The aim of this study was to describe the features of a large cohort of patients with postoperative mediastinitis, with particular regard to Gram-negative bacteria (GNB), and assess their outcome. This bicentric retrospective cohort included all patients who were hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit with mediastinitis after cardiac surgery during a 9-year period. Three hundred and nine patients developed a mediastinitis with a mean age of 65 years and a mean standard Euroscore of six points. Ninety-one patients (29.4%) developed a GNB mediastinitis (GNBm). Of the 364 pathogens involved, 103 GNB were identified. GNBm were more frequently polymicrobial (44% versus 3.2%; p <0.001). Being female was the sole independent risk factor of GNBm in multivariate analysis. Initial antimicrobial therapy was significantly more frequently inappropriate with GNBm compared with other microorganisms (24.6% versus 1.9%; p <0.001). Independent risk factors for inappropriateness of initial antimicrobial treatment were GNBm (OR = 8.58, 95%CI 2.53–29.02, p 0.0006), and polymicrobial mediastinitis (OR = 4.52, 95%CI 1.68–12.12, p 0.0028). GNBm were associated with more drainage failure, secondary infection, need for prolonged mechanical ventilation and/or use of vasopressors. Thirty-day hospital mortality was significantly higher with GNBm (31.9 % versus 17.0%; p 0.004). GNBm was identified as an independent risk factor of hospital mortality (OR = 2.31, 95%CI 1.16–4.61, p 0.0179).