sitting in the heavenly pink and green enclave or at the bar – but given that the real star of the show at Maybe Sammy is its friendly and talented bar staff, we perch ourselves at the impressive, long marble bar counter on one of the leather bar stools which affords me a fantastic view of the cocktail artistry about to unfold.
Looking after us is Martin Hudak who, like all staff, is dressed elegantly in a shirt and tie and an ice-pink coloured linen jacket with a red pocket carnation. Along with having worked at some of the world’s most iconic hotel cocktail bars including America Bar at The Savoy in London, Hudak, who was named the World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion in 2017, is now bringing his love of coffee to the drinks list at Maybe Sammy.
The attention to detail is what sets Maybe Sammy apart from being just another bar in Sydney – the branded Maybe Sammy brass drip tray running the whole length of the bar; the complimentary tropical olives and roasted Dukkah nuts served to all guests as they peruse the extensive drinks list; the custom-made ice cubes they order in which are pre-cut to fit perfectly into the dimensions of their glassware; and the framed pictures of its namesake Sammy Davis Jnr scattered throughout the venue, including candid photos with Marilyn Monroe and other Rat Pack members.
We start with a mini cocktail served in an elegant miniature coupe glass, small in size and suitable for sampling several styles. The Frank is a mix of Wild Turkey Rye, Dry Vermouth and Campari (Negroni lovers will swoon for this one); while The Sammy was more my style with Never Never Gin, mint, and Sweet and Dry Vermouth.
Sipping our Mini’s we chat with the friendly Hudak and try to guess his smooth accent (spoiler alert: Slovakia). We watch as he and fellow staff craft their cocktails before our eyes, the artistry and theatre of the performance giving us the sense we are indeed living in another era when going to a bar
Hudak takes the top and the base of the brightly polished chrome cocktail shakers and for a minute, it seems he is about to drop them but how wrong we are – he literally dances the pieces across the bar top, as they swivel and spin and seem to stop magically on his command. After mixing with a precisely measured combination of premium spirits, he takes the shaker and puts his whole torso and arms into a vigorous shake, almost as if performing some traditional tribal ritual. He takes the highball glass, with three ice cubes expertly placed one on top of each other like a tower, before pouring me a Lady Luck cocktail, simultaneously twisting the glass and the shaker to execute the perfect pour. He hands me a small pot of house-made potion and tells me to apply the cream to my hands, rub them together, take a deep smell and only then, sip my Lady Luck.
“When you leave, you smell your hands and you have the connection with this drink – we want to give our guests a sensory experience,” he says.
All the drinks are modern interpretations of classic cocktails. Hudak says that Circus Circus from the list’s Signature Selection is already the best seller because of the ‘theatre’ involved in making it. It’s true – for this one, I feel like I’m taking part in a carefully choreographed show.
“You can change the flavour of this drink, you can be part of this cocktail,” says Hudak, holding two small canvas bags before us. “In one bag, I have fresh mint. In the other
We select our proportions, me being at first a little too over enthusiastic with the mint. Wouldn’t you know it, from his magic bag our ingredients have magically ‘transformed’ into a tube that he unscrews and then pours our Circus Circus (Bullet Rye Whiskey, Ambrato vermouth, mint and poblano
The bar’s food offerings mimic the same pure, clean and simple flavour ethos as the drinks list. We sample the Burrata, rye, hazelnut, tomato and rosemary with crisp and crunchy pumpernickel breadcrumbs; tangy and fresh white sardines with goat curd, quinoa, lemon and coffee; a delicate paper-thin blue corn taco with salmon, avocado, corn and coriander; and a smoking gun bagel with chunky strips of Wagyu pastrami, crème
Hudak’s coffee passion has filtered through to the cocktail list. “This city loves coffee,” he accurately points out, while making his version of an Espresso Martini – the ‘Espresso Martiki’ (Nitro espresso, Plantation pineapple rum, Mr Black, almond and tropical juice). Maybe Sammy roasts their own coffee in Alexandria from beans sourced from Costa Rica.
Whatever you do, leave room for a sweet drink – the Irish Coffee (Redbreast 12yo Irish whiskey, Costa Rica Azul Natural, honey, sugar, cream) has a wonderfully smooth and balanced silky texture that is a perfect match for the light and fluffy Pari Pasticceria world famous ricotta and pear cheesecake which was apparently a favourite with Frank Sinatra.
If you’re looking for an elegant, chic and memorable cocktail experience in the heart of Sydney where the true art of old-fashioned service (and even a little magic) takes centre stage, then I say, not Maybe Sammy but… definitely.