Where Muay-Thai boxers would frighten you displaying their grim moves, where a muddy river would flow through Bangkok. Where the tourist would visit those notorious Ping-Pong-Shows, where reputed connaisseurs would cheer on rooftop bars. It’s there where we have just landed. For a second time. Philipp Gaux will explain you why.
This one city…
Walking through this city, I’d always find myself indecisive on whether I’d be walking this thin line between fascination or disgust. Yes, I am on Silom Road right now. I can smell it and I can sense it, considering all these people shouting around me. With Google Maps in the right and my luggage in the left hand I feel lost in translation or just lost in Bangkok. It’s been only two hours I have come here: Bound from Manila, ripped off paying an horrendous Uber fare and said to be visiting a friend.
People like my grandma now would ask: „Why you go there? It’s dangerous.“ „I know“, is what I’d answer adding that other place I have visited along my journey through life weren’t that safe either. But just because something would not live up to these extremely overrated security standards that we call our own in good old Germany, doesn’t mean it has to be bad., isn’t it?
Cause even if Bangkok with all its touristy features such as Ping-Pong shows, present display of prostitution, an outdated version of what they’d call feminism may not appear as pleasent at the first sight, it has a soul that at a closer look would give you insights in its colorful, fascinating, even progressive character. A city of contrasts. I remember myself saying exact this thing about three years ago when writing my very first article for Mixology Bar Magazine about this Asian oyster. But those who observe how fast a cocktail scene is about to change, increase and shift with London, Frankfurt and Athens only being some of the most famous examples has to acknowledge that Bangkok as well is going through mayor transformation. It might not have arrived at the number one spot competing with Singapore cocktail wise, yet it has made a huge appearance on the list of this years top 50 bars of Asia.
Finding liquid salvation in Bangkok indeed does not seem all too difficult. If you find a cab. And even if cueing and waiting almost indefinitely pays off, finding yourself lucky enough finding this one Grab, you would spend an equal amount of time explaining the driver on where he’d have to take you. „So better take what you get, I happen to hear myself saying and then be walking the rest of the way“.
Walking this way would actually get me to a place called „Thaipioka“. Funnily what makes this bar so different from all the others in this city ist he fact that it focuses on thai drinks in Thailand. „We are always seeking for new approach, new concept of work. As you might know we have hidden bar, Chinese-inspired bar, Slushie & On-Tap Cocktail bar, so now we want to create Thai & Asian inspired one.“ Is what Turk Sitthan says.
And so this concept would actually go hand in hand with the pride of many Thai people. Being a nation that during its rich history never had to call itself being conquered by any foreign power, regionally enclaved between countries that still suffer political anf social injustice, often finding itselves in rather conflictious situations, Thailand with ist open-minded, westernized and yet traditional aura would stand out with a self-confidence that is hard to find in this region. „Cocktail is origin from western culture. But we think that Thailand has very unique and interesting traditions & culture like food, music, architecture, design, art, heritage. Also we are rich & have versatile of local ingredients. It would be great to bring those ideas and transform them into cocktails “drinkable” culture“
With elegant wooden valves, this bar expresses nothing but pure elegance. Reminiscing the good old days of the 1970s with its interieur, rare plants close to even more rare spirits are a welcoming contrast to what you would find in another bars around Bangkok. What’s really hot about the concept though; the drinks themselves. Whether a Beno Imo (violet sweet potato) infused Tequila with Punt E Mes Amaro, Dry Sherry and a coffee extract or a Corn and Cheese Vodka with aromatic wine and Runny Honey. Thaipioka is a treat to your senses.
Amazed by the concept and its pure simplicity, I’d find myself strolling thorugh the streets of Thonglor. Considered to be the up-and-coming part of the city, you find cosmopolitian character in each and every Soi. „Oh there we go“, I hear myself saying, passing by a place called „Tropic City“. „Wait, I know that guy“. Sebastian De La Cruz opens the door. „After your last visit, Philipp, I continued working a bit ar UNCLE before matching up with my partner Philip, opening this new place. We have just been here for about six months. Feel at home“
A home that with its Tiki paved walls could have been the living room of none other than the Polynesian god himself, Don „the Beachcomber“. For sure, the new concept of the Swede and the French should not be on a remote island though. Way too honest and way too unique the atmosphere that you would find in it. Whether a heavy rum drink with apricot pimento dram, pineapple, orange, lime and vanilla or a tiki dream come true with Bourbon, Chinato, Coconut-Sherbet, watermelon, lime and a spiced white wine reduction. Honesty never equalizes with lack of quality. „Our hacienda shall be consiered your home. Cocktails may be 20% of the bar. Music, atomsphere, hospitality are the key elements why guests would return.“
„We actually don’t see ourselves as a Tiki bar. We are a tropical bar, as the name would say. To open this bar was accompanied by many bureaucratic obstacles. Being a white expat is not always as easy as people would suggest. Especially if your aim is creating something that lives up to european standards. To import spirits can be quite a task as well, considering how pricey they would be. But we are tiki freaks and live that concept, so we have accepted this challenge“.
„To the rooftop please“
Living along the stupid saying of „the sky is not the limit“, you’d find many venues to end your night on one oft he numerous rooftop bars oft he city. „I fucked it up with the over-sweetened Vanilla Pop-Ice-Martini last time“, I remember. That’s why this time I make sure to swing by a very special bar. With a special person to meet.
Miguel Fernandez Fernandez welcomes me with a big smile on his face and throws some facts and numbers in mine. 750 guest per night, 54 employees under him, well technically even 60 if you count kitchen staff. „Of course you have to always adapt. Especially if you work in another country. Thai people have an ego, they are very warm but skeptical at the same time. I have to address my wishes in a total different way than in Germany by the way. If you are loud, they will stop listening to what you tell them“, Fernandez said.
A huge responsabilty for Fernandez. Not only caring for his employees, motivating them and getting them on the right track but at the same time having to fill a bar at that size. You would not be able doing that with Eau de Vis or Sous Vide mixology for sure.
„I always use to say: You have to go for pop music. Pop music connects us all in some way, we can all relate to it. But now I ask you: Does it make a difference whether I put on the Spice Girls or if I give David Bowie a spin. I do think it does. Badmouthing a whole genre because of certain examples does not make sense at all. It’s like generalizing mainstream drinks.“
At the moment he still find himself working on the final menue. It shall be light twists. Creative and fruity drinks. Why not a Colada if it is made properly. Bangkok itself may not be proper but it will get you by all means. Considerung the drinks and the gastronomy, I would never want to leave.