After seven and five years respectively, Britomart bar Caretaker and Ponsonby’s Deadshot are still two of the city’s favourite haunts for exceptional cocktails and an intimate, speakeasy feel.

Owners Heather Garland and Alastair Walker were ready for a new challenge, so when the space beside Caretaker became available, they decided to create a new bar with a fun-loving attitude.

Find Rocketman through a red entrance next to Caretaker’s inconspicuous green C-marked door and follow the red strobing light into the spacious 80-seat bar.

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Walker says they went for a retrofuturism theme to transform the former AV nightclub into “a bit of a party bar” that’s still lowkey compared to a full-blown club.

“We tore it all out and built whole new walls and everything else. As you walk in the door, it’s reminiscent of walking into a factory,” he tells Broadsheet.

They built the interior of the back bar to look like an open fuselage – the body of a plane –giving the impression that you’ve stepped into an aeroplane construction hangar. Custom light fittings crafted to look like jet plane propellers dot the space and a rocket mural by street artist Paul Walsh covers the rear brick wall.

Unlike Caretaker and Deadshot, where staff make drinks sans menu based on your personal tastes, Rocketman does have a drinks menu. Walker and Garland wanted the bar to be able to cater to large groups and functions easily, so this makes it easier when the space packs out.

The Giggle Juice is a house favourite: apples juiced in front of you and poured straight into a glass with a spirit of your choice. Walker recommends Rocketman Rum, made especially for the bar by Auckland-based company 1919 Distilling with fennel, ginger and lemon. “It works really well with the apple juice,” he says.

Otherwise, cocktails take cues from David Bowie songs such as Changes (whisky, fresh lemon, mānuka honey) and Heroes, a spiced coffee-blended rum, Eighthirty cold brew coffee and house-made condensed coconut-oat milk. Order a Boulevardier or French Canadian from the classics section and you can be sure it’ll be among the best you’ll drink anywhere.

Wine-wise, every bottle listed is also available by the glass – and it’s an entirely NZ list aside from one bottle of prosecco, one nebbiolo from Australia and the champagne selection. Beer follows suit, with a great selection of craft cans mainly from Aotearoa, aside from Asahi on tap.

To eat, a concise menu offers toasties (mortadella, provolone and honey; bacon jam; or shiitake, kimchi and mozzarella), plus there’s a chicken sausage roll, a pork taco and a couple more bites.

Following Caretaker’s lead, musical collective Pachucos is currently performing on Friday and Saturday nights – or you could belt your own soundtrack in the hidden karaoke room Ms Kitty's Parlour.

It can be found through a “wardrobe” door – all pink pleated fabric walls with glowing neon accents and a mirror on the ceiling. “It’s all based on myself and my wife’s favourite spots in Melbourne where we used to go and do karaoke,” says Walker.

Hire the eight-person room by the hour and your fee goes towards a minibar of booze for your pink-hued performances – rather than just paying for the room itself.

“It’s just a little cheeky party bar, a little more easygoing,” says Walker of the new project. “It’s not a nightclub by any means, but it’s a spot for everyone.”

40 Customs Street East, Auckland (in Roukai Lane)
No phone

Wed to Sat 5pm–2am

Looking for more of the city’s top cocktails? Check out our guide to Auckland’s best bars.