Conceptual bars have become commonplace in the industry, with venues dedicated to whisky, gin, tequila, mezcal and more. But what if there was a place that honed in on one cocktail? Sydney’s Bar Conte is a new player on the scene highlighting an Italian classic — the Negroni. The menu has more than 12 iterations of the drink and brings new meaning to the phrase ‘the more, the merrier’.

Co-Owner (and self-described Negroni lover) Daniele Lombardi is behind the bar in Surry Hills and talks to Hospitality about the motivation behind the menu, what makes the Negroni his drink of choice and how to tweak a cocktail that’s lauded for its simplicity.

In Milan, Italy, specialised aperitivo bars are commonplace, with the city essentially creating the concept. Campari and Aperol-centric drinks and liqueurs such as limoncello and Amaro are always paired with small antipasti dishes. “We are from
Italy, so the concept of an aperitivo bar is something we grew up with,” says Daniele Lombardi.

The bartender runs the business with his brother Raffaele Lombardi and ex-Apollo chef Steven de Vecchi. The team decided to expand the original venue Caffé Conte earlier this year to launch a bar that reflects an Italian experience. “Even with the design, we’re using ’50s and ’60s dark greens and [there] are Campari umbrellas outside; it feels like a little part of Milan,” says Lombardi.

Bar Conte is part of the wave of venues that have taken a more casual approach to drinking and dining. “I’ve noticed people like to have small sittings and aperitif-style drinks are becoming bigger here; it goes with our concept and how we grew up back home.”


Amongst the vast selection of aperitifs and digestifs, the menu has a section dedicated to Negronis. The cocktail is a global staple in bars and has inspired a significant number of riffs. “The Negroni itself has a lot of variations that have been around for years, but we wanted a list with all of them,” says Lombardi. “Everybody loves the Negroni.”

The drink comprises equal parts dry London gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. The Negroni is believed to have started out as a derivative of the Americano, with Bar Conte paying tribute to the drink’s history in its name. “Conte means ‘count’,” says Lombardi. “The Negroni came from the Americano cocktail when Count Camillo de
Negroni [French general in Florence] swapped the soda for gin.”

The Americano and the original Negroni signalled the beginning of closely related classic cocktails. While they all have different twists, Campari is the common denominator. “The Americano came first, then the Negroni, the sbagliato, the Boulevardier, the coffee Negroni and the white Negroni,” says Lombardi. “My favourite one is the classic, but then you’ve got the Milano Torino with vermouth and Campari, which is considered a twist.”

The Boulevardier swaps out gin for bourbon while the sbagliato uses Prosecco and is sometimes served in taller glassware. The Negroni Tropicale is another signature. “It has an infusion of pineapple and coconut oil which goes with the gin and the Campari, making it a tropical-style [drink],” says Lombardi.

Bar Conte’s main goal is to showcase the different ways a Negroni can be made and
educate patrons on regional interpretations found throughout Italy. Lombardi lists the coffee Negroni as an example. “Many people have heard about the coffee Negroni, but it is something that has existed for a long time in Naples,” he says. “I want to share these details on our menu, which lists where each [Negroni] comes from; there is a history behind all of them.”

Lombardi has been making cocktails for 15 years, and while his knowledge, skills and personal tastes extend far beyond the Negroni, it is a drink he cannot fault. “If someone comes into our bar and asks for an espresso martini, of course I’m going to make it,” he says. “But you can have those drinks anywhere. If we focus on one thing, we’re going to make sure we achieve perfection with every single Negroni we have on
the list.”