It’s a philosophy that’s worked for the Sydney-based owner trio, who are all of Italian heritage but met in Sydney. Maybe Sammy was the only Australian venue to win a spot in the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 awards, which are presented in London and judged by more than 500 experts across 58 countries. Their gong was no mean feat, given Maybe Sammy opened in January that year.
Like its sister establishment Maybe Frank—a pizza and cocktail place Lombardo and Catino opened several years beforehand— Maybe Sammy gets its name from old Las Vegas marquee posters for Dean Martin shows that read “Dean Martin-Maybe Frank-Maybe Sammy” given the latter would often show up and perform at their friend’s shows on a whim. The Rat Pack had a blast, but Vegas reaped the benefits: visiting folks were known to sleep in their cars because the hotels were full of big-spending high rollers that the party-loving performers lured to town.
“I’ve always had an obsession with them,” admits Catino, whose father was a restaurateur in Italy. “They say the Rat Pack were womanisers, that they were trouble, but they were the biggest hit of the ’60s and really helped [combat] the racial abuse of black people, Jewish people and Italian immigrants, who still weren’t welcome [in America]. They were always making fun of [their racial differences], talking about it, making it a joke. They were cool.” Martin and Sinatra also famously refused to perform in clubs that didn’t allow African-American or Jewish members.
Maybe Sammy’s decor is another nod to retro-luxe Vegas, with plush pink-velvet banquettes, gold-hued brass chairs, marble tables and pink-and-green banana-palm wallpaper that could be straight out of a Palm Springs society party photo by Slim Aarons. All of the bar staff wear ’60s-style pale-pink dinner jackets. Even its signature cocktails—designed by group creative director Gualdi, who won 2017 Australian Bartender of The Year at the Diageo Reserve World Class competition—are served with showman flair and theatrical names.
“I don’t believe nobody [sic] who opens a bar and says ‘we don’t do it for awards’,” says Catino, in his strong Italian accent. “Fifty Best Bars was a game changer for us. We got very busy after that, but as I say to my team, we’re only as good as the last customer we served. We wanted to make a bar that’s classy but not pretentious, where we can do our tricks. Every drink has a story to tell; is an attraction. Even if there are only 10 people here, they’re gonna [sic] have a good time.”
Serve in a champagne flute or wine glass
30ml peach puree prosecco
1 Puree ripe, fresh peaches with a little sugar and lemon juice in a blender. 2 Pour through strainer into glass. 3 Top with prosecco.
TIP: “Leave the skin on when you puree for a more full, authentic taste.”
Serve in a “rocks” glass
30ml sweet vermouth 30ml Campari
1 Combine ingredients in shaker. 2 Pour into glass, add ice and stir. 3 Garnish with a slice of grapefruit or orange zest.
TIP: “Replacing the traditional recipe’s gin with mezcal gives the Negroni smoky notes. Mezcal is very popular right now, but we recommend you buy a good-quality one.”
Serve in a “rocks” glass
30ml Seedlip Orange 20ml orgeat syrup 60ml pink grapefruit 1 Kaffir lime leaf
1 Pour ingredients into shaker, top with ice and shake vigorously. 2 Serve over a large ice cube and garnish with Kaffir leaf for aroma.
Serve in a martini glass
45ml Ketel One Citroen 20ml triple sec
20ml lime juice
30ml cranberry juice 10ml sugar syrup
1 Combine ingredients in shaker then fill to the top with ice. 2 Shake then strain, or double strain, into glass and serve.
TIP: “Freeze the martini glass before serving. It gives the drink a nice effect.”
Serve in a wine glass
30ml Redbreast 12-year-old Irish whiskey 30ml sugar mix
80ml filter coffee
60ml double cream
1 Whisk the ingredients in a cup, then pour into glass. 2 Gently layer on liquified cream.
TIP: “It’s easier if you shake the cream in a squeezy bottle so it becomes very liquid. Then it should float on top of the coffee.”
Serve in a glass jug
125ml Cocchi Americano 25ml Becherovka 400ml kombucha
15 frozen grapes
1 Combine everything except kombucha in jug and stir. 2 Add frozen grapes as ice cubes. 3 Then top with kombucha.
TIP: “Cocchi Americano an aromatic wine. To balance the sweetness, we put a dash of Becherovka as it’s very herbal.”
Serve in a high-ball glass
15ml Curacao liqueur 15ml lemon juice
15ml passionfruit cordial 10ml maraschino
1 egg white 10ml soda
1 Combine all ingredients except soda in shake. (It should be frothy.) 2 Add ice and shake again, then pour and top with soda.
TIP: “We serve this with a passionfruit hand cream on the side. If your skin smells good when you sip, your drink is better. Make sure your cream has the same fruit as your drink.”
Serve in high-ball glass
20ml Bacardi white rum 30ml Rinquinquin peach wine 30ml pear nectar
15ml strawberry syrup
15ml lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 egg white
1 Pour all ingredients except soda water into shaker, then mix. 2 Add ice and shake again, then pour into glass and top with soda water.
TIP: “For vegans or anyone who doesn’t like egg white, use 20ml of water from a can of chickpeas to achieve the same frothy effect.”
Maybe Sammy, 115 Harrington Street, The Rocks; maybesammy.com