"Nori" Tsubouchi mixes up some superb cocktails — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Nori's Bar – owned by Japanese bartender and drink mixologist wizard Noriaki Tsubouchi – is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall speakeasy, known more by Bangkok restaurant chefs and owners who go there to drink after work than by your average Thonglor area partygoer.
Tsubouchi's the former face behind Hanakaruta, the small Japanese whiskey bar over on Sukhumvit 39, which he has since sold and franchised.
People claim that Tsubouchi is also the sculptor behind the hand-crafted ice ball craze that has hit the Bangkok bar scene, and while he sure makes a good one, his talents go far beyond that.
While his new bar is really more like drinking in someone's apartment, with just a few tables and some stools at the small bar, he has brought over his homemade umeshu plum wines from Hanakaruta, ranging from ultra sweet to just a little sweet, and all of them a far cut above any bottled plum wine you'll find out there.
You can drink them straight or try them as a cocktail, with fresh strawberries and pineapple flavor.
Homemade plum wine at Nori's Bar — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Tsubouchi can whip up just about any cocktail, and it's fun to watch him measure, stir and concentrate at the bar.
Ask for a gin and tonic, and he may recommend you a bit of his own gin infused with lemongrass. The highball drinks are also quite popular, using Japanese Suntory whiskey along with lime and ginger ale. They're only about a third of the price of the more expensive cocktail creations.
Many Japanese went to Hanakaruta to indulge in the vast amounts of different Japanese whiskeys that were up on the shelf, whereas Nori's Bar keeps things a bit more simple.
Nori's Bar is an intimate hole in the wall — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
It's quiet in here early, especially as the bar is not well advertised. And even if you know the address, you'll be hard pressed to find it, hidden upstairs in a residential building that houses an art school, with just a small paper sign on the front door and the need for Nori to buzz you in from up above.
There's live music here at times, as several of the regular customers are professional musicians, and there's a Japanese jazz or blues bar vibe. It's a good spot to unwind away from the crowds.
Tsubouchi really is one of the best bartenders you'll find in the city, so it's worth seeking out this place just to let him put a spin on your favorite cocktail – to sit and watch him work his craft in an intimate spot.