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Six of the best bars in Wellington

Apr 27, 2017  ·  4 min read

words by niall roeder

Like most cities, the best bars in Wellington are hidden gems, well known to locals and found in unexpected places. Themed public houses and drinkeries seem to pop up in back alleys, art galleries and re-imagined spaces, and if not for the interwebs, thirsty visitors might walk straight past them none the wiser.

From the boutique to the clandestine, all bursting with character and serving fine tipple – we look at 6 of the best bars in Wellington.

Black Sparrow
You’ll find this charming 1930s style speakeasy hiding beneath the Embassy Theatre at Courtney Place. The name is a shout to the boozey poet, Charles Bukowski, who wrote for the Black Sparrow publishing house. They offer a place to “delve into fine details of swig, fare and delightful company” and they offer it well. Tip – with Ardbeg Islay whisky, pear brandy and lemon juice, A Streetcar Named Desire is a fine balance of smokey, sweet and sour.

Poquito Bar
Besides pouring legit cocktails and being home to a solid whisky assortment, the crew at Poquito Bar take pride in their banter, music selection and the fact that they aren’t in the Courtenay Place crew. This joint has character. Tip – you can’t go wrong with live music and seven or eight whisky sours, can you?

Havana Bar
An award-winning Cuban bar serving up exotic cocktails and cutting edge tapas located in one of Wellington’s rustic historic cottages. If you don’t’ like the sound of that, you’re a square and we don’t have time for you. Tip – nibble on some roast pork belly with caramelised pear puree and pomegranate, and wash it down with a chargrilled jalapeno margarita or a glass of Ellero Pisa Terrace Riesling.

CGR Merchant & Co
A candy store for gin fanatics and rum aficionados, the quirky CGR Merchant & Co is found above a dark staircase in Courtenay Place. The joint is beautifully arranged, expertly lit and offers a wonderful range of homemade gin and rum experiments. Tip – With a name like, ‘The Earl of Egmont’s upbeet, backstreet boogie’ this thing has to be good. It involves beetroot and raspberry infused Havana 3 year, sweet vermouth, cynar, pecan orgeat and lime marmalade.

Hawthorn Lounge
Dimly lit and channelling the 20s and 30s feel like Black Sparrow, the HL will take you on a spiritual journey… as in a tasting trip from the OG cocktails through to modern favourites and onto cutting-edge Frankenstein concoctions. Tip – The Chimp and the Nashi is intriguing, tasty and hard to describe – so try it for yourself and let us know your thoughts.

The Chimp and the Nashi

A post shared by Hawthorn Lounge (@hawthornlounge) on

Hippopotamus
It’s an opulent and comfy cocktail bar, in a restaurant, in a hotel, that’s an art gallery. Boozy high teas, conversational cocktails and people watching is the go here. Tip – a delicious, adventurous and absurd cocktail called the “Most Expensive Thing On The Menu”. It’ll set you back $99 and is “a drink marrying Tres, Cuattro, Cinco Tequila, Chartreuse Verte, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lime and finished with a cherry on top”.


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