Wellington’s bustling bar scene is set to please cocktail connoisseurs on a night out. There’s an array of hip establishments to quench your thirst if you’re venturing into New Zealand’s quaint capital city. To help you in your nightly explorations, here are 10 of the best venues in town.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, European, Contemporary, $$$
Talk about a winning combination! This great little cocktail bar manages to transport you to a bygone time whilst simultaneously giving you the full experience of contemporary Wellington. The cocktails are incredible, and the mixologists highly capable of whipping you up something that you’ll love — even if you walk in not knowing what you want. Just tell them what flavours you dig, and they’ll come up with something special just for you. As the name suggests, there are also crumpets like you’ve never seen them, available to be snacked on. There are both savoury and sweet options, but you won’t be disappointed either way.
If you’re after a new local haunt in the Wellington CBD, then we think we may have found just the one for you. Poquito is a little place, but it has huge amounts of heart and soul. You can pop in here before work and grab an absolute corker of a coffee and a bagel, head in at lunch for something a little more substantial, or settle in for the evening, and try out a few of their choice cocktails. Honestly, these guys have got all your needs covered throughout the day, and they also play some of the best tracks that you’re likely to hear in a Wellington cafe or bar; that’s saying a lot.
Hawthorn Lounge is a sleek cocktail establishment, renowned for its chic, classic vibes as well as a rich drinks menu. They pride themselves on tailoring their cocktails to suit all moods and tastes. If you’re wanting to try something different, you could always opt for the Seasonal and Unusual Selections, including the Eats Shoots and Leaves, with its unique blend of mint sponge, chocolate dirt, meringue, crème anglaise with orange blossom, and honey milk jelly.
Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Chinese, Contemporary, $$$
Eastern tradition meets worldly cocktails in this stylish bar and restaurant. All of Ancestral’s mixes have a special sassiness, with a distinctive Asian flavour to match. The Green Gang, made with gin, elderflower liqueur, ginger liqueur, green tabasco, egg white, cucumber, lime and matcha green tea, was inspired by 1920s Shanghai mobsters who dominated the Chinese underworld. The Red Light, made with mescal, plum syrup, creme de cacao, beetroot, orange and egg, also alludes to the darker side of Shanghai dealings.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, European, Oceanian, $$$
Since its humble beginnings as a Swiss coffeehouse, Matterhorn has evolved into a dynamic restaurant, café and cocktail bar with a solid live music scene. Their diverse selection of thirst-quenching mixes include the Indian Runner, composed of 42 Below Passionfruit vodka, cranberry juice, mango nectar, lime and absinthe, and the Butter-Washed Jalab, which is a concoction of whisky, Thai coconut syrup, chocolate bitters, mint and — for a special sensory twist — a scented candle.
True to form, this friendly establishment’s cool ambiance is complimented by the books all around. Not only that, The Library boasts an eclectic cocktail menu that is bound to please the most adventurous imbibers. Among their house favourites, you’ll find the Apple Pie Daiquiri: rum, apple, fresh lime, spiced bitters and a cinnamon sugar rim. For something more luxurious, you could always opt for the First Class to Paris: French brandy, Pinot Noir syrup, sugar, bitters and a sparkling wine topping.
This cozy cocktail bar is discreetly tucked away in an upstairs Courtenay Place location. Its initials, C.G.R., stand for Coffee, Gin and Rum, so you know you’re getting a good fill from this place. Spicy, flavourful and exotic concoctions are the norm in this establishment. The Salted Caramel Rum, infused with coffee syrup and chocolate bitters, is a popular contender. Other esteemed classics include the Gin-Gerbread Fizz and the Spice-Infused Havana Club Anejo Special Rum.
Chow is an Asian-Fusion favourite with a compelling selection of drinks. Organic ingredients feature heavily in their offerings, which are renowned for coming under 150 calories. Their Vanilla Vodka Cocktail was invented in-house, and has gained so much traction that it is now served all over the globe. Sober night owls will be happy to know that their selection of non-alcoholic cocktails is quite diverse, and practically as good as the real thing.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Fusion, Contemporary, $$$
Dragonfly is a leader in the industry in Wellington when it comes to Asian-fusion dining. The food is simply top-class, and the cocktails are in a league of their own, especially when you consider that the primary focus could be said to be on the stuff coming out of the kitchen. The flavours are bold and sophisticated. There are plenty of old classics you can opt for, or else try something a little more experimental.
The fact that this fantastic little bar isn’t on Cuba Street or Courtenay Place scores massive points with locals who want to escape the tourist crowd. It is, essentially, everything you come to expect when you stay in the city for any length of time. It’s quirky, and the word “hipster” comes quickly to peoples’ lips when asked to describe it. It has none of the negative connotations that sometimes accompany that term. Yes, there may be a few elaborate moustaches about, and plenty of tattoos on display, but the staff are friendly and informative, the vibe mellow, and the drinks are certified humdingers!