(Reuters.com) - Can you find a great cocktail in the harbourside city of Auckland?
Yes. But you might want to start out by asking for a glass of beer, wine or coffee. All three beverages have an established cultural base in New Zealand. But cocktails? Not quite yet.
"The word cocktail will send shivers down most ‘true' Kiwi blokes' spines", warns UK native Frankie Walker, a former bartender who now resides in Auckland, working as a luxury spirits ambassador for Australasia food and beverage conglomerate Lion Nathan.
Compared to the UK or Australia, for example, where cocktail culture is entrenched, "it's totally fair to say that in Auckland and NZ we are some years behind."
While consumers aren't yet clamouring for any particular drink, "we are very fond of rum here," Walker concedes. The seafaring spirit makes perfect sense for a city that relishes time spent mucking about in boats.
Amid this still nascent drinks scene, a handful of pioneering Auckland bartenders and bar-owners are shaping what their North-Island city drinks. For example, bartender James Goggin has gathered acclaim for his substantial rum lists at raucous Racket (<www.racketbar.co.nz/>) as well as recently refurbished speakeasy-style Suite Bar (<www.suitebar.co.nz/>), which offers 40-plus Caribbean rums and flies a Jolly Roger flag in the bar.
Walker's other recommendations include:
Mea Culpa (3/175 Ponsonby Road): "Mea Culpa may not be as flash as other bars, but it responsible for the best drinks currently available in Auckland," Walker boasts.
1885 Britomart (<www.1885.co.nz/>): Named after the year the historic Stanbeth House was built, this bar houses four distinct bar spaces, including the Martini Bar and an underground basement bar with live music.
The Golden Dawn (135 Ponsonby Road): Although drinks here "can be a little hit and miss," Walker declares it "by far the coolest bar in Auckland right now."
RECIPE: Manhattan Island (Courtesy of James Goggin)
Based around Monte Carlo rum, this drink is a favourite at Auckland's Suite Bar.
45ml Stolen Gold Rum (Locally blended rum)
5ml Cruzan Black Strap rum
10ml Rosso Antico vermouth
10ml Dom Benedictine
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Peychauds Bitters
Add all your ingredients to your mixing glass, stir about 20 times for dilution. Double strain into your coupe/coupette glass and garnish with an orange zest.
Kara Newman is the author of "Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails", available <here>. The opinions expressed are her own. Editing by Peter Myers