Adelaide’s best negroni

December 7, 2023

Words and pictures: Claudia Dichiera, David Simmons & Helen Karakulak

This article first appeared in our Summer Nights edition, which is on streets now.

It’s the perfect start – or finish – to an Adelaide summer night, so we did the hard yards and found the best of the best of this classic cocktail.

When we first pitched this ‘Best of…’ to our benevolent editors, this trio of giddy journos expected the piece to be pretty simple. I mean, it’s a negroni; three shots, ice, a bit of orange and voilà. What we discovered though is the sheer variety of negronis in this town. Who knew how much room there was to experiment, stand out, or simply fit in when it came to the bitter cocktail?

From skull-shaped orange peels to fresh takes on the classic, our very boozy trip around the city took us to bars, pubs and venues somewhere in between. We sipped on ultra-classic, conservative negronis and ones that pushed boundaries within the limits of the three spirits.

All-in-all, we finished this experiment more confused about what a perfect negroni should taste like. It turns out there’s scope to accommodate all taste preferences, whether you’re a weathered, cigar-smoking fan of the standard or a negroni virgin wanting to take a dip into the hardcore beverage.

These six, in no particular order, are the best that we tried.

We scored them based on flavour, fun, location, the post-negroni feeling, their Grammability and how viscous the drinks were. The latter metric should not be thought of as a one being bad and a 10 being perfect — rather this is a scale on which viscosity lands — think one being water and 10 being maple syrup. It’s a drinker’s preference as to how thick you want your negroni to be. As for the Grammable score, we ranked the cocktails on a scale of one to five on how we’d post them on Instagram: no post (one), Close Friends story (two), story (three), in a photo dump (four), main post on the grid (five). No drink scored the coveted grid feature.

So read on, and hopefully drink up with six negronis as recommended by CityMag (maybe not all at once). We know this will be a controversial list, so take each with a peel of orange but give them all a try. We’re calling the negroni the sip of the summer for 2023/24; bold, red, boozy and fresh — it’s exactly what we need after this crazy year.



‘The Clean Girl’

Mother Vine, Vardon Avenue
Flavour: 6.7 | Fun: 8.7 | Location: 9.7 | Post-N feels: 7.7 | Grammable: 3 (Story) | Viscosity: 2.7

Summer calls for walks down Ebenezer to stumble into Mother Vine.

The ‘Spring Negroni’ was first on CityMag’s hit list. Controversially, this negroni uses Lillet Blanc instead of Campari, which some argue is the baseline spirit for such a cocktail.

It resulted in a weaker tasting concoction, with fragrant and floral flavours taking over.

Due to this, there’s no squint of the eyes, or a scrunch of the nose at the first sip, like a regular negroni hit.

Instead, this negroni is smooth, light and beams in decorative flavours.

If you desire the title of a negroni drinker without the hard liquor and cringe effect, then this one’s for you.

If you’re after that bitter reminder of three full shots of alcohol meshed into one swig, then move on.

Nevertheless, CityMag doesn’t discriminate against a creative take on a classic.



‘The No-fuss’

Smokelovers, Rundle Street
Flavour: 8 | Fun: 8 | Location: 9 | Post-N feels: 9 | Grammable: 3 (Story) | Viscosity: 6

If you find yourself in the East End with a hankering for a negroni, you’d do far worse than slipping into Smokelovers.

We’re inclined to think a good negroni goes well with an even better cigar — so it makes sense that Smokelovers pull no punches when it comes to their mix of sweet vermouth, dry gin and Italian bitter.

A sexy, romantic, rosy red is the first thing we notice when our negroni’s hit the table.

The second is the orange peel — the best of the lot.

The swirly spring inspires joy and adds an air of humour to the otherwise very serious drink.

This is exactly what a negroni should taste like, and the good music and even better service at Smokelovers cap off the experience.

It is nice and bitter with a moderate but not-overpowering aftertaste; exactly what we’d imagine finding when Googling ‘negroni’.





‘The Friday Night Negroni’

Nearly, Hindley Street
Flavour: 8 | Fun: 7 | Location: 9 | Post-N feels: 8 | Grammable: 1 (No post) | Viscosity: 7

Nearly is one of CityMag’s favourite new bars of 2023, and we’ll be spending summer evenings sitting at the sidewalk tables sipping this classic negroni after work.

With a generous chunk of ice — carved and gorgeously clear — and a slice of orange peel rubbed delightfully on the rim of the glass, this bevy received high scores across the board.

Though the classic presentation makes us want the drink more for imbibing than for posting online.

It is location, location, location for the Friday Night Negroni; Nearly’s Hindley Street spot is the perfect distance from the bustle of the nightclub precinct, and the bespoke furniture and on-trend decor makes for a pleasant setting to down a cocktail (or five).

It was also one of the strongest negronis we tried and brought back memories of memorylessness for this writer.

Classic, serious, corporate, sophisticated are all words we use to describe Nearly’s nearly-perfect negroni.



‘The Bello’

Enoteca Lounge & Cucina, Rundle Street
Flavour: 9 | Fun: 8 | Location: 9 | Post-N feels: 8.5 | Grammable: 2 (Close friends story) | Viscosity: 5.5

The term ‘enoteca’ translates to ‘wine bar’ in Italian.

Given the negroni’s origins are said to go back to 1919 Florence, CityMag knew we needed to seek out an Italian haunt.

And who better than the new kid on the block?

The Vardon Avenue side of Enoteca Lounge & Cucina is a great setting for an alcoholic drink of any kind.

Throughout our negroni quest, we have seen a variety of orange peels, but Enoteca was the first of our contenders to introduce a slice of orange: cue excitement.

This large slice was the perfect garnish to soak up all the ginny goodness and made a satisfying post-drink snack.

Another interesting variation was the specific vermouth, a Cocchi Vermouth Rosso which is bittersweet and lent itself well to this negroni’s distinct and well-balanced taste.

If you’re after a smooth, blood-orange coloured elixir with a fruity flair, look no further.




‘Death Becomes Her’

Hains & Co, Gilbert Place
Flavour: 9 | Fun: 10 | Location: 8.3 | Post-N feels: 8.5 | Grammable: 4 (Dump) | Viscosity: 7.3

To unwind with a drink in a somewhat secluded but rated spot, CityMag knew to hit up Hains & Co on Gilbert Place.

The bar has a gentlemanly vibe, with cigars available for purchase within and clouds of smoke filling the outside seating area.

If you or your mate is intensely anti-smoking, try one of the other venues on our list.

Otherwise play on with Never Never Triple Juniper Gin, Campari and a combined French and Italian vermouth that’s mixed in-house.

On the menu, this negroni is promised as ‘happiness in a glass’ and we weren’t disappointed.

As we’ve learned on our negroni-hunt, the ice and orange garnish are key contributors to the overall experience.

This ice, one tall cube, had an endearing flair of the Hains & Co logo carved into the top — although, only one of our tasting team was able to identify the carving.

As for the orange? What a peel. It was shaped like a skull, floating menacingly in the blood orange liquid.

Never before has an orange peel been spoken about with such passion in the CityMag offices.




‘The Spicy Snack’

The Golden Wattle, Pirie Street
Flavour: 8.1 | Fun: 6.3 | Location: 8 | Post-N feels: 6.6 | Grammable: 1 (No post) | Viscosity: 2.6

When looking at The Golden Wattle’s cocktail list, one thing was abundantly clear.

The ‘Pirie Negroni’ was missing its Campari.

The Italian spirit, Cynar, is the stand in.

Now, CityMag really doesn’t mind how a negroni is made, but we thought Campari, of all things, was a non-negotiable.

Nevertheless, we sipped and then sculled, and managed to finish our three-shot concoction beaming with delight.

The Cynar inclusion meant the drink’s colouring and taste was somewhat of a cola resemblance.

The first sip burnt the throat with its spicy zing, but as we found with most Adelaide negronis, the sips became smoother the further into the drink we got.

Whether the crunchy hot chippies and mouth-watering vegan burger contributed to this satisfying, above-average post-negroni feel is inconclusive.

But one thing we know for sure, this negroni certainly hit the spot.




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