Let Caretaker help you find your ideal cocktail. Picture / Babiche Martens

Top of the Drops: The Viva Team's Favourite Bars

We're spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a local watering hole — here are our absolute favourites

As much as I love basking in the sun on an outdoor balcony with a drink in hand, later in the night, I like to hunker down at Caretaker. I enjoy the custom-made cocktail service, and always wind up with a cocktail that is “so me” – sweet, bitter and citrus are my preferences. And with over 2000 cocktail recipes for them to choose from, it allows me to explore the menu to my tastes with no two cocktails being the same. The underground bar with enticing mood lighting transports you to a mysterious New York location every time. Roukai Ln, Britomart
— Lucy Casley, designer

Madame George
Take the seasonally inspired cocktail menu as a hint, fancy little drinks are Madame George’s thing. The short drinks list features a lot of pisco — a nod to the friendly manager's home country of Peru. I recently tried the one infused with lemon verbena, elderflower and citrus bitters and it delicious. Sour, not too sweet and worth forking out a few extra dollars for. 490 Karangahape Rd, City
— Sarah Downs, writer

READ: Restaurant Review: Madame George

There's plenty of pisco on the menu of Madame George. Picture / Babiche Martens

The Basement
There's nothing better than arriving early to a show at The Basement for a catch-up in the bar before heading into the theatre with a beer (choose between very well-priced, very delicious, or take a stab at a middle ground). Without fail, there's bound to be something worth seeing, tickets won't break the bank and it's a more lively weeknight activity than a trip to the movies. Lower Greys Ave, City
— India Essuah, writer

It’s got to be Conch. I like to hide out the back in the cabana-style booths or sit street-side and watch the world go by. They have the best beers on tap from Liberty, Hallertau and Panhead which you can get for a (relative) steal during their weekday happy hour from 5-7pm. (Auckland needs more happy hours, I reckon). Plus the service is top notch the team manages to maintain efficient table service no matter how raucous the place gets. Cheers to you Conch, and your tacos. 115A Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
— Johanna Thornton, deputy editor

Beer and tacos are a perfect match at Conch. Picture / Babiche Martens

St Heliers Bay Cafe & Bistro
Technically a restaurant rather than a bar, but if you can nab a window table at the St Heliers Bay Cafe & Bistro, there’s no better place for a relaxed evening sundowner or a Saturday afternoon Prosecco. The wine list is small but excellent, the cocktails are simple and fresh, and you’re literally a stone's throw from the beach, with the most glorious view across the harbour to Rangitoto. 387 Tamaki Dr, St Heliers
— Melinda Williams, design editor

They do amazing cocktails at Azabu on Ponsonby Road, plus the Japanese snacks make the perfect accompaniment. It’s really dark inside (usually a good thing), super stylish, the manager Ken is really friendly and the cocktail menu changes regularly. My recent favourite was a ginger margarita. Apparently, the days to go for an early evening drink are Tuesday and Wednesday when the bar atmosphere is the most lively. 26 Ponsonby Rd, Grey Lynn
— Rebecca Zephyr Thomas, photographer

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READ: Restaurant Review: Azabu, Ponsonby

Azabu and St Helier's Bay Cafe & Bistro are well worth a visit. Pictures / Babiche Martens

Freida Margolis
Freida Margolis in Grey Lynn doesn’t make me feel like the oldest person in the room – or that I’m in some tired has-been hole. I like it’s neighbourhood vibe and edited, but interesting, drinks list with friendly advice always available, plus that there’s stuff to nibble on. Best in the late afternoon. Evenings are sometimes given over to gigs (or impromptu piano sessions). Mulled wine makes the drinks menu once winter sets in. 440 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn
— Janetta Mackay, beauty editor

On a blissfully sunny afternoon, I reckon there’s nothing better than a pint on the deck at Swashbucklers. Look out over the ocean, engage in great people watching and indulge in some fried squid (that’s not amazing but definitely hits the spot). 23B Westhaven Dr, City
— Rosie Herdman, fashion assistant

There's no place quite like Swashbucklers. Picture / Guy Coobmes

Grey Lynn RSC
The Grey Lynn RSC is where I prefer to go for a drink with friends. It’s low key, they have a great Jukebox and Jimmy the Cook serves up a decent fish and chips when you’re feeling hungry. It’s conveniently a short walk home. The tradition of reading the ode at 6pm every night, as patrons stand and face the honours boards, is a reminder of what a special place it is in the community. 3 Francis St, Grey Lynn
— Dan Ahwa, fashion editor

RECIPES: Refreshing Cocktail Recipes You Should Know

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