You Need To Visit Travel Guide
Whether you’re looking for margaritas in the sunshine or a negroni in a cozy hidden bar, there are tons of options for cocktail bars in Wellington, and they’re some of the best in the Southern Hemisphere. It was hard to narrow down the list of the best Wellington cocktail bars, but we’ve tried to include a range, from the cheaper student favorites to a classy hotel bar and some laneway hideaways.
So, here I am going to share with you all the top 10 recommendations for cocktail bars in Wellington that may tickle your fancy and your tastebuds. While, I did my traveling around Wellington in the days of New Year to about the 4th of January, 2023 I was joined by my partner FireTheLier to visit and do some fun stuff along with also sightseeing of what is left of some history of New Zealand.
So, Let’s begin the tour around Wellington with the recommendations to give to you all about the cocktail bars if you’re into these:
Nightflower arrived in town a few years ago and is now possibly Wellington’s most popular cocktail bar. It has a prime position upstairs on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee streets, with balconies overlooking Cuba Street where you can people-watch while sipping on your bespoke cocktail. As you can see from the image they are now known as working under Ascot in Wellington too.
Nightflower is a bar for the most elite, expensive, and exclusive to hide away upstairs for an evening — which is probably why I couldn’t find it on my first go with FireTheLier.
Hidden unassumingly between Cuba Street’s 1154 Pastaria and The Rogue & Vagabond the dark wooden sign above tells those in the know they’re home, and keeps the late-night wanderer, unknown Wellingtonian or ferocious partier firmly on the Ghuznee Street pavement, forever passing by.
Despite not being able to find the place the two of us decided to try and find another few bars yet this one we were gutted to not find along with also Crumpet the Cocktail Bar people recommended for us to try also.
Yet, if you do come to this bar of Nightflower you will be gestured into a dark booth lit only by a short candle and the Night ‘n Day on Cuba Street,
.With a rich background in bartending (previously of Hawthorn Lounge fame) and the deepest passion for mixing the right alcoholic flavors, there was no one better suited for such a space.
Rinwick Boon (formerly from Crumpet, he owns the place) makes the citrusy syrup that fills your glass. With a careful hand-selected gin (it’s not just Beefeater here) the result is a light, tangy, and refreshing lemonade-style drink — I just wish they had a couple of beanbags lying around and offered this drink in a pitcher because this drink is a Wellington summer’s dream.
Night Flower is the place you yearn to be at, but always think is a bit too posh for you. It’s a large space, dark and open, and I can see why it’s become a safe house for local celebs wanting an evening escape — it’s not hard to lose yourself in a solitary nook. It’s luxurious — the jazz becomes more exotic as the hours go on, and the ingredients are fresh and wildly over-perfected (make sure to try the English Milk Punch).
Nightflower’s differentiating factor is that they have no menu. Sure, they can do the classic cocktails if you ask, but the idea here is to tell the bartender what you like (smoky or sour, sweet and fruity or savory and herby), and then they’ll make up something to suit your tastes. I’ve never had them get it wrong and you can get a completely different drink every time you go.
Tucked above Night Flower, the rooftop bar The Ascot is also a bit of a secret spot. Wind your way up a few flights of stairs and you’ll find yourself in a low-key bar with slightly shabby decor and some serious Melbourne vibes. Natural wines are the specialty here. Pick a tipple from the short and sweet list which changes daily. If wine ain’t your thang, opt for a beer or the usual spirits to quench your thirst.
As for food, chow down on a hotdog with all the trimmings, or go for a ‘Notdog’ – a veggie version with a carrot filling. Trust the local’s recommendations for this as it’s good.
2 Hawthorn Lounge
Hawthorn Lounge is tucked away at the end of an easily missable corridor on Tory Street which is in keeping with the 1920s speakeasy style of the bar. It’s the kind of place that manages to be dark and gloomy in a glamorous way.
This is a great spot to bring a date as the booths and small tables feel very private and romantic due to the lamp lighting. For drinks, we really liked their darker cocktails like the negroni but the menu changes often so there’s always something new and seasonal to try.
3 CGR Merchant
CGR in this case stands for Cocktail, Gin, and Rum and this bar really is a top-quality merchant of all three. They do their own gin infusions like rhubarb and coconut gin or banoffee gin and then use them in delicious cocktails like the banoffee espresso martini.
We like that this bar is in the middle of the Courtenay Place party area but also removed from the chaos at the street level. The bar isn’t all that big so you’ll want to come early if you can but it’s buzzing and friendly inside.
4 Hanging Ditch
Hanging Ditch is in the awesome Hannah’s Laneway which we love for all things food and drink. The décor in here is super cool with lots of (empty) spirits bottles hanging from the ceiling. It’s also very cozy and laidback with most of the seating in couches and armchairs. definitely the kind of place you mean to drop into for a drink and end up spending all night at.
Hanging Ditch is one of the cheaper bars on this list with a range of simple cocktails under $20 and then more unique and pricier options going up from there.
5 Havana Bar
Havana Bar isn’t technically a dedicated cocktail bar, they focus on cocktails and wine as well, but we go for the amazing cocktail.
It’s in a colourful converted heritage house just behind Cuba Street and near the Lighthouse Cinema (post-movie drinks?). The house set-up is quite good for bigger groups as there’s a bit more space than many of the more intimate cocktail bars.
Havana’s cocktails are mostly around the $20 mark and include a classic, seasonal, and Cuban range with cheap mojitos on Fridays.
6 Library Bar
Library Bar is where we used to go as students in Wellington when we had something to celebrate or wanted to pretend that we were classy. It’s still the bar where you’re most likely to run into drunk uni students but their clientele is broader than that. True to the theme, the bar is lined with bookshelves holding actual books and they often do literary-themed cocktails.
Library Bar is particularly good for events as they come up with some awesome cocktails for Wellington on a Plate as well as seasonal Easter cocktails and things like that. Very Instagrammable. They do 2-for-1 cocktails on Wednesday but be warned that that’s when all the students go and get messy. Otherwise, drinks range from $17 to $34.
Crumpet is the kind of place you’ve probably walked past a few times and haven’t been quite sure what it’s about.
The name suggests breakfast, but they don’t open until after lunch, although they do serve savory crumpets as bar snacks.
Crumpet is kind of the back entrance to the Opera House (we went to a show once and ended up exiting through the bar) and it’s perfectly located for pre-show drinks. Cocktails here are more of the classic varieties.
The sister bar to Library, Lovebite is one of the newest bars in the city and has a quirky 80s-style concept. Between the vintage-themed décor (think jukeboxes and Pacman) and the creative menu, we can guarantee you won’t get bored.
While the Forrester’s Lane location looks like a derelict back alley, it’s been home to a few different bars over the years, but we hope Lovebite is here to stay. Cocktails here are on the cheaper end, starting around $14, and they also have ‘cocktail bottles’ that you can share between a few mates.
We had to include one waterfront option for those sunny days when you just want to be outside. Foxglove is the super spacious bar right on Queens Wharf. We like that it has indoor and outdoor options for those days when it’s sunny but still freezing.
Their cocktails aren’t as standout as some of the specialist bars further up this list but they do all the classics well. That said, Foxglove is super popular in summer so book ahead if you want a prime after-work spot on the balcony.
10 Hot Sauce
Hot Sauce is the hotel restaurant/bar of QT Wellington, one of our favourite luxury accommodations in Wellington. But rather than being a generic hotel bar, it’s a trendy and high-end Asian fusion restaurant that does awesome cocktail pairings. This is another one to hit up around Wellington on a Plate time as their creations are always outstanding.
As most of these awesome Wellington cocktail bars are concentrated around the city center and particularly the Courtenay Place area, you could easily hit up a few in an evening as a DIY cocktail crawl. Otherwise keep the list in your back pocket for date night, birthdays, or the Cocktail Wellington Festival (part of Wellington on a Plate).