Eat & Drink

Small Bar Cottonmouth Records Brings Together Whisky, Beer And Live DJ Sets

Sydney is a beautiful, hard, expensive city. From business owners to artists, people are grappling with not just the lock-out laws but the sentiment they’ve effused. Every so often though, you meet people who help you shake your cynicism off and have a good time. 

Zachary Williams and Erica McLoughlin are the owners of Cottonmouth Records, a true multihyphenate establishment on the increasingly lively end of Enmore Road. It’s impressively stocked record store by day (think soul, jazz and funk with modern pressings strewn through) and a well-stocked beer and whisky bar by night. Born and raised in Sydney’s Inner West, and racking up 15 years in the music industry, Zach has always been close to the ground during the seismic shifts in Sydney’s evening landscape. 

Towers of craft beer cans stacked up on the bar at Cottonmoud Records.

The lack of a relaxed and unpretentious space for record fiends and beer enthusiasts was one of the main drivers in the birth of Cottonmouth Records.

“We wanted to create something that actually fostered local community,” explains Zach, and on this point alone the bar has succeeded. 

Since opening in March, the bar has seen a steady stream of regulars and keen out-of-towners. Erica reports some people even making train trips from the ‘burbs to get in on the action. That’s right, voluntarily signing up for extended periods of exposure to Sydney Trains – we could end the review right here.

Behind the gold lettering on the window, the bar inside burbles with a steady flow of conversations and drinks. Cottonmouth slakes a variety of thirsts, with a rotating selection of eight beers on tap from the likes of The Grifter Brewing Co., Yulli’s Brews, Capital Brewing Co. and Nomad Brewing Co. The whisky selection is well-travelled, there are over 80 types ranging from Scotch classics and American ryes to local offerings from Australia’s Starward Distillery. The venue also offers a curated collection of cocktails and boilermakers – if you get overwhelmed, don’t worry, bartender Sam can confidently guide you. 

Whiskey cocktail from Cottonmouth Records next to bar menu.

The food menu is similarly extensive – patrons are encouraged to order whatever strikes their fancy from the local eats around the bar. Zach appreciates the sense of camaraderie among small bars, rather than competition characterising the area, “we like supporting each other,” he says, adding that it’s really “the smaller venues who suffer in the face of licensing laws and the lock-outs.”

As well as a quietly cool bar, serving all your needs for a relaxed hangout spot, Cottonmouth creates a space for burgeoning creativity.

“Being in bars was so natural to me as a DJ,” Zach explains. “It wasn’t a huge leap from that side of the decks to the bar.”

 

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Zach observed how to run a bar from DJ booths and now keeps Cottonmouth’s decks free for an open-turntable night every Thursday from 7pm. He jokes that it saves him time from having to book, but is more than happy to show newbies the ropes – pros take over the following nights.

I ask Erica and Zach, did they ever think about moving to Melbourne? The pair share a glance and tell me that they did, but if they can make Cottonmouth work in Sydney, they know they can do it anywhere. Sitting against the closed custom-built record cases in the nonchalantly cool space, we lose hours chatting and sipping our beers, and I realise that they have done just that.

If you’re looking for somewhere a little spookier, check out our ranking of Sydney’s haunted bars.

(Images: Cottonmouth Records / Facebook)