The Ultimate Drinking Guide to Auckland, New Zealand

Apr 15, 2018

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Auckland might be one of the most far-flung cities on planet Earth, but when it comes to its drinking scene, they are right in the thick of it. Home to roughly a quarter of New Zealand’s entire population, the region presents a concentrated sampling of the country’s diverse cultural vibrancy. Some of the world’s most distinguished grapes, hops and botanicals are grown in abundance here, and the Kiwis are keen on infusing those exotic flavors into their many fine liquids. Teeing up a taste of it all isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.

For the seasoned international traveler, getting to Auckland is a breeze. The city’s bustling international airport services several American destinations with multiple carriers. Jet out of California, and you can be savoring a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in 12 hours. 

Auckland’s Signature Drink

Manuka honey is one of New Zealand’s most recognizable exports. The homeopathic sweetener, derived from a bush native to these islands, has a distinctive savory edge. It also happens to play wonderfully in cocktails. Ask for a tablespoon of it in a classic gin cocktail called the Bee’s Knees. For an added homegrown touch, build the drink around a pour of locally produced Sacred Spring, a gin aromatized with the help of green manuka leaves. Baduzzi, a hip Italian bistro, is happy to bend to your mixology whims. This restaurant alongside the harbor is home to one of the most innovative bars in town. But if you want to build a Bee’s Knees in your own bar, Comvita (a popular purveyor of high-grade Manuka) provides the following recipe on its website.

Best Bars & Restaurants

With prime positioning along scenic Waitematā Harbour, the Auckland waterfront grabs more foot traffic than just about any other section of the city. It is lined with bars, restaurants and nightclubs bumping loud music onto the streets. Avoid the rest, and head straight for the best: The Conservatory, an al fresco eatery and cocktail lounge in the heart of North Wharf. In addition to a fine lineup of classic cocktails and local craft on draft, they serve up a series of gin and tonics built around native spirits from across New Zealand. Each one is paired with its own unique botanicals, complementing the tasting notes of its assigned gin. These G&Ts also work surprisingly well alongside the local seafood catches, served fresh here on an all-day menu.

Best Wineries & Breweries

New Zealand is known for being a premiere wine-growing region. Most of those vines thrive far beyond the outskirts of the city, in the more rural, southerly stretches of North Island. But even some viticultural connoisseurs are surprised to learn that dozens of notable vineyards lie within an easy boat ride of Auckland. Waiheke Island is just 13 miles off the coast of the city, and is home to sleek tasting rooms and visitor centers such as the ones you’ll find at Goldie Estate. These boutique producers bottles no more than 3,000 cases a year. Among them are some exceptional chardonnays, rosés and Pinot Noirs, all available to sip, on-site, while enjoying the sweeping maritime vistas of Hauraki Gulf. If you want to explore more of the island, book an all-day experience with Waiheke Island Wine Tours.

Where to Stay

Auckland is in no short supply of luxury lodging. The Sofitel separates itself from the competition with its enviable location; scenic Viaduct Harbour is home to countless shops and maritime attractions. On-site food and beverage are other points of distinction. At Lava Dining, chef Sebastian Hindrichs refigures contemporary New Zealand cuisine with a French flair. Native game and seafood assumes center stage in minimalist preparations, expertly paired alongside an extensive collection of local wine and beer. At the foot of the marina, with the skyline looming overhead, the grandeur of this city reveals itself in between every sip.

Souvenir Bottle

These days, scotch sippers are keen on whiskey distilled on other exotic islands, far from its spiritual birthplace. Japan and Taiwan — even Tasmania — are home to premiere producers of international acclaim. Get ready to add New Zealand to this exalted list. Dunedin DoubleWood (called Dunedin DoubleCask here in the States) is a 16-year-old aged spirit, made in the style of a blended scotch. That means it’s a combination of single malt and premium grain whiskey, aged for six years in American Bourbon barrels and finished for an additional decade in casks that previously held New Zealand Pinot Noir and Cabernet. The resulting spirit is ruby red in the glass, rich and velvety in the mouth, with a leathery finish that lasts for days — although there’s a solid chance the bottle might not make it that long. Whiskey shops around Auckland retail a 500ml bottle for around $72. 

Prices accurate as of publication date. 

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