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Hot Sauce's new happy hour makes us happy

January 31, 2018

You know you've done the dash with your regular after-work drink spot when a staff member comments that you're not sitting at your usual table. Whether being on first-name basis with the people who keep me in pints and fries is incredibly problematic or totally healthy, I could certainly stand to branch out a bit from my usual joint for 5pm drinks after a long day in the office.

My mates at QT Museum Wellington have basically staged an intervention with their new happy hour specials at Hot Sauce. Actually, this is a Happy Cat Hour - paying homage to the the lucky 'maneki-neko' waving cat figurines that populate the walls of this rather chic, dark little spot.

The specials run Wednesday to Saturday from 4pm-7pm, so you can even partake on your weekends. A few colleagues and I headed along on a Friday - sneaking out early to maximise our fun - to sample the new menu. It's a small but excellent array, with four signature cocktails at two-for-$18, a choice of a sweet or a sour teapot cocktail, designed for sharing between two for $14, a 'happy cat lager' of undisclosed origin but refreshing and smashable taste at $7 a pop, and four wines - a ros, a sav, a chard and a Bordeaux - for $9 a glass.

Having set about drinking our way through the entire cocktail menu, a few favourites emerged. The Gangham Shiso Style signature cocktail was super refreshing and spicy, made with vodka infused with chili and shiso for spice and a herbaceous hit, plus watermelon juice, soda and lemon. The contrast between the sweet melon and the hit of chili was awfully good - just what I needed after a day at my desk.

Like every man and his dog, I'm a big fan of negronis at the moment - these pungent, boozy cocktails are certainly having their day. Hot Sauce's take on the classic drink combines yuzu shochu - that's a Japanese spirit infused with citrus - with Grand Marnier and bitter Suze. This short little drink proved very popular as the evening continued, plus it came with one of those amazing spherical ice cubes (um, ice balls?) that never fail to impress me.

If you want to go big before you go home, the teapot cocktails are what you're looking for. Although we thought the names could've potentially been switched - the so-called sweet was more sour and the sour more sweet - both were thoroughly enjoyable. The 'sour' reminded me - and this is absolutely a compliment - of sour apple lollies, with apple liqueur, fresh pineapple and aloe vera acting as a fruity foil to the Tanqueray gin. The word 'dangerous' was thrown around in regards to these teapot cocktails, as they're incredibly moreish.

Hot Sauce's menu of small Asian fusion plates means that, if you've indulged in a couple of the aforementioned teapot cocktails and remembered it's never a good idea to drink and fry, your after-work drinks can segue into a full-blown dinner. We snacked on skewers of octopus (oh god these are good) and salmon, pork potsticker dumplings, adorable miniature pork bao with chili and also adorable miniature fried chicken burgers.

For thirsty office worker searching for a new watering hole, give Hot Sauce a hoon. The staff might not know your name yet, but they may do soon. (That rhyme was 100% unintentional but I'm leaving it in.)