“Wellington has the best food, beer and coffee. The standards are staggeringly high and the hospitality community is pretty stunning. And it has such a cool, village-like feel.” That’s what attracted Irishborn Peter Lowry to the capital more than 10 years ago, and it’s the vibrant bar scene that has kept him busy ever since.
And it’s fair to say that as bar manager for the group that includes The Library, Forresters Lane, Chow and Le Samourai, and previous spells with Hippopotamus and the Hawthorn Lounge, Wellington’s bar crowd have benefitted from Peter’s encyclopedic knowledge of spirits and cocktails and infectious desire to share his passion.
“Each place is very different with its own spirit and character and so every day is different,” he says of his current gig. “Chow is fun and crazy with a huge cocktail list, serving up to 1100 cocktails a night. Le Samourai is focussed on wine – Ryan (Mckenna) is ‘the wine guy’ for me. The Library Bar, billed as a reading room and lounge bar, is a large bar focussing on desserts and cocktails and Forresters Lane is more geeky and foodie with seasonal bespoke cocktails.”
It was at Tory Street speakeasy, the Hawthorn Lounge, that he first worked alongside Laura Walker, who now heads up Forresters Lane. While the food world has long been chanting the mantra of fresh, seasonal produce, at Forresters Lane they’re channelling that to cocktails. “It appeals to fun-seeking foodies who are attracted to flavours they know, but used in different ways,” says Peter. “We use fresh, seasonal ingredients in a way that’s much more fun and sexy than eating a salad!”
“We create cocktails using fresh produce with what we have around us,” says Laura. “We use products from local suppliers, or sometimes I’ll get something from Mum and Dad’s farm in Otaki, a bag of crab apples or some grapes. We use as much as we can that week, then we’ll preserve the rest to use later when the fresh produce isn’t available. And sometimes the preserved produce works even better in the cocktail than the fresh.”
The Forresters team start from scratch to create a weekly cocktail list on a theme. Drawing on the team’s shared background, one week’s theme was ‘science’. “I have a degree in chemistry,” says Laura, “so I created a colour-changing cocktail for that week.”
“Cocktails are just so much fun,” Peter enthuses. “We get to do all the fun foodie stuff, but we do it late at night and with louder music. Wine and beer cannot come close to that level of excitement. Cocktails give such a sense of joy.” forresterslane.co.nz