The continuing evolution of The Rocks as a bar precinct and destination in Sydney has taken another step, with the opening of Frank Mac’s the latest offering from the team behind popular whisky bar The Doss House.

This gin and cocktail bar offers over 100 juniper blends, sourced from all over the world, as well as a cocktail list that is predominantly gin-based. The theme for the bar sits perfectly with the location; it’s styled as an old Irish general store which would have been at the centre of a village community.

With sandstone walls, basement and outdoor space, the venue fits perfectly with the theme and as owner Ciara Doran explained to The Shout, it’s having those two things working together that brings heart and soul into the venue.

“I have had my eyes on this space for years, and I’ve always loved it, and this is the only space in this block that had access down to the basement, and a beautiful back court and a deck. I always like to have the venue first and then think about the concept. I have always wanted to do that general store theme, but you can’t do that unless to have the right space.

“It’s too hard to make something look vintage and old school if it’s in a modern building. So this general store theme is a bit of everything. Back home and in Europe in general through the 30s and 40s there were these general stores. You could go in have a pint of Guinness, but then there could be engine oil and screws and a few little things to make it like a hardware store. But you could get your bread and milk as well.

“And in Ireland in particular the general store would usually just be the front of someone’s house, and people would come through the store from morning through to evening. If you knew the family, or you were someone important like the priest then you’d be invited to come into the parlour, which would literally be the living room of the house.”

The venue feels like a very personal one as Doran’s grandparents owned a general store and Frank Mac is a real person, Ciara’s great-uncle and there are personal nods to the family throughout the venue – look out for Frank’s hats and Dr Bernie’s Tonic. And as much as the theme definitely fits with the venue, Doran also said with Frank Mac’s it was important to do something different to neighbouring bar, The Doss House.

“We definitely wanted to differentiate between the two of them,” she told The Shout, “and that was going to be a challenge because they are both housed in the same block, they’re both sandstone, they’re both heritage listed, so making sure they were different was important.

“We focus on whisky in The Doss House, and I wanted to be able to focus on something because I still think the area needs specialty bars. When I opened The Doss House originally people told me that it wouldn’t work, because of the area. They were saying you can’t do a small bar in The Rocks. But I love this area.

“And now other people are coming in here and I love that. I always said that if you could get a few more bars to come to the area then this would become the exclusive version of what King’s Cross used to be, if we can get that right. There are some absolute treasures and empty spaces around here that are just beautiful – if you can find them.”

So now with award-winning bar Maybe Sammy just up the hill, Barrelhouse and Swillhouse moving into the area it looks like boom times are coming for The Rocks as a destination for Sydneysiders to enjoy a great range of bars, and Doran is delighted with that.

“It’s so exciting with what it’s going to be, that it’s going to become a destination, it’s going to bring the people to The Rocks who should have always been coming here.

“I love to hear that Barrelhouse and Swillhouse are coming here, it just means that with more places there’s going to be more people because there’s going to be more choice and they are going to be able to bar-hop around, which is what people want to do. The more the merrier.”

Frank Mac’s opens today, at 83 George Street and will feature a range of cocktails including the Tip of the Hat featuring ST. ALi Orthodox coffee and Slane Irish Whiskey, the Mac Martini which is a vesper-style Martini and the Croney Horne, a riff on a Gimlet.

Bookings and walk-ins are welcome. Frank Mac’s will also operate a café from the premise, with this due to open in November.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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