Ponsonby's watering holes can be a little beige. That's why we fizzed when Win-Win landed at 212 Ponsonby Road boasting a dark, quirky theme and shifting creative cocktails.
The place feels like a more flamboyant version of next door neighbour, The Whiskey. Which makes a whole lot of sense once you find out it's owned by the same people. Khushru and Kashmira Umrigar took over the space in February and have since reimagined the retro Las Vegas vibe to channel the darker side of Sin City.
As you stroll in there's two outdoor tables behind black velvet ropes. On the right of the slender, dimly-lit space you'll find plush red velvet booths opposite a sleek black bar that's stocked with all manner of libations. Looking at that liquor shelf will make you feel like a kid in a candy store, eyes as round as the rim of a martini glass. There's two large paintings by Ross Lewis and eclectic framed pictures hanging around the black walls — glance over Tupac in a silk shirt, Mike Tyson walking his white tiger and Evil Knievel in his trademark suit. Out back, there's a charming little courtyard — ideal if you're a smoker, or if you want a little privacy with an acquaintance.
The bartender on most nights is a moustachioed fellow with a quiet voice and a cheeky smile. We can confirm he knows his way around a cocktail. Win-Win's menu is a lengthy thing, with signature cocktails, 50/50 martinis, two house cocktails and beers on tap, as well as a respectable selection of wines.
If you like a strong tipple grab the Black Jack Old Fashioned. This beautiful beverage is full of Caribbean Rum, NZ made coffee liqueur and walnut bitters — a fresh take on a classic cocktail served in an elegant crystal tumbler. For something refreshing, dabble in a Desert Sage, a dry agave sour, with apple, lemon, rhubarb and egg white. I guarantee you've never tasted anything like it. On tap you'll find a nitro espresso martini and a twist on the zombie featuring two kinds of Barcardi, coca leaf liqueur, absinthe, mango and orange.
If you like your drinks strong and bars with attitude, you can't lose at this Ponsonby newbie. And while it was quiet when we popped in early on a Thursday, we're told the evenings get as busy as a badger, with Ponsonby's more interesting clientele flocking here in the dozens.