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Many of Wellington's best cocktail bars are hidden down side streets or tucked away unnoticed. Half the fun is finding them, but finding them often eats into precious tipple time. So here are a few of our favourites:
Hanging Ditch is a cocktail bar where the range of liquor is, quite literally, off the hook. Their bottles of booze are suspended from the ceiling, dangling overhead on bungee cords which the bartenders pull down on to construct your cocktail – to dazzling effect.
Hawthorn Lounge is a bar that brings a 1920s speakeasy or gentlemen's lounge vibe to central Wellington. Head through the unmarked doorway, go up the stairs and you'll find a swanky spot where you can play cards by the fire for hours, and the bartenders really know their cocktails.
Named for a classic French film, Le Samourai is an all-day joint that serves French pastries during the day and becomes a bar at night. Specialising in vermouth and armagnac, as well as French wines, this is an excellent spot for a pre- or post-dinner tipple and cheeseboard, or go all out and order the coq au vin and pork rilettes with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.
Forresters Lane is a bar that takes seasonality to a new level. Contrary to the brooding mystery of many cocktail bars, Forresters Lane is friendly, welcoming and inclusive, with a vibrant and fresh menu that changes weekly and makes the most of seasonal produce, plus a few more quirky beverage ingredients, too.
A cafe by day, Crumpet is a neat little cocktail spot by night. Perfectly located for people watching, thus old-school bar serves excellent cocktails in a charming atmosphere. And, true to its name, the menu of incredible house-made crumpets with sweet and savoury toppings make for the perfect accompaniments to that late-night negroni or glass of pinot.
Under the famous Embassy Theatre, Black Sparrow is a cocktail bar where you could easily get so stuck into the menu that you miss your movie. The architecturally-designed space is cosy and comfortable, with a vibe inspired by 1930s literary salons.
Hidden away above the bustle of Courtenay Place is The Library, a cosy bar where the walls are lined with books and crafty cocktails reign supreme. Share a cheese platter or get stuck into some dessert - often with live jazz - at this excellent bar, which is especially popular on Tuesdays for 2-for-1 dessert.
Havana is surely one of Wellington's most photographed bars, located in two sweet cottages tucked between CBD high rises. Havana is a Cuban-themed bar and restaurant known for its stellar tapas-style menu, delicious drinks and live music. Hint: if you can't find the bathroom, it's through the book shelf.
If you prefer a drop of the hoppy stuff over a classic cocktail, we've got a handy guide to Wellington's many craft beer bars. Or if wine's your thing, check out Wellington's best places to drink wine.