It’s halfway through 2016 and Bangkok’s nightlife scene is getting sexier every day. Here are 16 new reasons why you should be out getting drunk right now.
Over the past few years, the Thai home brewing scene has been through a lot, from Chit Beer’s illegal hobby industry that started on Koh Kret in 2012 to the first two legal brews—Chiang Mai beer and Chalawan pale ale—getting recognized early in 2016. Stone Head is the latest bottle you can pre-order from Wishbeer.com. Our last conversation with the company’s founder, Panitan Tongsiri, also revealed that he soon plans to set up a platform to help other brewers make their beer legal.
Let the Boy Die
All these developments would not have been possible if brewers hadn’t had the support of bars. Let the Boy Die (Luang Rd., 082-675-9673) was probably the first bar in Bangkok (considering Chit Beer is actually in Nonthaburi) to sell local brews on tap. Now though you can find draft local brews all over town. Some of our favorites include the Korean-Mexican fusion joint Changwon Express (Asoke Din Daeng Rd., 092-251-8661), beer website turned riverside bar Craft N’ Roll (Charan Sanit Wong Soi 92, 098-260-9292), the quirkily named Where Do We Go (Ladprao Wanghin, 094-548-2326) and its Ladprao neighbor Sugar House Cafe, (Ladprao Soi 101, 089-789-6593).
3. Thailand’s even growing its own hops
Nonthaburi’s craft-brew cred extends beyond Chit Beer now. We’ve just heard of another brewer up there called Devanom who’s actually founded Thailand’s first hops farm, with the debut harvest last February. Deva Farm & Cafe also grows hydroponic vegetables which you can buy wholesale or taste in the adjoining cafe. The whole place is open to the public, in fact—check out www.fb.com/DevaFarmCafe.
Teens of Thailand
Junker & Bar
4. New gins mean G&Ts have never been tastier
On the white spirits side, this city’s finally welcomed some of the world’s most-trending gin brands. This year has seen the arival of G’Vine gin from France, which is distilled from grapes, the artisanal Sipsmith gin from London, and Aussie small-batch label Ink Gin, which is infused with butterfly pea. Check out all these bottles at Bangkok’s gin bars like Teens of Thailand (76 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd., 081-443-3784), Vesper (Convent Rd., 02-235-2777) and Junker & Bar (Suanphlu Soi 1, 085-100-3608).
5. Soft drinks are getting as serious as the spirits
Smiling Mad Dog (also importer of Ink Gin, see left) kicked off the trend by bringing in premium tonic water East Imperial to go with their gin. You can find it in three styles—Tonic Water, Burma Tonic Water and Ginger Beer—at the same bars specializing in gin (Teens of Thailand, Vesper and Junker & Bar). Now G’Vine importer, Brand Connect, has followed suit with the full line of Fever Tree, which includes tonic waters, sicilian lemonade, soda water and ginger ale.
6. There’s a rum bar that’s run by rum makers
We thought Ma-Rum-Ba (Sukhumvit Soi 69/1, 084-024-7036) was just another Phra Kanong dive bar before we discovered it’s actually run by a trio of rum makers. Florian Tenhagen, Julian Gebhard and Sunanta Yousagoon’s tiny, semi-outdoor space serves their own Three Monkeys local rum brand in cocktails like mojito, daiquiri, pina colada and mai tai.
7. Tequila and mezcal are here in a big way
We have importers like Bootleggers to thank for bringing in new bottles like Alipus and Los Danzantes mezcal. You can go to bars like La Monita Taqueria (Mahatun Plaza, Ploen Chit Rd., 02-650-9581) and Mexicano (formerly Senor Pico, Rembrandt Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 18, Sukhumvit Rd., 02-261-7100) to find them, or head over to Mejico (Groove, Central World), which has the most extensive collection of tequila and mezcal in town—over 160 labels. Plus, Australian-born Mexican restaurant and self-proclaimed tequila bar Touche Hombre is opening very soon at 72 Courtyard (see below).
8. 72 Courtyard is the newest nightlife mall
Thonglor has welcomed four new community malls so far this year. But while The Commons (Thonglor Soi 17) is all about coffee and food with just a bit of drink, 72 Courtyard (Sukhumvit Soi 55) on the opposite side of the street is dedicated to the night scene. On the first floor, Evil Man Blues jazz and cocktail bar has now opened behind Rocket coffee shop, while up above, Beam has become the best nightclub in town. Head up one more floor to find UNCLE, home to the cheapest cocktails of any quality on Thonglor. Then there’s Touche Hombre (see above) and a soon-to-open beer space.
The five-star hotel’s lobby bar with incredible views of Royal Bangkok Sports Club has become a destination in itself. Not only will you find some amazing local jazz and blues bands playing live (think the same people you find at Brown Sugar rather than stuffy hotel lounge piano), but the drinks list has also gone through a total overhaul. Trending bottles like Martin Miller’s, Edinburgh and G’Vine are all accounted for, along with some local producers like Iron Balls, Kristall G (from Chiang Mai) and Chalong Bay rum. The gin tonics (from B395) are a match for any hipster outfit, with specific gins paired with the right tonics and herbs. They’re also offering two-for-one on cocktails (starting from B295) between 5-9pm Mon-Fri. 159 Ratchadamri Rd., 02-207-7777
10. Talad Noi is back
Soi Nana is still hot, and now its neighbor, Talad Noi, is getting in on the action. Soy Sauce Factory has a regular live music night ("Come On is Such a Joy") and we’ve heard of a new French-slash-American-barbecue bar that’ll be opening in August. Stay tuned for updates.
11. Our local bartenders are killing it on the international stage
Thailand’s bartenders are gaining some serious international recognition. This year, we had six venues make it into the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars (Hyde & Seek, Maggie Choo, Bamboo Bar, Teens of Thailand, Q&A and Vesper), which were followed by the news that Mitchell Kai Lum, bartender of Vertigo Too (60/F, Banyan Tree, 21/100 Sathorn Rd., 02-679-1200), had made it into the top eight of Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition’s global stage for his signature drink The Haole (white rum, white vermonth, lemon juice, pineapple syrup and ginger ale). And most recently, four Thai bartenders represented Thailand on the Southeast Asian stage of the Diageo World Class 2016, winning The Best Southeast Asia Bar Team 2016. Pailin "Milk" Sujjanit of Il Fumo (1098/2 Rama 4 Rd., 02-286-8833) was crowned Thailand’s winner at the same competition and also won Southeast Asia Bartender of the Year 2016 and the “Local Flavors” challenge by Ketel One.
722 Craft Experience
12. Rooftop bars have had a revival
There have never been so many new rooftop bars in Bangkok. One year after opening, Hotel Indigo on Wireless Road has set up Char Bar & Grill (25-26/F, Hotel Indigo Bangkok, Wireless Rd., 02-207-4999) on its roof, which consists of a restaurant zone on the 25th floor and a bar on top. Other newcomers include Dusk (Thonglor Soi 13), Top Knot (8-9/F, Hotel Once Bangkok, Charoenkrung Soi 72/2., 02-688-2596), Bonfire (Rooftop/F, Rain Hill, Sukhumvit Soi 47, 061-850-7722) and 722 Craft Experience (9/F, Paradise Sukhumvit Hotel, Ekkamai Soi 12, 093-426-3591).
13. The old Cosmic Cafe is under new hands and has turned into an EDM spot
RCA’s former indie hot spot is now Bar 21 (RCA, Soi Soonvijai, 080-302-9752). The same DJ who used to play at Moustache Bar and Live RCA, focuses on a new style of electronic tunes for RCA—think funky house and Berlin beats rather than the massive EDM tunes of Onyx or Route 66. We’re also told there’ll be live music occasionally. Drop by Sundays when they say they’ll be giving out free tapas.
Rod Fai Market 2
14. Train Market has one of the best new live music venues
This new bar at Rod Fai Market 2 (Esplanade Complex, next to MRT Thai Cultural Center) might look like your regular cruddy Train Market dive pumping out live music in a space way too small for live music, but the roster of bands here are people we actually give a damn about. At Speaker Box (084-662-6642), the music is more like something you’d find on Ekkamai—unlike the prices, which thankfully remain dive bar cheap.
15. Dudesweet’s project for Tapas Silom Soi 4 has been given a name
It’s called Third World Bar (Silom Soi 4) and themes its nights after stuff like “drunk and gay” and “artist’s house party.” Running since the beginning of May, it’s been packed pretty much every weekend.
16. Lightroom finally had its grand opening and is now in business
Dark Bar’s opposite number, Lightroom (Ekkamai Soi 10, 095-050-9095), received official recognition at the end of May and is now in business with a blend of white decor, sci-fi lighting, cool customers and heavy basslines. Owner Nodnuanwan “Nod” Tatong shook up the Ekkamai after-hours scene when she opened Dark Bar at the end of 2014, with this latest opening promising to keep the buzz at Ekamai Mall going.