The Best Cocktail Bars in Christchurch, New Zealand

Old Fashioned | © Jazz Guy / Flickr
Old Fashioned | © Jazz Guy / Flickr
Photo of Joe Coates
10 February 2018

There’s nothing quite like Friday afternoon for getting you in the mood to let your hair down and have a bit of a knees-up. If you happen to be in the Garden City of Christchurch, here are some of the best cocktail bars to visit when in need of a powerful restorative.

The Dirty Land

Cocktail Bar, Mexican, Beer
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Margarita Mexican-style
Margarita Mexican-style | © Melissa Weise / Flickr

This is a fantastic, dimly-lit bar that oozes secretive sophistication. It’s the sort of joint in which James Bond would meet up with his devastatingly beautiful femme fatale, only to be rudely interrupted by assassins. It’s all dark surfaces and clean lines. The cocktails are impeccable too, and the food is simple Mexican, quick to arrive and tasty. It’s all too easy to neck a few of their smooth margaritas, which sometimes requires the counter-measure of a lightning-fast brace of tacos.

Dux Central

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, European, Pub Grub, Beer, $$$
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Tom Collins Refresher
Tom Collins Refresher | © anax44 / Flickr

One of the main draw-cards for the Dux Central is that it has some lovely outdoor seating for being right in the middle of the city. If you want to score maximum points on a date then you could do little better than taking the apple of your eye to this Christchurch institution. Yes, they do make their own brilliant beer, but the cocktails are real mind-blowers that’ll get you fizzing for a night on the town. The food is also excellent, and the fact that there are several bars makes getting your favourite cocktail an even easier activity. Our recommendation for a hot day seated outside is one of their Tom Collins concoctions.

The Poplar Social Club

Cocktail Bar, European, Beer
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Espresso Martini
Espresso Martini | © andreasgr92 / Flickr

Right next to the Dux Central is the sophisticated and exclusive-sounding Poplar Social Club. This bar reeks of that old speakeasy charm. It’s dark and cosy and the perfect place to meet up with good friends for a good chat. They do serve food of the bar-snack variety, but the focus here is on the drinks, and the magical potions that the skilled bartenders can create. A lovely quirk is that, if you’re not much of a cocktail aficionado, you can spin a wheel on the wall have the bartender whip you up whatever it lands on. Come here for an after-dinner espresso martini and you won’t want to leave.

Dragons Den

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Street Food
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A Couple of Snifters
A Couple of Snifters | © Neil Conway / Flickr

If you want to be privy to the most unique bar in Christchurch then look no further. Dragons Den is only open for 15 hours a week, so it’s not just the sort of place that you toddle into one evening by mistake. For one, it’s only open until 4.30pm. This means that this really is a place for a mid-afternoon bite and a snifter or two, before you head back to reality and whatever you have to do in the evening. It’s reminiscent of a speakeasy – if the speakeasy was in Hong Kong. The thing that sticks in the mind is the decor. All beautiful leather sofas and light-box art. There’s no other place like it in town. Perhaps even the South Island.

Vesuvio Jazz and Tapas Bar

Cocktail Bar, Bar, Wine Bar, European, Tapas, Spanish, Mediterranean, $$$
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Moscow Mule
Moscow Mule | © Wine Dharma / Flickr

Tucked away and off the main street, Vesuvio Jazz and Tapas Bar is exactly the sort of establishment that you’d expect to find down a picturesque alleyway in Madrid or some other Spanish city. What with the combination of excellent wine, beautiful tapas and live music, this is one of those bars that you can take a seat in and stay all night. The bar staff are skilled in the art of the cocktail, which is what you’d expect in a watering hole that has all the other bases so effectively covered. Plonk yourself down for a while and grab a Moscow Mule.

The Institution

Bar, European, Beer, Pub Grub, $$$
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Caipirinha
Caipirinha | © David Schiersner / Flickr

The Institution is just that; an institution dedicated to the art of a good bit of tipple. They have an excellent selection of craft beer, but if you want a little sip of the manna then it’s recommended that you grab yourself one of their fine cocktails. Why not try a Caipirinha – Cachaça, fresh lime and palm sugar served over cracked ice and garnished with dehydrated lime snaps. Just what a summer’s day asks for.

Madam Woo

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Fusion, Soul Food, $$$
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A Brace of Mai Tais
A Brace of Mai Tais | © Sam Howzit / Flickr

If there was one place in which your first order should be a Singapore Sling or a Mai Tai than this is it. With its funky interior decor and snazzy drinks and food selection, Madam Woo’s boasts attitude in spades. The food is a delightful Asian-inspired fusion, and the cocktails made with the best quality ingredients.

Boo Radley's Food and Liquor

Bar, Cocktail Bar, North American, Beer, Pub Grub, $$$
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Naughty Milkshakes
Naughty Milkshakes | © Kurman Communications Inc. / Flickr

Every city needs an American-themed bar, and Boo Radley’s hits the perfect balance as far as American bars go. It’s what you think of as quintessentially Southern American without being overbearingly so. The best part: the ‘Grown-up Milkshake’, which is a white chocolate & strawberry shake made from French strawberry liqueur, Chambord, white choc shavings & vanilla ice cream, topped with frozen berries. Yep, you heard that right. She’s a good ‘un.

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