Wellington presents Highball, New Zealand’s first spirits and cocktail festival

Wellington is getting into the spirit with Highball - New Zealand’s first dedicated spirits and cocktail festival launching this May.

Wellington is getting into the spirit with Highball - New Zealand’s first dedicated spirits and cocktail festival launching this May. 

The new festival adds to an event-filled winter in New Zealand’s culinary capital, beginning with Highball (11 – 12 May) rolling into Wellington Cocktail Week (11 – 19 May) and stretching out into August for Beervana – the national craft beer festival (9 – 10 August), and the now month-long culinary epic Visa Wellington On a Plate (1 – 31 August) which includes everything from fine dining menus to extravagant events and burger competitions. 

Held over two days at Wellington’s historic Embassy Theatre, Highball is an immersive celebration of cocktails and spirits, where people can explore fine distills, rare exports and other libations, presented by local and international distilleries, as well as the best of Wellington’s cocktail bars and talent. 

Highball will showcase 16 regional and international distilleries, including House of Angostura, Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker, as well as Kiwi craft spirits producers, such as Reid & Reid, Denzien Urban Gin Distillery, Thomson Whisky and Sacred Spring. 

Festival goers can learn directly from 14 local and international cocktail and spirits experts at the Highball Seminar Series on topics such as the history of cocktails, Tiki culture and the different ways spirits can be used as ingredients to enhance your beverage of choice.

In Wellington style there will be gastronomic delights from some of Wellington’s best restaurants and local live musical acts for all to enjoy. 

Sarah Meikle, Wellington Culinary Trust Chief Executive, says Wellington is the perfect home to New Zealand’s first cocktail festival.

“What better city to host New Zealand’s first cocktail and spirits festival than Wellington? We’re gaining an international reputation as one of the world’s great culinary cities and established two very successful annual food and beer festivals,” she says.

“We thought it was high time we added cocktails and spirits to this line-up. It’s the perfect way to recognise and celebrate the cocktail and spirits industry, the talent within it, and also offer something new and exciting for the public to get behind.”

The festival launches with the inaugural New Zealand Spirits Awards on Friday (10 May) and is followed by the first annual Wellington Cocktail Week, showcasing the capital’s rich and colourful cocktail scene with a series of events, special menus and masterclasses in restaurants, bars and cafes. 

Robert Brewer, Chief Executive of industry body and Highball supporting partner, Spirits New Zealand, says Highball is a wonderful opportunity to bring the best of New Zealand’s spirit producers and talent together with its international counterparts to consumers. 

“We’re also pleased to see there is a strong component of spirits education; using spirits as an ingredient in an informed way and enjoying spirits in a socially responsible manner.”