Bangkok is a haven for cocktail-lovers. While the city has traditionally had a reputation as the place to head for inexpensive beers and vodka buckets, these days the Thai capital is home to a bounty of expert mixologists and bartenders, who turn out lovingly curated cocktails and demonstrate true knowledge of and appreciation for their drinks – right down to establishing micro-bars dedicated to individual spirits. If you’re a cocktail fiend on the hunt for some of Bangkok’s most innovative tipples, these are our top tips for the best of the city’s cocktail bars.
This tiny bar, on Chinatown’s new hipster enclave of Soi Nana (no, not the one on Sukhumvit!) is one of our all-time favourite bars in Bangkok. Teens of Thailand is entirely dedicated to the love of gin – though these days you’ll find the menu features a few more concessions to non-gin-drinkers than in the bar’s early days.
While it’s not Bangkok’s cheapest option for a night of boozing, true gin lovers will find the prices more than justified by the extensive collection of bottles on the wall – many of them carried into Thailand by hand in the course of the owners’ extensive overseas travels – as well as the sheer level of expertise and dedication that goes into the skilful preparation of each and every cocktail.
For the chance to chat to the bartenders and have them create something special just for you, avoid the crowds of Friday and Saturday evenings in favour of a mid-week tipple.
Tuesday to Sunday, 7pm-midnight (until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays); 76 Soi Nana, Maitrichit Road (MRT Hualamphong); 096-846-0506; www.facebook.com/teensofthailand
Set on Silom’s Convent Road, Vesper is a bright and airy, Mediterranean-themed spot that doubles as both bistro and cocktail bar. As well as a menu of solid and reliable Italian dishes, the extensive list of cocktails in Vesper’s self-styled ‘Art Book’ is mixed by a team of award-winning bartenders.
Signature drinks include the likes of the Secret Earl Grey gin sour made with infused Tanqueray, the Silver Vesper mix of gin and vodka, the elderflower-based Rosemary Daisy, and the full-on, absinthe-fuelled Hemingway’s Sazerac. As well as pitchers of cocktails to share, there’s also a good barrel-aged selection, including favourites such as negronis and Manhattans.
Monday to Friday, 12-2.30pm and 6pm-1am; Saturday, 6pm-1am; Sunday, 6pm-midnight; Convent Road (BTS Sala Daeng); 02-235-2777; www.vesperbar.co
Right at the heart of Nana’s Sukhumvit Soi 11, Havana Social is a rum-lover’s paradise, a deliberately distressed-looking joint with a secret bar feel. Adding to the Cuban-style prohibition-era vibe, it’s the kind of too-cool-for-school place where you need to call ahead get hold of a daily password in order to even get through the door.
Once you’re inside, expect an extensive choice of daiquiris, as well as house takes on classic cocktails that are apparently influenced by pre- and post-revolution Cuba. These include the likes of old-fashioneds, a gin punch, and the good old Cuba Libre. Havana Social also boasts an impressive selection of spirits, wines and beers across the board.
Daily, 6pm-2am; Sukhumvit Soi 11 (BTS Nana); 087-066-7711; www.facebook.com/havanasocialbkk
Another gin-dedicated outfit, relative newcomer Just A Drink (Maybe) also boasts an impressive wall of gins, to be enjoyed not only in your usual G&T but also in a range of innovative cocktails. There’s a particular love of tiki displayed here, while the lavender-infused negroni has a fan base all of its own.
This relaxed Thonglor joint is also doing its bit to make high-end gin appreciation accessible to the masses – the bar’s Facebook page features clever matrices designed to help you choose the right gin-based cocktail for your own flavour preferences, as well as a growing collection of caricature profiles that imagine each of the bar’s gins as a different woman.
Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm-1am; Thonglor Soi 1 (BTS Thonglor); 02-023-7285; www.facebook.com/justadrinkmaybe
Speakeasy-style Q&A screams serious cocktails. Not far from Asok Skytrain station, the bar is designed to replicate a railway carriage from the 1920s USA, and drinking here is also serious business – if you don’t believe us, just take a look at Q&A’s web site, which devotes a whole page to the ‘rules’ its customers are expected to abide by.
Rather than sticking to a conventional menu, Q&A’s cocktail list is comprised of a ‘passport book’ of 52 playing cards, each dedicated to a different drink. These include plenty of old-fashioned recipes that in other bars have been lost to the passage of time – like the bourbon-and-ginger-ale Horse’s Neck – as well as more common tipples like the caipiroska and the Kangaroo, or to give it its more frequently heard name, vodka martini.
Monday to Saturday, 7pm-2am; Sukhumvit Soi 21 (BTS Asok/MRT Phetchaburi); 02-664-1445; www.qnabar.com
At Expique, we’re experts at showing you the unique parts of Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably won’t discover on your own. Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in Thailand and ensure you leave with a memorable experience.
Are you visiting Thailand? Take a look at our expert recommendations for:
Where are your favourite cocktail bars in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
All photos by relevant bars
Want to explore more of Thailand? Contact us about arranging to come on a custom-curated adventure with Expique.