Shaken, not stirred: our guide to getting cocktails
Many of Wellington's best cocktail bars are hidden down side streets or tucked away up unmarked flights of stairs. Half the fun is finding them. Here's a shortcut
1/55 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Go for old-fashioned cocktails in a speakeasy style bar above Cuba Street.
Night Flower takes old-fashioned cocktails and reworks them with a botanical flair; possets, syllabubs, Rumfustians, fizzes, fixes and flips; if you don’t know what we’re talking about, you will soon. Tell the Night Flower team what flavours you’re into and they'll make you a cocktail to match (or challenge) your taste.
Night Flower make their own tonic water, a subtly perfumed and delicately flavoured concoction that elevates their G&Ts to whole new levels of deliciousness. With a large deck overlooking the heart of Cuba Street, Night Flower is the perfect spot for a drink while you watch the bohemian happenings, below.
14 Leeds Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Tucked away in a cosy corner of Hannahs Laneway, 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 pour your bevvy – to dazzling effect.
Spectacle aside, Hanging Ditch are serious about creating delicious cocktails and use custom flavour atomisers to flavour your drink, to cut down on wasting herbs and garnishes and to add real oomph to their drinks. As well as cocktails, there’s a great selection of local beer and wine. Hanging Ditch is the ideal cosy spot for starting or ending your night out.
82 Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington
With a 1920s speakeasy or gentlemen's lounge vibe, Hawthorn Lounge is a hidden gem you need to seek out.
Head through the unmarked doorway, go up the stairs and you'll find a swanky spot where the bartenders really know their cocktails. Sit at the bar as their nattily-attired staff entertain you with a potted history lesson on your favourite cocktail or nab a leather couch by the open fire and relax as your own bespoke drink is concocted and brought over to you.
C.G.R. Merchant & Co
44 Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington
Climb the flight of stairs from Courtenay Place to C.G.R. Merchant & Co and you’ll immediately be transported to an exotic world.
There’s a scent of spice in the air, lush green vines grow wildly up the walls and fans spin languidly above. C.G.R. (coffee, gin and rum), brought to you by Jonny McKenzie of the award-winning Hawthorn Lounge, specialises in making intriguing infused gins and rum using a variety of herbs and spices – their salted caramel rum is legendary. Order from the menu or let the bartenders create a custom-made cocktail, just for you.
109 Manners Street, Te Aro, Wellington
What's cosier than a crumpet with butter? A cocktail bar called Crumpet that serves crumpets with butter (and cocktails, of course). Snuggled inside the historic Opera House on Manners Street, Crumpet is perfectly located for a pre- or post-show drink and a great spot for people watching.
With a somewhat eccentric décor of mismatched furniture and table-cloth covered tables with candles, Crumpet will absolutely charm you. Consult with Crumpet's staff to find a cocktail based on your preferred flavour profile, your mood or the weather, or take a flick through their rolodex of cocktails to find something that tickles your fancy.
CoCo at the Roxy
5 Park Road, Miramar, Wellington
CoCo at the Roxy is a café, restaurant and bar located in a cinema in the heart of Wellington’s creative film industry.
In a relaxed but elegant Art Deco-inspired space, CoCo serves up excellent food by head chef Nic Spicer and cocktails devised by CoCo’s award-winning bartender and local legend Ray Letoa. With a menu that goes for fun and flavour over formality, Coco's cuisine is informed by tastes from around the globe whilst utilising the best produce our region has to offer.
The Black Sparrow
10 Majoribanks Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington
This 1930s themed Lounge and Drinkery is a step back in time to old world glamour with a vibe inspired by 1930s literary salons.
Located in the former orchestra pit of the Embassy Theatre, The Black Sparrow’s décor reflects the original style of the theatre with art deco furnishings, tiled floors and a marble staircase. Try one of their innovative cocktails named after classic movies and novels or tuck into tapas-style dishes. A perfect spot before or after a movie, or a destination in its own right.
53 Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington
Climb the flight of stairs from the bustle of Courtenay Place and step into a library unlike one you’ve ever experienced. The Library is a cosy lounge bar where the walls are lined with books (which you can pick up and read) and the bar serves cocktails with fictional and non-fictional themes.
But don’t let the name fool you entirely, The Library isn’t a quiet place of silent reading and regularly hosts live music. As well as cocktails, there’s a dessert menu (which is two for the price of one each Tuesday) and a cheese menu. The Library is the perfect place for a pre- or post-show drink or a late-night place to meet friends.