Teens of Thailand
Forget cocktail menus that say stick to the same old brands. Customers don’t just care about trying new drinks; they care about trying new spirits, too. Which is why Bangkok has recently seen a wave of boutique importers bringing in ever-more-diverse bottles. Some of the most recent on the scene include The Melbourne Gin Company
courtesy of distributor Australis Wines. It’s available at various bars around Bangkok including Vesper
, which pours it into a mean G&T for B380. Looking for some seriously special tequila? Head over to Revolucion Cocktail
to try Casa Noble Reposado Tequila (B419/shot) made from the Carlos Santana-supported tequila brand. And Schweppes tonic won’t do these days, either—you need a Fever-Tree
(available at Bunker
) or East Imperial
(available at Teens of Thailand
Chennarong “Jan” Bhumichitr, senior brand ambassador, Diageo Moet Hennessy (Thailand)
“Bangkok has reached the stage where customers walk into a bar and say, “I’d like an old fashioned, what whiskey brands have you got?” instead of “I don’t know anything about cocktails, what should I have?” which happened about five years ago. People have started to pay more attention to innovative spirits, not just the big brands.”
The Bamboo Bar
The days of reading a drink's name and knowing what might be in there are over. A menu now needs a concept. At Soi Convent’s Vesper
, that takes the form of The Art Book, a ring-bound tome styled after Phaidon’s cult publication of the same name. Each cocktail is inspired by a famous painting, resulting in stuff like The Treachery of Images, in which Rene Magritte’s painting of a pipe is translated into Moonshine unaged whiskey, Alipus San Baltazar mezcal, Carpano Bianco and tonic bitters (B390). At the railway carriage-themed Track 17
, their “Destinations” menu takes on the theme of a new city every three months. Right now, that’s Chicago and includes drinks like Gold Coast Cloud (B370) made from Sailor Jerry Spiced rum, blueberry jam, apple juice, maple syrup, lemon, egg white and barbecue bitters. The Bamboo Bar
has also just launched a spring menu (and will have another one inspired by different jazz singers in March).
Davide Sambo, group mixologist, Soho Hospitality.
“The story behind each cocktail helps engage the customers with the drink, it also helps the customers make a decision on which drink to get. When there’s a story and a connection to a drink, there’s another level of interest.”
Miky's Cocktail Bar
In the space of weeks, we were served chrysanthemum cocktails at four different Bangkok bars (Chrys' Lemonade at Little Bao
, Yellow Flower at Freebird
, Chrysanthemum Vanilla Fizz at Dim Dim
and two things at Teens of Thailand that were wiped off the board not long after). And that’s not the end of it. Expect it to make an appearance in the upcoming menu at Mikys Cocktail Bar
as well, while other bars are embracing lesser-known Chinese flowers. The Owl Society’s 24K cocktail (B350) has something called moonflower. And that flower on top of your Lotus (B300) at Mikys Cocktail Bar—that’s edible.
Wareewan "Oil" Yodkamol, head bartender, Freebird
"Using spices in cocktails is very common. Bartenders used to use a lot of cinnamon and now we are moving away from that so now we are experimenting with Asian spices. We Thai bartenders pretty much grew up with chrysanthemum, it is very easy to access and also very cheap. It also has a clear character and smell, plus it's known worldwide so foreigners won't find it difficult to understand the taste."
Bar Swaps and Guest Bartenders
Whether it’s bartenders hosting guest shifts within the Bangkok bar community or bartenders from overseas heading here to do guest stints, it’s a win-win situation for both the bars and the customer. Mandarin Oriental's Bamboo Bar
is bringing over Marco Corolla from Hendricks Bar in Dubai on Feb 27. Bacardi is bringing the winner of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition Global, Gn Chan, over to Backstage Cocktail Bar
, also on Feb 27. Time to bar hop, we think.
Thomas de Carvalho, general manager, Brand Connect (Thailand)
"I think it’s a fantastic time for bartenders, who get to work together on takeovers locally and across borders. So many bars now have unique identities. Bar takeovers are good for everyone and strengthen the community."
Fats in Cocktails
Adding oily fats to cocktails is becoming a thing—yes, actual fats. Bronx Liquid Parlour
on Thonglor Soi 25 now has a menu of six drinks with drops of oil in each. Umami (B300), for example, combines black sesame oil with sake, vodka, mirin, ginger syrup and lime for a very Japanese flavor. Elsewhere in Bangkok, Freebird
on Sukhumvit Soi 47 offers a butter-infused vodka called the Salon Prive (B320). The trend for dripping oil in cocktails has developed from the fat-washing technique of last year, which saw bartenders freezing vodka with butter and truffle oil (or even bacon fats) to get the flavor without the actual fat itself.
Jamie Rhind, assistant manager, The Bamboo Bar
“There is a limit to the variety of liquor here in Bangkok, so bartenders need to try and experiment with kitchen techniques to make cocktails different. When people get bored of doing infusions they start looking for new things—in this case, oil.”
The last few years have not been kind to Scotlnd. With whiskey drinkers turning to the bourbon of Kentucky for their old fashioned, or a nice, smooth glass of Japanese Hibiki for when they want it straight up, the days of Black Label’s dominance were looking like they could be numbered. But the Scots were taking notice, which means we just got an American-style Johnnie Walker (Blenders Batch Red Rye Finish, B899/bottle) and a Japanese-style Chivas (Mizunara, B2,650/bottle). So maybe you can show them some love, put down the Suntory highball and go back to your old Chivas 12 every once in a while. Come on. They invented the darn stuff.
Paul Nealon, Chivas Regal brand ambassador
“This is the age of innovation and the Scottish are showing that we aren’t just living on past glory but are still pioneers in the whiskey world. Global tastes are evolving and whiskey drinkers are developing impressively sophisticated palates.”
The Trickle-Down effect
After years of advanced mixology, the whole thing has finally fallen into the domain of the mass market. Local brand Rock Mountain is even tackling the soda duopoly held by Singha and Chang with an ad that features cliched hipstery barmen juggling with the new soda. Could Wine Connection and Wine I Love You get wiped out by a chain of Cocktails are You joints? Judging by the number of barrel-aged negronis and sazeracs we knocked back at hotel functions over New Year, we reckon the time's come already.
Greg Plowes, sommelier, Jim Thompson Group
“After a few years of professionals leading the way, better booze knowledge is trickling down to mainstream, which is a sign that the Thai consumer is educated, more discerning or just more adventurous. For this we thank our bartenders and sommeliers, because this is where any booze culture begins.”
Backstage Cocktail Bar L/F, Playhaus Thonglor, 205/22-23 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), 02-712-5747
Bronx Liquid Parlour Thonglor Soi 25, 02-036-6071
Bunker 118/2 Sathorn Soi 12, 092-563-9991, 02-234-7749
Dim Dim 27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 33, 02-085-2788
Freebird 28 Sukhumvit Soi 47, 02-662-4936
Little Bao G/F, 72 Courtyard, 72 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), 02-392-6922
Mikys Cocktail Bar 64 Pan Rd., 02-637-8368
Teens of Thailand 76 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd., 081-443-3784
The Bamboo Bar 1/F, Mandarin Oriental, 48 Charoen Krung Soi 40, 02-659-9000
The Owl Society Whiskey Saloon Sukhumvit Soi 61, 064 119 0242
Track 17 1/F, The Commons, 355 Thonglor Soi 17, 02-101-4525
Revolucion Cocktail 50 Sathorn Soi 10, 02-235-4823
Vesper 10/15 Convent Rd., 02-235-2777