The Spirited Traveller: Auckland

Tue May 31, 2011 5:16am EDT
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By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - 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 drinks 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 lives 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," he said.

While consumers aren't yet clamoring 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 nascent drinks scene, a handful of pioneering Auckland bartenders and bar-owners are starting to shape what their North-Island city drinks.

For example, bartender James Goggin has won acclaim for his substantial rum lists at raucous Racket ( as well as recently refurbished speakeasy-style Suite Bar (, which offers 40-plus Caribbean rums and flies a Jolly Roger flag in the bar.   Continued...

<p>The sun goes down on Auckland as it approaches Earth Hour, March 27, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Marple</p>