A Hidden Bar in Sydney Is Saving the Daintree Rainforest, One Drink at a Time

daintree sydney

“We keep telling people, if you have another drink, you’re saving more trees,” says Tom Bulmer, Daintree Sydney’s Beverage Manager. Keep that in mind when you visit Daintree Sydney, a narrow bar hiding next to Cadman’s Cottage in The Rocks. Follow the historic sandstone steps of Cadman’s Cottage Stairs to the hole-in-the-wall bar, which, although narrow, opens to an expansive courtyard in the back, with views of the harbour and plenty of foliage to make you forget you’re in the city.  

“The location of Daintree Sydney is also the first place affected by the First Fleet landing; with that, it feels like the perfect place to start to focus on a positive change on these lands,” says Bulmer.

The small bar has one big purpose—save the Daintree Rainforest. The bar donates half its profits to charity partner, HalfCut, an environmental movement that engages people to raise funds to protect rainforests and wildlife. You might recognise Jimmy HalfCut, sporting his signature half-cut beard look. HalfCut has raised over $720,000, reclaiming lots that were sold off.

“With over 50% of the world’s forests destroyed and a further 30% of all forests degraded globally, protecting all forests and rebuilding what we can has never been more urgent. Our forests are our greatest solution to addressing true carbon drawdown and the climate crisis, and we picked the Daintree as it is the world’s oldest and iconic rainforest that is home to the mighty southern endangered cassowary,” said Jimmy Stanton-Cook, (Jimmy HalfCut) HalfCut founder.

When it comes to raising money and bringing awareness to an issue, Bulmer is a firm believer in a bar. He says bars are social engines, and while we’ve made headway in banning straws, there’s no better way than to dedicate an entire bar to the cause.

“Our main focus was on being legitimate. We didn’t want to greenwash or claim we were sustainable and then give you a plastic straw. We knew if we were going to do this, then it would have to be done in the right way, which is why teaming up with HalfCut was so important. They’re independent, they’ve raised money for the cause, and most importantly, we knew where the money was going. Half our profits go directly (from the register) to them—that’s important to me,” says Bulmer.

A significant amount of waste is produced by hospitality, says Bulmer. At Daintree, they minimise waste as much as possible by adopting a ‘from the ground up’ approach to its operations by tracking and monitoring the bar’s eco-footprint every step of the way. Everything from reducing electricity, gas and water consumption, using excess water from the ice well to water the plants after service and choosing recycled furniture for the bar fit-out is just the start of its sustainable thumb.

“We want Daintree Sydney’s vision to inspire other venues in the hospitality industry to also give back, whether that’s supporting community initiatives, inspiring social change or adopting sustainability measures within their own businesses,” says Bulmer.

Although for Bulmer and the owners of Daintree Sydney, their conscious efforts extend beyond the physical actions. Bulmer explains the staff are required to learn about native flora that used to grow on the lands where the venue is located, as well as its traditional owners. Native ingredients are at the heart of Daintree’s menu along with bringing to life ingredients we would otherwise neglect in cooking and mixology.

daintree sydney

“The Gumnut Negroni is not something you see every day or might never have heard of it before. But if we add it to something familiar, say a negroni, people are more inclined to try it as they know how a negroni is supposed to taste. Think of it as classic cocktails with a twist,” he says.

Another highlight on the menu is the Quandong Daquiri. We’ve all had a daiquiri before, but I can guarantee you, you’ve never had one like this. It’s a simple flavour, but the expression of flavour from the quandong is unusual and delicious. According to Bulmer, it also takes a long time to make, which is why the Gumnut Negroni seems to be the drink of choice so far.

Alongside the cocktails are a wine and beer list that champions New South Wales producers and highlights minimal intervention and natural wines. As a further nod to Daintree Sydney’s transparent environmental pledge, the menu also points out how far each wine and beer has travelled as a real carbon cost. 

To pair with a wine, beer or cocktails is a seasonal menu that spotlights the wealth and diversity of local produce that the land provides. The food menu has a sustainable focus and features share dishes, including kangaroo tataki, Goolwa Pipi Chowder, Mojo Pork Cubano Sandwiches, and locally sourced Australian cheese. 

“It’s not just about serving sustainable cocktails; it’s a mindset and a business model shift. As one of Australia’s largest industries, the hospitality sector is responsible for giving back to the environment. We need to preserve our rich biodiversity and protect the land that has provided for us for generations, with many more to come,” continues Bulmer. 

Part of Daintree’s mission is to give back custodianship and provide training and education for the original landowners, Kuku Yalanji People, who have lived in harmony with the rainforest for over 50,000 years.

“I don’t think people were aware of the problems the Daintree is facing. Currently, you can buy a piece of the Daintree Rainforest. Search it up on Realestate.com. it’s legal and happening right now. Our World Heritage Listed Site is being sold off, piece by piece, and there are still more lots going up for sale,” he said.

Diners, guests, and fellow drinkers can track the bar’s mission through a mural on the bar’s back wall. Local artist Felix Saw created the current outline, which will be coloured in each time every 100,000 trees are saved and seeded for the HalfCut cause. The mural coincides with the micro-bar’s fit out, which is a mixture of recycled timbers and modern Australian art.

Click here to donate and support the preservation of the Daintree Forest and HalfCut’s vital work. Patrons are also encouraged to support directly, with donations accepted via QR codes at each table within the venue. 

“Hopefully, we can open up a few more Daintrees to help us achieve our goal. We will put a Daintree wherever it needs to go to make some noise and make a difference.”

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