Claire wears Alaïa dress & Alexandre Vauthier beret, both from Faradays, and Serpenti Viper necklace, earrings, bracelet and rings, all from Bulgari.
Negroni on tap from Bar Non Solo.
Selection of cocktails from Sunset Bar.
Coconut chilli margarita from Andiamo.

My Year Of Magical Drinking: Our Editor-in-Chief gets acquainted with the city’s finest drinking establishments

In this regular new column, our Editor-in-chief embraces her long-held passion for dining, sharing the unexpected, fascinating and delicious experiences from restaurants, bars, pops-up and cheap and cheerful spots all across the country. With the days getting longer, and the sun making a welcome reappearance, she embarks on a different type of gastronomic discovery — one of the liquid persuasion, and learns that the City is well equipped to fulfil any and all of your libation needs.

I had just returned from a rather harrowing three weeks in Queenstown that involved a Herculean trifecta of school holidays, young, demanding children and daily skiing among throngs of lunatics. Need I say more? It was a gruelling period that left me (understandably) craving some kind of relaxing elixir to soothe my body and mind, which led me to think about where exactly in Auckland I would go to find the kind of satiating, expertly-made libations I wanted. Deciding to make this the subject of my latest ‘My Year of Magical Eating’ extravaganza, I undertook a series of extremely pleasant evenings, sans-children, imbibing a variety of delectable tipples, some of the alcoholic persuasion, and even some very impressive mocktails — all strictly in the name of research, of course. Herewith, is my recent deep dive into Auckland’s cocktail scene.


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Herne Bay is home to several watering holes and fine dining establishments, but as a local who has been residing in the area for decades, it’s Andiamo that I return to week after week for their delicious take on Italian cuisine, their superb cocktails, and to capture the last moments of the setting sun. My most recent visit involved a large group of ladies, who descended upon the iconic bistro from far-flung exotic locales such as Remuera and Parnell, all ‘gagging for’ one of Andiamo’s most famed elixirs, the Coconut Chilli Margarita. I will confess to noting that no less than eight of these delightful concoctions were seen upon the table top as we toasted farewell to a great friend heading off to foreign lands. These internationally savvy women know what they want, and the Coconut Chilli Margarita is the resounding drink of choice. Embracing our sensibility, we wisely accompanied our cocktails with a round of Andiamo’s now iconic truffle fries and calamari, and declared it the ultimate Ladies Lunch.

Housed in a recently-refurbished building on Albert Street in Auckland’s CBD, Palmer Bar is akin to the sort of sleek post-work bars you’d expect to find in the likes of New York or Sydney. A welcome addition to Auckland, on the evening we visit, the space is already filled with groups of friends and corporates discussing the machinations of their days over some well-crafted cocktails. Palmer’s inviting interior gives way to a sweeping terrace that provides the perfect al fresco spot take in the downtown cityscape — a rarity in the central CBD. And even as the sun goes down and the chill sets in, a strategically-placed, central fire pit offers night-long warmth for those who choose to indulge in another round.

The drinks menu is a well-considered offering that harnesses the region’s best produce with a strong focus on seasonality. Bar Manager Nathan Cooper clearly knows his craft. We order a Beta Sweet Sour, crafted from Pisco, carrot cordial, pineapple, sage, lemon and egg whites (also available in a non-alcoholic incarnation which I can attest is just as good), which is light, refreshing and a perfect start to the evening — all those vegetables and fruit are doing wonders for my five-plus-a-day objective. 

A few of us are suffering the lethargy of deadline madness, so a round of Kiwi Coffees seems like the appropriate thing to do. Brown butter Thompson mānuka whiskey, coffee liqueur, cold brew and ginger nut cream make for an undeniably delicious alternative to the usual espresso martini. 

And for anyone seeking a little more sustenance, Palmer’s bar menu offers a variety of snacks and larger plates to ensure the night doesn’t go sideways. The standout for me was the Kefalograviera cheese with peppered figs, which combined slabs of fried Halloumi-style cheese with mouthwatering figs, making for a sweet, salty and crispy snack that complemented our cocktails perfectly.

It’s a balmy 20 degrees on a Wednesday, so the obvious thing to do is ditch the desk and head to Viaduct Harbour. You can’t deny the draw of this vibrant waterfront precinct on a sunny day. My teetotaller companion and I head for the area’s dedicated cocktail bar, Parasol & Swing. Set three floors up, overlooking the water, this is the place to sit back and contemplate all the reasons why you’re most definitely having a better time here than all those friends who are currently in Capri.

As a fan of whisky and bourbon cocktails, I opt for the ‘Movie Night’, which in both name and flavour is about as far as one could get from an Italian beach club, and that’s exactly why I order it. The cocktail is a creative and delectable shaken combination of popcorn bourbon, gold rum, sea salted caramel and citrus and topped with a delicate tuile. Reminiscent of a whisky sour, yet without the inherent sweetness that seems to accompany many renditions, it is served with a cheeky side of salty popcorn, that I somehow manage to miss thanks to my friend who hoovers the lot. 

My date opts for the Tiki & Tonic, a tropical luau mix with tonic water, served with fresh pineapple and mint in a very cute Tiki cup. It’s clearly a winner as it’s downed in mere seconds and given a “huge thumbs up”.

Having held the opening party here some nine years ago for my great friend Mark Wallbank, The Blue Breeze Inn has become both a much-loved Ponsonby stalwart and my regular weekend family favourite. While everyone comes for the pork buns, soup dumplings, and har gow, I myself have a tendency towards their large selection of rum, bourbon and whisky cocktails. While I typically resort to my go-to classic, a bourbon Old Fashioned, on this occasion, my husband and I are feeling the need to dust off the cobwebs after a hectic morning of chauffeuring children between Saturday morning sports, and birthday parties. The freedom of no children in tow is palpable and calls for a deeper dive than usual into the depths of the cocktail list to discover the Toolong A Lover. Designed to share — this cocktail sees pineapple-infused Mt. Gay Eclipse rum, passionfruit, fresh pineapple juice and coconut milk, laced with maraschino and served rather ceremoniously in a freshly-hacked-open young coconut, complete with a flower and two straws to ensure that sharing is in fact caring. While a tropical holiday is far from our agenda, if we close our eyes we are reminded of all those heady laid back, pre-children times spent imbibing multiple cocktails on white sand beaches in tropical locales. 

Recently reopened after the renovation of its exciting new neighbour MoVida, Bar Non Solo, the sister bar of Parnell stalwart NSP is the party-ready space that’s perfect for after-work drinks, pre-dinner snacks and lively nightcaps. The well-heeled, inner-city destination delivers a drinks list focused on Italian cocktails, spritz, digestifs and wine, while an edited menu of Non Solo’s classic dishes appear in the form of small plates including pasta, antipasti and salumi, as well as pizzas served straight from the piping hot onsite oven. But it’s the Negronis on tap that I’m here for. A long time lover of this simple, three ingredient cocktail, the Negroni has risen to fame across the City in recent years, thanks to its perfect combination of equal parts gin, vermouth rosso and Campari, garnished with a twist of orange peel. Bar Non Solo’s rendition is served from an aged barrel and makes for the ideal aperitivo after a long day at the salt mines. 

There is quite possibly no better destination for drinks in the afternoon sun than Soul Bar & Bistro. Sat beneath cascading flowers, and overlooking water and boats out to the setting sun in the west, this is Auckland’s crowning glory that draws locals and international celebrities in droves. The day we visit, the terrace is teeming with sundrenched happiness at 4pm. An opportune time, then, to order myself a Five O’Clock On A Friday, a sensational combination of coconut tequila, Cointreau, chilli and lime served over ice, it’s exactly the sort of elixir that life demands at 5pm… or at any time for that matter. Appreciating the craft that has gone into this fine drink, we order another round, and wisely also procure a couple of rounds of Soul’s iconic toasts, one topped with mozzarella and the other with smoked trevally. We also order the beer-battered snapper goujons, to ensure that our continued cocktail tasting endeavours are handled responsibly. 

Liv Carter, the esteemed and much-loved face of Soul joins us for a drink and insists that we try the Silver Spoon, apparently it’s one of their most ordered drinks. Not one to deny a well-researched recommendation, I’m happy to oblige. What arrives looks and tastes, like lemon meringue pie thanks to the unique way in which Gin, Amaro and Montenegro have been mixed with vanilla and lemon and topped with whipped egg whites and a Kaffir lime leaf. Don’t be fooled though, this is not a sweet, syrupy drink, it’s light, fluffy and an utterly delightful creation that is worthy of its popularity. 

When life unceremoniously bestows me with an uncalled-for hangover, (let’s call it an occupational hazard), it’s Alma I head to for salvation. Inspired by a trip to Andalusia that the restaurant’s Founder and CEO, Jackie Grant took with its COO and Executive Chef, Jo Pearson, the menu sees an array of food that’s largely cooked over fire, allowing a thread of smokiness to underpin every dish. The southern Spanish region’s food is a harmonious blend of cultures, with Moorish (Arabic and North African) influences that make it so unique.

I order the Olasagasti anchovies and tomatoes on toast, some Iberian ham and a mussel escabeche with kohlrabi; followed by crayfish tail cooked with tarragon and samphire, finished with delicious lamb chops or a rib eye steak help to settle the stomach. But to be completely honest, the reason I am here, is for their unique take on the day-after saviour, the Bloody Mary. Here, tomato juice is strained and clarified to a pinkish watery fluid, free from the usual weightiness that one comes to expect from a Bloody Mary, shaken with manzanilla, vodka and chilli and served with a guindilla in a martini glass, topped with a delightfully spicy dehydrated tomato and chilli crisp. Believe me when I say that this is the life-reviving elixir your body craves in times of need. But be warned, you will no doubt order a second one, but a third will have you questioning your morals.

There is beauty to be found in Auckland’s metropolitan concrete jungle, and it comes in the form of an elegant, elevated rooftop bar set high above the fray. Because as you sit on top of a building, cocktail in hand, watching the sun fall below the urban skyline, you know that you are part of something bigger than yourself, something truly cosmopolitan, and the city feels full of potential again.

Embracing a particularly balmy Friday afternoon, my team and I decide to head to Sunset. Located on the 10th floor of the Sudima Hotel, the interiors here are elegant, warm and inviting. But it’s the terrace that’s the place to be. Perfectly positioned on the west side of the building and affording spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge — and ultimately, the sunset, this is the sort of place where you come to embrace the city you love. We order a round of cocktails from the menu that’s been created by Mikey Ball, (the globally sought-after consultant and former head bartender of award-winning London bars Milk & Honey and Dandelyan), in anticipation of something truly world class, and we’re not disappointed.

The menu comprises a seasonal selection of exceptionally-delicious bespoke cocktails — from the Garam Swizzle cocktail with McJaggery rum, banana skin orgeat, Garam bitters and a citrus blend to the Shillong Blossom with Arquitecto tequila blanco, cherry blossom salt and East Imperial grapefruit soda — each of which showcase Ball’s expertise. An accompanying menu of tasty snacks does not disappoint either, the standout favourite among our group are the Mumbai-street-food inspired sliders with potato hash, plum chutney, feta and coriander.

Judging by the throngs of people lined up on the street trying to get up to the bar when we leave, it’s apparent that Sunset is the place to be. This highly-considered offering befitting of the bustling, international metropolis Auckland has evolved into, is the perfect inner-city spot to escape the world below.

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