The Best Bars in Wellington New Zealand

Windy Wellington produced a weekend of great food and exceptional drinking. The quality of the bars in Wellington is on par with the best drinking metropolises in the world, from vibrant Cuban drinking holes to secluded, dark and personable speakeasies, Wellington has something for everyone. Boasting more bars and restaurants per capita than New York we are happy to present our best bars of Wellington.

Havana Bar – Great cocktail in a vibrant setting (Photo: Pat Shephard)

Havana Bar – 32a-34 Wigan St, Te Aro Wellington

You may have read our article on the Havana Coffee Traders, and if you thought they were bang on with their coffee production you’ll love what they’re doing with their bar. Havana finds itself set back from the main roads in two distinctively colourful houses. The staff and the music create a vibrant atmosphere, while the menu will intrigue even the most seasoned drinker. James starts with a house twist of a classic Pina Colada (yolo right?) and I opt for the Roasted Rhubarb Ron Collins, a variation on the classic using rum and a refreshing rhubarb puree. Both are equally delicious and suit the vibe of the place perfectly. To follow we decide to go all out and grab a couple of Hasta Mañana’s ($25). A cigar smoked old fashion with Havana marmalade, flambéed citrus and Herradura tequila. This is a drink to sip and savour, which we did before moving onto C.G.R Merchants. (WWW)

CGR Merchants – It’s simple and it works

CGR Merchants – 46 Courtenay Place, Wellington

Perched above a dimly light stairway just off the main road through Wellington CGR Merchants is the new kid on the block. CGR (Coffee, Gin, Rum) is focused on creating variations on classic cocktails using their own infusions. Using Stolen Rum (a New Zealand owned Rum doing some amazing things) as the base for their infusions they test the palates of their customers by throwing together interesting and amazing combinations.

On this particular night, we kicked things off with the simply mind-blowing Salted Caramel Old Fashioned (Salted Caramel infused Stolen Dark, stirred with Kola Nut syrup, Chocolate bitters & Orange twist – $18). As James and I had our debut sip we stopped, looked at each other and laughed commenting, “Well, that’s the nicest things I’ve ever put in my mouth”. Beautifully smooth flavours with the aromas of the chocolate bitters finishing off each sip wonderfully.  The fun didn’t stop there as we moved on to the Pear and Vanilla Rum Sour (Pear and Vanilla Infused Havana 3 yr, shaken with lime juice, egg white and vanilla syrup – $16) – a refreshing turn from the Old Fashioned and a great palate cleanser.  

Everything CGR threw at us we loved, and if it wasn’t for an early rise the next day we could have sat their all night swirling our glasses, discussing life’s problems and working our way around the list over and over again. A must do if ever in Wellington.

The Library – Intimate seating with a touch of mystery

The Library – Level 1/53 Courtenay Place, Wellington

A discreet entry, a nicely dressed doorman and a long walk up to a bustling bar – welcome to The Library. Books line the walls while scattered chesterfields house chatting patrons, it feels like the hidden corner of an old English mansion. We do what all tourists should do and take a seat at the bar, immediately sparking a conversation with the barman – a knowledgeable Gent with a soft spot for excellent whisky. The Library offers a small food menu and a generous cocktail list, we opt for an Old Fashioned (no surprises there). Classically made with Gentleman’s Jack and a chunk of ice you couldn’t jump over a great start. James then scans the whisky shelf and stops abruptly at the Auchentoshan Three Wood, a Lowland single malt matured in 3 different casks, namely: Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks, bourbon casks and Oloroso sherry. A great whisky made even better by the sphere of ice accompanying it. The Library is a great place for a small group to come and nestle in for a session of fine bar food and top end drinking. (WWW)

Hawthorn Lounge – The perfect setting for a late night drink

Hawthorn Lounge – 82 Tory St, Te Aro, Wellington

It seems all the best bars in Wellington require a short walk up a dark set of starts, and Hawthorn is no different. After strolling past the non-descript door a couple of times we finally pin point the entrance and make our way in. Hawthorn is a world class cocktail bar out with the pretentious overtones that so often accompany such establishments. The crowd is a great mix of young and old, some in groups, some like us just up for a quiet drink (or 5). The drinks menu (pictured) is a stripped back selection of classics, allowing the bartenders to get personal with their patrons and create drinks based on  their likes/dislikes. Before diving into some seriously good whisky we are presented with a Chartreuse Bloody Mary – a signature cocktail of the venue and the best damn Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. An unexplainable combination of herbs, spices and aromatics come together with a house made tomato mix and Chartreuse – an amazing take on the classic.

Hawthorn lounge is a drinker’s paradise, the Whisky selection is phenomenal (think Ardbog & Tallisker 57º North) and the cocktails are simply brilliant, most of all it’s not ridiculously over priced. For the ultimate experience we recommend planting yourself at the bar and letting the staff take you on a beverage fuelled journey like no other.

The very imaginative cocktail menu at Hawthorn Bar

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