Benji! Hanging bottles! Photo courtesy of my charming and talented coworker Matthew McArthur.
Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants To Match. As a glamorous food blogger and author who can definitely pay their rent without feeling piteously tearful, why, it's no wonder that lots of cool things happen to me! This is where I acknowledge the niceness that is occasionally bestowed upon my willing self, while trying to do it in a non-smug way so it's actually enjoyable to read instead of supremely irritating. Don't hate, self-deprecate! Oh and if you're wondering, and especially if you're not wondering, this segment is named for a quote from the redoubtable Jimmy James from the woefully underrated 90s sitcom NewsRadio.
So here's the thing: Benji Irvine and Andy Gray, who between them have an impressive bartending history including Motel, Matterhorn, and The Library (oh hey!), have opened their very own bar. It's called Hanging Ditch and it joins the Hannah's Laneway precinct to make it even more glorious, as if it wasn't fun enough already with Goldings, Pizza Pomodoro, the Leeds Street Bakery and the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
The pitch: Hanging Ditch had its hard open on Sunday night and I was invited to try some of the cocktails from the fledgling menu. I mean, is that an enchanting proposition or what.
La Rosita: tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, campari.
fernet in staggeringly cool shot glasses
What happened: So as well as being brought into existence by thoroughly good guys, Hanging Ditch has a particularly idiosyncratic approach to its backbar: all the bottles are suspended from the ceiling, twinkling in the soft light like ethically-sourced diamonds. It's honestly a stunning effect, and I suddenly understood why small babies can be so entranced by dangly items on a mobile. As well as looking glorious it's also remarkably practical, by which I mean, all bottles appear to be easily grabbed for drinks making and no one seemed to hit their head.
The drinks I tried included....
La Rosita (pictured above): a spectacular mix of tequila, sweet and dry vermouth and campari, all of which I bloody adore and together they form a lushly layered drink with a hint of stickiness from the campari and resiny depth from everything else. I love it. It's served down, in a glass as thick and sturdy as an aeroplane window, which adds to the general satisfyingness of it all.
Resperation: Vodka, lemon, elderflower, marmalade and peach: I mean. Obviously you've got some soft floral stuff happening here plus some distinct zinginess but honestly the only way I can describe it is that it tastes like that feeling you get when a couple on a TV show that you love finally, finally, finally kiss after you've been wanting them to for ages.
Gunpowder Blood and Sand: A drink I love on account of how deadly the name is, this classic is given new legs with Gunpowder, a smoky and aggressive local rum which pleasingly fogs up the varying layers of sweetness provided by the Cherry Heering and orange juice. I would've liked to have drank this out of a more sturdy glass, but it was so delicious that you could've poured it into my cupped hands and I would've been chill.
Daiquiris, plural: obviously they are very capable of making whatever classics you so desire as well as their own concoctions; and with a special on they were slinging excellent daiquiris all evening - all of which were a viciously well-balanced mix of sweet and sour and effortlessly drinkable.
Fernet: because I am a bartender and I accept my fate that fernet is now obligatory and inescapable.
twinkle twinkle little bar
The best bit: The cocktails are honestly so good and Benji and Andy are affable, knowledgeable hosts. While I'm incredibly easily impressed, I'm also pretty discerning when it comes to flavour combinations and ingredients and such, and it's clear that these guys know exactly what they're doing and have done a ton of planning. It's a joy to watch them make cocktails with their own style and panache and the place has an elegant yet unintimidating vibe which means whether you're the only person sitting there or you're part of a crowd it's amazingly easy for the hours to dissolve, like Peychaud's bitters into a sugar cube. I mean, that could also have been the cocktails that helped make time go really fast, but whatever. Oh and I know I said I'd have liked a solid-er vessel for my Blood and Sand but on the whole the glassware and frankly every tiny detail is so impressive and cool. Like, I want to own all their glassware.
oh wow it's me it's so awkward (how great this photo is) (photo courtesy of the lovely Matthew McArthur)
Benji doing the damn thing (photo courtesy of Matthew McArthur who has had quite enough adjectives by now and I'm cutting him off)
On a scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is It Just Fantasy: It's a 1. So, quite often the stuff I get invited to that makes it to this blog is not stuff I can necessarily recreate on a regular basis but like, I will so be back here. This bar is DOPE. I am quite happy to spend money here and in fact spent several moneys there later on Sunday night. So saying that this is a 1 on the scale of 1 to bla bla bla is in fact a very good thing. Sure, the quantities and swank-ness of the drinks may have been at a higher level than I can normally back myself for, but this is absolutely not the last time I'll be having them.
Would I do this again for not-free: See the above paragraph, but: obviously.
Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Hanging Ditch, which can be found at 14 Leeds Street, just next to Goldings and the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Opening a bar in Wellington is not the surest and most straightforward path to success and/or a good night's sleep, but I have a good feeling about this one. And - feel free to read the Fancy Plans and Pants To Match archive while you're here.