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19 Nov 2015
The Wellington bar scene is one renowned for its charisma, charm and damn good cocktails. Whether it's sangria being chugged by the litre, bartenders in bow-ties or a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice, a night out has become more fantasy fueled than the ol’ ordering a pint on a bar stool. The question remains: is it possible to create a point of difference in such a fully flourished drinking playground?
Manager Andy and his partner in crime Benji have managed to do just that with their new Leeds Street bar, Hanging Ditch. If the name doesn’t get you thirsty or at least the slightest bit intrigued, then their décor will. It’s not every day the spirits that nourish your glass are all suspending from the roof. I mean that in a literal sense too. The first step towards any drink is your bartender reaching above to the heavens above to yank down the bottle of Jack Daniels off the hook, without creating a chain reaction of breakage. Risky business, but it looks amazing and adds quite the ‘Jenga’ element to your night of drinking.
Now, moving on to liquor.
The story of the impressive cocktail menu just as much comes from an epic ‘bromance’ as it is about standards and experience. Long-time cocktail magician Andy has done his rounds in the finest bars Wellington has to offer before finding his own inspiration and taking a leaf out of his book of alcoholic wisdom (it is a genuine document). He shared his vision with Benji and enticed him back over the ditch from Melbourne (if that’s not commitment then I don’t know what is!).
With the context in place I can now discuss something close to my heart: The Cabin in the Woods. Not so much a horror film (excuse the pop culture reference) but a liquid love child. This cocktail is both a Hanging Ditch signature and obscenely refreshing. Rum, lime, pistachio, orgeat and lime is all you need to know to be sold on this drink. It was a first for me to taste pistachios in an alcoholic context but can now confess I am a slave to the hand that fed me (Benji) and this has added a new staple to my cocktail diet.
I don’t want to spoil the rest of the menu for you, but I will say one thing - they do overly elaborate things with orange peel that deserve artistic mention, and definitely add to the charm. And there are an array of classic craft beers and vino’s, including a great wee number called the Ruby Manhattan that will cater for all.
If the suspending spirit bottles don’t have you intrigued enough to take a sharp turn off Dixon Street, it’s fair to say that Andy has a notable vision for the bar: to give all the quality and experience of upmarket cocktail bars, without the pretentious atmosphere. They want the average joe to feel like they can make themselves at home and sip away at what’s on offer, so why wouldn’t you? It’s worth it just to see the orange peel art.
Georgia recommends some favourite Wellington beers to quaff during the colder months.