Adelaide’s explosion of small bars has introduced a new generation of city dwellers to craft beer and classic cocktails, but this movement goes far beyond the city’s laneways. In some of the state’s most sophisticated establishments, bartenders are finding ingenious ways to put a new (and local) twist on classic drinks. Here are three ways to taste South Australia in a glass.
Words: Alexis Buxton-Collins
South Australian Southside, Playford
Inspired by the graceful lines and natural motifs of art nouveau, The Playford Lounge Bar harks back to the glamour and sophistication of fin de siècle Europe. There’s an extensive list of beverages available from the gilt mirror backed bar, and it’s appropriate that the signature drink celebrates a bygone era of luxury.
The southside is the mojito’s gin-based cousin and is rumoured to have been a favourite drink of Al Capone during the days of prohibition. But there’s no need to be discreet with the South Australian Southside, which celebrates both the drink’s long history and our incredible local producers. The Playford’s version uses Kangaroo Island Spirits’ iconic Wild Gin shaken with Fino Sherry from Seppeltsfield in the Barossa to add a layer of complexity and garnished with blooms from the hotel’s own rooftop garden.
Espresso Martini, Magill Estate Kitchen
Magill Estate is where Penfolds began 175 years ago after an English doctor arrived in the new colonial settlement with his wife and daughter. It’s still the spiritual home of the iconic winery and today Magill Estate Kitchen overlooks the historic vineyard that he planted, as well as Grange cottage which was the family’s home and the Adelaide Plains and sparkling Gulf of St Vincent beyond.
It’s no surprise that there’s an excellent selection of wine on offer and it’s the kind of place where you can order a glass of Grange with your lunch after a tasting next door. But if you want something a little stronger, there’s always a range of cocktails that have been modified to feature a Penfolds favourite. So you can try a negroni sweetened with vintage fortified or a mojito with Bin 51 riesling. But the closest thing they have to a signature cocktail is the espresso martini, which gains subtle hints of toasted nuts and spice from Penfolds 10 year old Father Tawny.
Blue Fig Old Fashioned, Arthur Waterhouse Lounge
The hardest part about ordering a drink at Mount Lofty House’s sumptuous Arthur Waterhouse Lounge is dragging yourself away from the stunning views out over the Piccadilly Valley. But if you do, the reward is a carefully curated drinks menu. Make it past the signature barrel-aged cocktails on the bar and you’ll find the cocktail list divided into four sections honouring the elements of fire, earth, air and water. It’s a way to celebrate the natural beauty of the area without being restricted by seasonality; the Fire cocktails bring warmth, spice and smokiness year round.
And it’s hard to find a drink more memorable than the Blue Fig Old Fashioned, which has been designed so that guests at the bar can enjoy the same range of flavours as diners at the neighbouring Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant. This refined take on a classic old fashioned mixes dry fig infused bourbon infused with Australian chocolate bitters and brown sugar. But what really makes it stand out is the wedge of mild blue cheese that accompanies it, complementing the rich sweetness of the cocktail and drawing out some of the complex flavours.