The finer points of fun at Highball

It’s New Zealand’s first cocktail and spirits festival - of course Highball is going to be fun! But what is this fun, exactly? What does it mean? There, there, future festival goer. Let us school you on the finer points of fun things to do at Highball.

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Whisky blending at Johnnie Walker

If you’ve never blended whisky, let Johnnie Walker take you back in time and show you how.

Because Johnnie Walker is taking over Blondini Bar, upstairs at The Embassy, and taking you back to 1820, where it all began in Kilmarnock, Scotland.  

Drawing inspiration from its own legendary whisky blending rooms and original grocer store, the Johnnie Walker Highball bar recreates an immersive old-timey experience, where you can learn about its incredible history, both in Scotland and New Zealand, sample classic and contemporary drinks, as well as incredible whiskies, and even blend your own at the one-of-a-kind blenders table. A treat for whisky stans and newbs, alike.


Go to the Carribean with Angostura

Winter is coming. (Is that line overdone yet? Season 8 is still on - we’ll allow it.) So The House of Angostura is taking over The Embassy’s Black Sparrow Bar, and transporting everyone to Trinidad, where you’ll be slinging, shaking and swizzling cocktails, all to SOCA music (short for ‘Soul of Calypso’).

Kick back to an awesome Carribean cocktail menu, showcasing Angostura from rum to bitters to Amaro Di Angostura [liqueur]. Cocktails include the iconic Amora Amaro, made with Amaro Di Angostura, as well as a good measure of Angostura Aromatic Bitters. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Trinidad without its very own national cocktail, the iconic Queen’s Park Swizzle.

And to add to the sizzle, there will be fried chicken...

The Highball Speaker Series

Who says learning is boring? Not when you’re at a cocktail fest, you have a cocktail in your hot little hand, and the lecturers are schooling you on the ins and outs of cocktails and spirits, including history, how to distill and use spirits like a boss.

Highball takes over the Embassy theatrettes (for these intents and purposes, named Shaken and Stirred, so you don’t get lost), and lines up a day of the best cocktail brains in the biz, featuring local and international speakers made up of world-famous bartenders, historians and distillers.

Let them pass on their knowledge and then floor your mates with your sophisticated levels of spirits nous.

Take a tipple in distilleries

Did you know there are almost 100 craft distilleries in New Zealand? Less than 10 years ago, there were barely 20. This Highball, you’ll be treated to the wares of no less than 18 distilleries under one roof, ready to pour you tasters of rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila - and more than half of these are Kiwi distilleries, such as Reid & Reid, Indiginous, Dancing Sands, Denzien Urban Distillery, Thomson Whisky, Scapegrace, Stolen Rum, and more. And we haven’t even started on the international distilleries….

Wellington bar hopping under one roof

Forget waging the pedestrian war against a haphazard tide of rowdy masses on Courtenay Place. You and your crew can have your own little cocktail bar hop under one roof at the Embassy.

Each night, Highball features nine Wellington cocktail bar takeovers over the festival weekend, with five making an appearance at each Highball session. You’ll have the very best of the capital bartending talent and their creations all to yourselves. The likes of Hawthorne, The Library, Crumpet, Hanging Ditch, C.G.R. Merchant & Co. will be creating over-the-top, festival-only cocktails, unseen by the Wellington cocktail drinking public. Yeah, it’s just a little bit (a lot) special.

Sound good? Get your Highball ticket now!

Andrew Stantiall