After a proliferation of new wine bars last year, it seems Adelaide’s drinking scene has started to diversify a bit in 2023. While we’ll never be far from a new wine bar in the vineyard capital of Australia (and we’re certainly not complaining about that) we’re also seeing more and more specialty cocktail bars, including a slick suburban spot from the Lune crew, a fun new sibling for 99 Gang Social, and a North Adelaide watering hole that does in fact sweat the small stuff (much to the guests’ benefit).

There’s also been a return to the pub out west, with the rebirth of a heritage boozer and a new brewery by the Karma & Crow team. Here’s what’s caught our eye in the first half of the year, in alphabetical order.

Bar Riot, CBD
Riot Wine Co teamed up with Palmer Hospitality (the group behind Arkhe and 2KW) at the close of last year to open its first CBD venue – Bar Riot – in the space previously occupied by Madre. The pizza oven was ripped out to make room for a 1000-litre terracotta wine vase, from which customers can help themselves to an evolving house blend. But it’s not just a cellar door for the tap wine brand; Bar Riot feels more like a neighbourhood bar for the city’s south-west corner, complete with 14 Riot wines on tap and paella cooked streetside every Thursday. Former 2KW head chef Trent Lymn and his Argentinian-born wife and co-head chef Cecilia Teigeiro are turning out South American and Catalan-style dishes like pan-fried prawns with chardonnay sauce, roast chicken with Pedro Ximenez jus, and pan Catalan (Spanish-style bruschetta with sourdough, garlic and tomato).

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The Brompton Hotel, Brompton
Where are the Sunday roasts at in Adelaide? The classic British tradition is surprisingly absent from most gastropubs here. Thankfully, the Brompton has stepped in to fill the gap. Theirs is cooked on the spit then served with all the trimmings, including Yorkshire pudding. It’s not the only British classic on the menu by chef Andrew Wandless (ex-Una Mas): there’s also weekly beef Wellington, and bangers and mash. You’ll also find pan-Euro plates like chicken Kyiv (in place of the ubiquitous pub schnitty), and plump tortellini filled with warrigal greens and ricotta in beurre noisette and prosciutto broth. The rejuvenated heritage pub opened at the close of last year, narrowly missing the cut-off for our best bar openings of 2022 list. It was resuscitated by the Duxton Pubs Group, who also recently acquired the Saracens Head and Little Bang, which has its beers on-tap at the Brompton, as well as in some of the dishes, like the IPA-battered onion rings.

Dolly, Unley

Since opening in 2021, Bar Lune has become known largely for its (topnotch) food. So at Dolly, the latest from the Lune team, its owners want it to be a place to come, first and foremost, for a well-made drink. The neighbourhood bar, at the base of a new apartment complex on Unley Road (next to Bandit Pizza & Wine) is pouring creative cocktails alongside approachable wines from largely local producers like Yangarra, Harrison and Hills Collide. Perch up at the swanky concrete bar for a Coconut Mint Margarita (tequila, triple sec, coconut, mint and lime) or a Pandanic (pandan-infused white rum, macadamia, pineapple, cucumber, lime and sesame) and a serve of crab soldiers topped with chilli crisp and grated bottarga. You won’t see any backbar stacked with bottles here – everything is stored internally, creating a sleek and open space for all comers, whether you’re after a quiet midweek wine or a cocktail-fuelled Saturday night.

El Camino, Hahndorf
New Mexico, USA is known for at least three things: UFOs, adobe houses, and south-western American art. But it’s the latter two that inspired Kat Romeo and Jon Di Pinto (Shotgun Willie’s, Memphis Slim’s and Cry Baby) to create their new Hahndorf bar. The desert-inspired spot – complete with cacti and pueblo-style walls – is the setting for a concise menu of tacos, charcoal-grilled corn, and nachos. Mexican beers and soft drinks line the fridges, and tequila is the feature of every cocktail served – giving Mexican twists to classics like Espresso Martinis. The bar, which is only open in the warmer months (so mark your diary for its reopening in spring) sits behind the pair’s other project – cabincore shop Walden’s General Store, which stocks American brands like Pendleton woollens and Bradley Mountain backpacks alongside leather journals and “great American novels” (and the store is named after Henry David Thoreau’s non-fiction work, Walden).

Fu Cocktail Bar, North Adelaide
This intimate spot has thought through the finer details – all the way through to the toilets. “As a venue operator, the way you approach the bathroom really speaks to how you handle your food, drinks and staff,” says co-owner Geoffrey Hunt. The former sommelier at Fermentasian (a Barossa restaurant famous for its 97-page wine list) and his partner Eva Yu (whose background is in winemaking, wine marketing and distribution) have crafted an exceptional wine list – divided into playful categories like “Grumpy and Serious”, “Hangry” (wines to eat with) and “Accountants” (the classics). The cocktail offering is equally enticing: highlights include the Turkish Delight, a refreshing number involving rosewater, hibiscus and lime; and a Freezer Martini with pickle juice. Pair them with beef cheek curry and Chinese doughnuts, or a 20-layer flaky pancake served with Peking duck sauce. And don’t forget to bring your four-legged friend along; there’s a menu page just for them, featuring a choice of ocean fish served with egg yolk (for the cats), and chicken and vegetable rice (for the dogs).

Nearly, CBD
The small bar scene of the west end hadn’t quite found its footing further west along Hindley Street until Nearly arrived last summer. Alex Glastonbury, a long-time bartender at Udaberri, teamed up with Stem co-owners Lachlan Farmer and Tom Paxton, illustrator Cécile Gariépy and designer Stephen Roy to open the cosy wine bar right opposite Stem. The outdoor tables, plus the occasional dinner pop-up, draw a crowd come golden hour, bringing a buzz back to the strip. Inside, irregularly shaped tables and a long communal table share the space with a curved bar that runs the length of the venue – the setting for a largely local drinks list that includes drops from Travis Tausend, Gentle Folk and Ochota Barrels, plus Coopers Pale and Pacific Ale on tap. A compact cocktail list includes classics like Martinis, Negronis and Old Fashioneds alongside a “Reverse Manhattan” and Irish Coffee. There’s also bottomless coffee, and simple snacks like cured meats, cheese, and white beans with burnt lemon and oil.

Thirsty Tiger, CBD

When Broadsheet collated its best bars of 2022 list, Thirsty Tiger had only been open for two weeks, so we think it deserved another look. Not least because the upstairs bar (above sibling bar 99 Gang Social) has finally introduced the brunch menu it hinted at last year. Owner-chef Nina Hadinata has crafted a Sunday morning menu ideal for a recovery brunch with dishes like Wagyu rump served with cafe de Paris butter, fries and a sunny-side-up egg; and French toast with pandan custard, brown-sugar boba and stone fruit. Pair your meal with a hair-of-the-dog Bloody Tiger: wasabi-infused vodka with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chilli and celery bitters. If you’re heading there in the evening, you can choose from hearty dishes like cream cheese and chive wontons; buttermilk fried chicken tenders dipped in hot honey; and ramen noodles with buttery garlic confit, egg yolk and parmesan. Plus, drinks like a pho-inspired cocktail with lime, chilli and coriander. And shooters, sake and Japanese beers.

Wax, CBD

The closure of 20-year-old Rundle Street institution Sugar last year left an opening for a new late-night dance floor on the strip. Enter Wax Bar, which opened in April in the former Two Pot Screamer site. Less club vibes and more intimate cocktail bar, Wax is partly inspired by Melbourne’s Music Room (inside mega-venue Her) which is itself modelled after the listening bars found throughout Europe and Japan (a growing trend in Australia’s bar scene). This isn’t a listening bar – a tag that tends to come with high-end audio equipment and a record collection numbering in the thousands – but the team is committed to the music, with around 800 disco, funk, soul and house records sitting in a gorgeous new African mahogany cabinet, and a line-up of Adelaide's best DJs. As for the cocktails, you'll find tropical drinks like a Lychee Long Island, a Mango Daiquiri and a Watermelon Paloma. Grab one and settle into one of the brown leather booths inside, or head out to the balcony overlooking Rundle Street.

Yellow Matter, Brooklyn Park

What started as plans for a neighbourhood wine bar out the front of much-loved Richmond cafe Karma & Crow has morphed into a microbrewery, restaurant and bar in Brooklyn Park. The first part of the equation opened in June in the former West Torrens Council Chambers. Hospitality group Sonic Yoni tapped Studio-Gram to give the site a bright, beautiful, mid-century-style makeover (with lots of gorgeous curves and arches). Inside, former head brewer at Melbourne’s Bodriggy Brewing Co Tristan Barlow is brewing beers that range from a “really bright and summery Berliner Weisse through to a super smooth and chocolatey stout”. There’s also a completely vegetarian pizza menu with non-traditional toppings like shio koji mushroom and buffalo mozzarella, and beetroot, rocket, pomegranate molasses, and vegan mozzarella. Plus, an extensive non-alcoholic list, as well as a pool table and dog-friendly setting that make this spot an ideal new local for residents of the west.

Honorable mention
Goodwood taproom Suburban Brew opened a sprawling second venue at the end of last year, this time putting down roots in Glynde in the north-eastern suburbs. It’s an area better known for its excellent Italian produce (with shops like Mercato and Glynburn Gourmet, plus a bunch of cheese and pasta warehouses) so we were pumped to see an operator like this move in to bring house-brewed beers and a rotating line-up of food trucks (like Sneaky Pickle, Fire and the Filipino Project) to the neighbourhood.