Sydney’s bar scene has undergone a serious upgrade, and a gaggle of new hotel bars are changing the way the city grooves. From swanky spaces with splendid views to lavish waterholes steeped in history – the hotel bar is back in vogue.

Title for the most opulent goes to Hilton Sydney’s Marble Bar, located on busy George Street in the CBD. With brilliant stained glass windows, elaborate sculpted woodwork and 35 varieties of Italian, African and Belgian marble used throughout the interior (think grand pillars and a colourful marble floor), this is the place to take someone you want to impress. Try one of the many cocktails on offer, such as the Marble Bar Martini (red wine shaken with fresh raspberries, orange bitters and Smirnoff vodka, laced with a dash of crème de cassis).

Sydney's Rocks precinct has become an even more desirable meeting place with the addition of Grain, a stylish bar in the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. Sit back and debonairly sip your choice of beverage from the extensive drinks menu, made up of creative cocktails, local specialist beers and a largely organic and biodynamic wine list. The Aussie-influenced bar food is spot on: try deep-fried saltbush (a native Australian edible plant) with creamy aioli; yabbies (freshwater crustaceans) flown in from Queensland; and petite pavlovas.

Another newcomer fast gaining a stellar reputation is the funky, retro-styled Gilt Lounge. Located in the boutique QT Sydney hotel on Market Street, the kitsch, quirky-cool bar is filled with colourful customised furniture and eclectic digital art – a visually stimulating space that becomes even more interesting after indulging in a barrel-aged cocktail or two. Drinks (usually based on brown spirits and bitters) are mixed and poured into a wooden barrel, allowing the flavours to fuse.

Jaws routinely drop at Shangri-La Hotel Sydney’s Blu Bar on 36 in the Rocks precinct. The dazzling view is at its best at sunset, when a golden glow spreads across the harbour, and the talented mixologists create exquisite cocktails that will keep you going well into the night. Try the 12/12/12 (Cazadores tequila, plum Pisco, Aperol, grapefruit juice, agave nectar and lime), or book in for a cocktail making class and create your own concoction.

Located a stone’s throw from Circular Quay on the ground level at the InterContinental Sydney, The Cortile is a lounge bar surrounded by three storeys of 19th-century sandstone archways propping up a heritage glass atrium. Their new “high coffee experience” is a feast of savouries and sweets complemented by a variety of Piazza D’Oro coffee creations. Available daily from 11 am to 7 pm, the experience begins with an Espresso di Manfredi Spice Martini – a coffee-based cocktail made with chilled espresso and shaken with spiced syrup and vanilla-infused Belvedere vodka. It's a perfect treat for those who like a caffeinated alcoholic hit.

Tatyana Leonov is the Sydney Localite for BBC Travel