Jan 28, 2020
By Veronica Inveen
From a funky wine spot in Hong Kong to a bar inspired by Indian heritage in Singapore, these are the new spots where you’ll probably find us drinking these days.
When three of Bangkok’s most trustworthy nightlife contributors open a place together, you can bet we’ll quickly become regulars. Sebastian de la Cruz and Philip Stefanescu of our forever-favorite Tropic City have joined forces with bar mogul Turk Sa-Nguankun —behind Sugarray You’ve Just Been Poisoned, Q&A, Thaipioka, and Alone Together, to name a few—to make Soi 11 great again. They have us bellying up to the vibe-y, neon-lit bar for cocktails like Young Folks, a dangerously drinkable mix of Jameson, spiced apple cordial and soda that tastes like autumn. And since we’re drinking, there’s a good chance we’ll eventually claim space in front of the Berlin-fit DJ table, where everyone from De la Cruz to bigger acts like Nightmares on Wax might be spinning.
We get it, Gatsby references are overdone, but if we didn’t nod towards Jay when talking about Crimson Room, we’d be remiss. The bar channels the era’s roaring glamour in everything from its tiered, plush velvet couches that face the stage to the gold Art Deco chandelier that occasionally holds twirling aerialists. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to order Champagne just ’cause, but the signature cocktails created by drinks maven Suwincha “Chacha” Singsuwan feel equally special— and with a highly photogenic edge (dove-shaped glasses). But all you really need to know is that they serve a hunk of parmesan as a bar snack.
Things we like about Sugarray Apartment: the music—a mix of soul, disco, electronic, chill-wave— is good, the bartenders are friendly, and the design is exactly how we wish our home bar looked. The tiny eight-seater space squeezed in the bottom floor of theCOMMONS Thonglor is probably the only place in a 200-meter radius we’d trust to make a good a martini, or a negroni, or any classic drink that needs to be done just right.
Tell Camellia is one of those rare specialty bars that we’ve been returning to, all the time. First off, the jewel-box-of-a-space is sexy as hell. It’s a tea-inspired bar and covered in regal greens and golds. The range in cocktails, or “Teatails,” are diverse and unpretentious. Sandeep Hathiramani and Gagan Gurung, the knowledgeable (but not in a snooty way) bartenders/tea freaks who founded the bar, are nodding towards Hong Kong’s deep-rooted tea culture in a way that even non-tea drinkers can appreciate. If you ask them nicely, they’ll show you their still in the back where the house gins (best drunk in their sippable T-Tonics) have been redistilled with different teas from around the region.
If this bar served nothing but magnums of full oaked Chardonnays it would still be one of our favorite new places to hang out, merely for the hammed-up free-spirit aesthetic and approachable, cheeky staff. Fortunately, this decidedly cool Peel Street spot’s list of natural wines spans over 200 names, with 20 by-the-glass options. It’s exactly the opposite of most wine bars in the city, which tend to be plagued by pretentiousness—the stylish crowds spilling out of the bar says it all. The bar is helmed by industry veterans Mike Watt and Ryan Nightingale who have created a menu (which also includes a few delightfully stiff cocktails) that’s rife with cheeky pop-culture references. Oh, and there are two daily happy hours.
The design is sleek, the sake is on tap, and the list of small plates includes sushi crackers topped with uni and wagyu. Sure, Saketen is a total vibe, but it’s also an endeavor to further the agenda of sake in Hong Kong. Founder and sake expert Elliott Faber and his team pour tipples from a rotating list of 10 different sake producers that range from seasonal or aged releases to weirder, fruity varieties. Ask the approachable bartenders what’s new on the tap list, taste a few sakes or oolong tea highballs (kegged in-house and poured on draft), and head home feeling better versed in the Japanese art of drinking.
There are three things you should know about Elephant Room: 1. It’s founded by Yugnes Susela, formerly of Smoke&Mirrors, one of the most passionate bartenders in the biz; 2. It’s an ode to the flavors and culture of India, Susela’s heritage, and all spirits have originated from the country; 3. They are serving some of the most interesting cocktails in the game right now (two words: ghee infusions). Though it is a concept that could quickly become gimicky, Elephant Room does it all with grace and style. Do yourself a favor and start with rum-spiked, deep-fried banana skin-topped Tekka, and a plate of tamarind curry prawns.
Any bar that uses Kimura glassware, the indefensibly sexy, so-thin-it-could-break-at-the-touch glass producer from Japan (obviously), already is on our good side. But Live Twice offers the intimate, Midcentury Japanese cocktail bar aesthetic to match. Not to mention the team behind the concept is Jigger&Pony, one of the city’s most trustworthy bar groups, so the drinks are solid.