Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Hooch

If 42Below is going to hold another Cocktail World Cup in Wellington, Hooch is going to need buy some more shot glasses. That said, for a bar to be inundated by the assorted drinking Illuminati and round after round of Montys, and my only negative statement to be a lack of shot glasses, it really says a lot.

I can’t say I had the chance to make my way through the list, but the Old Pal Chris Hysted pulled together in his head from the back bar tasted pretty good later in the evening, the shots of Maraschino, taken from egg cups, were also more palatable than I expected.

The fries are a lifesaver later in the night. The little upstairs saloon holds a handful of small tables and a couple of cosy nooks. Beware if you sit under the horns, the wallpaper does strange things to your head after one too many.

Owned by the same team that bought you Hawthorn lounge, a stumble down Tory St.

Upstairs, 46 Courtenay Place
Te Aro 6011, New Zealand

On Google Maps here.

This is the last in the series of fantastic bars I visited in Wellington. It’s a great town, and one of the world’s great bar cities. If you’re into good food, great bars and a well mixed drink. Jump a plane today.

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Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Havana Bar

Havana is to Wellington’s drinking scene what Fidel Castro was to Cuba.

This place stands for something different. A different set of rules.

It might not be as shiny as the other bars, the staff might be just a little bit more tattooed and pierced than the rest of the crews on Cuba St, the crowd might be what a well mannered, compassionate conservative would describe as ‘colorful’

Despite this, and more than just a little bit because of it, this is a place you have to visit. Spontaneous music at the front of the house, pulling in anyone who’s game. Genuine, loud laughter out back, its a place that rocks.

Great selection of rums, grab a measure and a beer back and find a seat out back.

32 Wigan Street, Te Aro 6011, New Zealand‎ – (04) 384 7041‎

On Google Maps here.

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Cocktail, New Zealand

The Drake

I wrote a few days ago about Ben Simpson’s amazing Gunpowder Rum, here is the first of a limited series of cocktails that feature the unique spirit.

The Drake

30ml Man O’War Gunpowder Rum
20ml Havana Club 7yr
3 fresh hulled strawberries
20ml balsamic drizzle syrup (available from good deli’s)
2 dashes simple syrup
5 basil leaves

Muddle all except alcohol. Add the rums and shake resolutely.
Strain into chilled martini glass (either modern or antique cut crystal from a junk shop).

Garnish: sprig of basil and whole strawberry on rim of glass, finish with grind of black pepper.

Named after Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), some time favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.
The combination of strawberries, balsamic and black pepper is from the Elizabethan age, while Drake was active in the Caribbean as a privateer. To the Spanish speaking peoples of the area he was known as ‘El Draque’ and famous for his exploits taking gold from the Spanish who were, in their turn, on their way home from plundering the Americas.

It is said that an early form of the Mojito was drunk in the Caribbean during the 16th Century and was called ‘El Draque’. Ben would be interested to see historical proof of this.

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Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Motel

Motel is pretty famous. Apart from being the home of Gunpowder Rum, denying elfin princess Liv Tyler entry and having one of the most impressive back bars of any bar, anywhere, Motel is the only place 42 Below vodka Professor Jacob Briars has ever been fired from mutually agreed with management that it is time to move on.

I pressed him for details, but he evaded my inquisition with a deft and ruthless efficiency. In the absence of fact, I’ll just have to make something up. This is the small chance I had imbibed to much to remember his tale, but that’s not how I recall things.

Knowing Jacob as a man of principle, I suspect he went under duress, fighting for the rights of the disestablished proletariat. For those of you unburdened by a comprehensive legal and political indoctrination like the one you would find, at say, Victoria University atop Wellington’s ivory hills, I’ve included the following diagram to assist you.

Despite his forebears land ownership in the lilting valleys near the Orinoco Flow, Jacob maintains a fanatical belief in a governments ability to perpetuate bureaucracy, thereby creating enough jobs to employ everyone for a period of approximately six days before the collapse of the economy and the reversion to subsistence farming.

It was in this vein then , that Jacob went into bat for poor Roger ‘Tom’ Thumb, nightsoilman, cabin boy and erstwhile dishbrush at Motel. Seeing the poor lad ruled, fooled and shot at, without a scrap to eat, Jacob stepped in with an ultimatum – “Conditions improve, or I’m out of here”

The downside of this tale is all Roger’s, I’m afraid. Doomed to a life amongst the Lumpen-proletariat, he was not heard from again. Jacob however stayed true to his working class principles, flogging pricey grain spirit, flavoured with an old French perfumers technique and contributing an admirable 46 tonnes of carbon to the Earth’s atmosphere, on a weekly basis. It is surely true what they say, the way to fight the system is from inside it.

Segue over, Motel is one of Wellington’s finest bars, and Ben Simpson, one of its finest tenders. Seriously a must visit to see the experiments underway (3yr old pear infused vodka, a highlight), to drink the history of a place, and perhaps a few Gunpowder draughts as well.

A must visit while you’re in town.

Level 1/4th Forresters Lane, Te Aro 6011, New Zealand‎ – (04) 384 9084‎

On Google Maps here.

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New Zealand, Spirit

Man O’War Gunpowder Rum

So many unique spirits are produced far from the shark filled, reef bound seas of the Oceanic South Pacific. It seems like I’m constantly reading about a new candyfloss vodka in New York, Mezcal slipping over the border into SoCal or tiny batch production of frozen vacuum gin.

The candyfloss vodka I can do without, but the other stuff just pisses me off. It’s with a smug look, then,  that I write about Man O’War Gunpowder Rum.

A one man operation in Wellington, blending rums, infusing with chili, tobacco and real old timey muzzle loading musket powder. Man O’War has a two week maturation before the dregs are removed and the product wrapped and readied for sale. (Early brews were delivering a heavy blow to any foolish enough to take the last of the bottle, an extreme laxative effect had the poor souls “running the Spanish Main”. Ben Simpson, of Motel Bar in Wellington is behind the brand, and while his cottage methods mean standards vary, (each bottle is described ‘unique’) the Gunpowder Rum has developed a fast following around the seven seas.

Gunpowder Rum harks back to a time when the naval ration was ‘proved’ by the men of the line, to check that the officers had not bought cheap or badly distilled product or worse, watered the spirit down. High proofs with methanol present would flame and flare, revealing their danger. Rum with too much water would hold no flame at all and well made rum would hold a flame that burned true.

While gunpowder varied wildly and means that the test would be open to wide interpretation, it makes for a colourful and engaging legend. As I’ve said before, if you have to choose between truth and the legend, choose the legend.

Certainly it doesn’t require much imagination to think of other ways Gunpowder and Rum might have come to taken together. Either through smuggling both as contraband or use as antiseptic and preservative on the long sea passage, or maybe like the soldiers of Sierra Leone, they mixed narcotic intoxicant with the black powder simply because between those two things was life, and altogether not much else.

The rum itself is strongly flavoured and adds the ‘funk’ that many old books cite as the epiphany Jamaican Rum brought to drinks, tiki styled or else. If like me you like a tale, it adds much more than taste. Making Grog with gunpowder really feels all the more authentic.

Ben has not stopped at a single product line. In 2012, the first bottles of Powder Keg will be available, after a three year maturation on a bed of soil taken from a cemetery and used in a bloody voodoo ritual. Methinks it does not pay to be a fowl of Ben Simpson.

If a bottle you must have, the Man O’War facebook page is probably your best bet to arrange safe passage. Usually a complex system of barter is required.

I’ll post a couple of the signature cocktails Ben has come up with here in the next couple of days too.

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Bar, New Zealand, Restaurant

On Tour: Logan Brown

Ok, so Logan Brown is really a more of a restaurant than a bar, but I have a connection here that drew me back like a moth to a flame.

Logan Brown is the first place I can remember making the jump from from mixed drinks and the occasional shaker/shooter into the esteemed and wonderful world of the cocktail proper. This transition was not heralded by anything as lofty as a desire to become (more) stylish, cultured or storied. I was, like many before me, led to the shrine of the fancy drink by the wiles of a hot female bartender. I forget how many drinks I purchased, or hours I spent, but obviously in the end it was completely time well spent. Back in Wellington for the first time in years, I simply had to make time for a visit.

Cuba St is a revelation to all who love good food and drink, a colorful stroll up the mall and one block more will deposit you on the corner of Vivian and Cuba, looking across the intersection at the old time bank that houses Logan Brown.

Enter, take a stool at the bar and ask for a free table for lunch. Stick to the classics; well made G&T’s, hand shaken daiquiris, a Negroni or two. The wine list is also fantastic.

I couldn’t finish without mention of the food. Chef’s Steve and Al love the access to ingredients that New Zealand affords, and the menu reflects that. Game, Kai Moana (The bounty of the Sea) and the best vegetables available dress the plates.  You must try Paua Ravioli, New Zealand’s native abalone, encased in perfect pasta pockets, swimming in a lime beurre blanc. I think it’s worth flying around the world for.

All round a great place for fine food, cold drinks and engaging company. Just like this lovely bunch at the bar really.
192 Cuba Street, Wellington 6141, New Zealand‎ – (04) 801 5114‎

On Google maps here, and online here as well.

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Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Matterhorn

Excuse me if I gush a while, this place deserves it.

Just past the Bucket Fountain, on, a little, up the street.

To your left there lies a corridor, down which things, they are, well, sweet.

Whether you’ve come to drink the night away, or nose poke, for a look.

Swing the doors, inhale, smile, it’s the right decision that you’ve took.

I love this place. The Horn has been a Wellington institution since it opened in 1963. Serving Wellington’s soul with fine food, drinks and the very definition of hospitality. The restaurant serves up well prepared cuisine, check out this amazing Rabbit Terrine, my entree.

It can be hard to get your first drink, but once you’ve the attention at the bar, carefully prepared libation will appear with perfect regularity. The staff are tight and love the place they work, you can taste the love in every sip.

A great list, 381 bottles on the back bar and a stellar wine list  make this place a real delight. It has been home to many of the talents of New Zealand bartending, and many drinks have popped into existence here, including the Bacchus Riesling and the Falling Water.

Truly a place in the world to visit, cherish and share. Go, Now.

106 Cuba Street
Te Aro 6011, New Zealand
(04) 384 3359

On Google maps, here.

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Cocktail, MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #28: The World’s Biggest Flip

Flips are notoriously hard to get right. the taste, the consistency and the fact most people seem to have some issue with eating raw eggs (they will not, so long as they are fresh) all work against them. It was with some degree of trepidation, then, that I took part in the World’s largest flip last night at Hawthorn.

The World’s Biggest Flip.

To start, combine 13 eggs with 300mls of cream. whisk to ensure a smooth consistency.

In a 42Below Magnum, combine 250mls PX Sherry, 180mls 42Below Manuka Honey vodka, the egg and cream mixture, 1 bottle (750 mls) 42Below Pure vodka. Shake well. Pour into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with fresh spices. Serves 25.

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Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Hawthorn Lounge

Up the dark stairs you’ll find a quiet and refined gem of a bar serving up storied drinks with a great degree of care and humor.

Try the Pedro Jimenez Flip. awesome. Take 25 friends along with you and have it shaken up in a 42 magnum.

Just one little shameless plug, I’ve been taking photos on a Canon Powershot S90 compact camera. It is absolutely the best low light bar camera I have ever used. It sucks up light and captures the feel of a bar without drowning everything in a flash.

Find it here on Google maps.
82 Tory Street
Te Aro 6011
(04) 890 3724
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