While new bars in Bangkok spring up every day, it's hard to find one that combines seriously well-crafted cocktails along with a fun and relaxing vibe venue, but from the drinks to the music to the atmosphere, Tropic City bucks the trend, as it delivers a tropical punch on all fronts.
Slightly themed as a Polynesian tiki bar, Tropic City is set in a beautiful old house with brightly painted walls with parrots and flowers, a captivating wall painting of an old woman smoking a cigar, and vintage furnishings. A DJ spins Afro beats, soul, and house music, and you can also sit outside and chill in the courtyard.
Swedish bartenders Sebastian De La Cruz and Philip Stefanescu, noted for their bartending wizardry at venues UNCLE and Touche Hombre, wanted to have their own bar, and realized that sultry Bangkok lacked a proper tropical rum-based bar. Captivated by tiki culture, De La Cruz points out that while Tropic City is not a bonafide full-fledged tiki bar, it does show full appreciation to tiki cocktails, with plenty of spice-infused, fresh juice and syrup-mixed-with-rum based drinks that will wow the most discerning drinker.
Watching the duo showing off their mixing skills and tasting the results is somewhat akin to watching a master magician. Sample the bar's most popular drink, Welcome to the Jungle, indeed an ode to tiki and tropical. Plantation dark and Carta Blanca rums are mixed with apricot, pineapple, orange, the allspice scented Pimento Dram liqueur, and vanilla, all poured into a carved out pineapple, fitted with a paper beach umbrella and drunk with a straw.
Tropic City doesn't limit itself only to rum, so gin and vodka lovers don't need to fret. The Skywalker combines horsepower bark-infused vodka with Falernum cordial, Pimento Dram, honey, lime, pineapple, and is then topped with beetroot foam, a touch courtesy of the bartenders' Swedish roots.
Fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs are all fair game at Tropic City, as long as they inspire good tropic-worthy cocktails. Bombay Sapphire gin gets infused with Thai parsley, tequila gets infused with charred red bell peppers, and friends can even get "cocktail flasks," meant for sharing with 3-6 people
There are also tapas-sized snacks served up by the folks from Michelin Plate-awarded 80/20, which is a partner here and located just down the street. The location in this artsy neighborhood is also the perfect pit stop on any bar-hopping night coming from Chinatown's Soi Nana over to Silom.
With a few sips of rum under your belt, the ceiling fan whirring, and the Afro beats making you want to get up, put on your Hawaiian shirt and dance, you'll be excused for forgetting that you're on Charoenkrung and not somewhere in the South Pacific.
Recommended for Bars because: For Bangkok's best tropical drinks, Tropic City beats the heat.
Dave's expert tip: You can take the MRT subway to Hualamphong and walk 10 minutes down Charoenkrung to Soi 28. Conversely, if you happen to be on the Chao Phraya River, take the river ferry to the Sri Phaya pier and walk up to Charoenkrung 5 minutes, with Soi 28 on your left.
Australian nightlife designer and creator Ashley Sutton was already famed for his bizarre and unique Iron Fairies bar, but rather than open a sequel, he made a different film altogether, this time round creating what he termed "a fish and chips saloon for sexy people." Like Iron Fairies, Fat Gutz is dark and intimate, with a mariner's saloon vibe. The menu here lays tribute to sunken ships, with an epic drink list created by New York cocktail whiz Joseph Boroski, featuring Neptunia's (made with white rum, pomegranate, molasses, mint, fresh lime and champagne), or the Junyo Maru (Irish whiskey, honey melon lime, and crushed cucumber). The fish and chips are also pretty stellar, and the folks eating them certainly aren't representing the labor class segment of Thai society. Other menu items include oysters, sashimi, and even desserts like chocolate rum brownies topped with strawberries. Good live blues and other tunes get played regularly, and the atmosphere is always lively with a very well to do Thong Lor crowd packing the place out daily.
Recommended for Bars because: For innovative cocktails in a creative environment, you will marvel over Fat Gutz.
Dave's expert tip: Soi 12 is a bit of a walk from the Sukhumvit intersection, best to grab a cab or motorcycle taxi to get here. There are drink specials before 9pm so it pays to hit happy hour.
Tuba is a nice place to come hang out for awhile if only for their comfortable sofas, different themed rooms, and very artsy vibe, as the place is full of antiques, paintings, retro furniture, and all sorts of other odds and ends, which are all for sale by the way. And the place also turns out some decent Thai-Italian food. But the main reason to come here is for their mammoth sized well poured cocktails. Seriously, you'll be hard pressed to hold your goblet at Tuba, it is more made for Goliath hands than mere mortals, and best of all, if you come during the 5-8 happy hour, you get two of these monsters for the price of one!
Recommended for Bars because: For monster happy hour drinks in Bangkok's most relaxing hangout, Tuba chills.
Dave's expert tip: come early to get a good seat, happy hour here is very popular. The mojitos come highly recommended as does the Hoegarden beer. Best way to get here is to taxi up from Ekkamai to Soi 21.
Imagine sitting in a rennovated garage full of retro relics that serves outstanding drinks and you've got Shades of Retro. This cozy happening neighborhood bar, hidden down a sub soi of Thong Lor, is crammed in every niche with everything from old Vespas to vintage LP's, gramophones, and all sorts of assorted bric a brac surrounding each table. Free popcorn is served nonstop, and the caiparinhias are the best you will find outside of Brazil. Indie tunes are on the sound system, and the decibel level is low enough to enjoy conversation. An excellent place to chill out, and yes, the furniture (and everything else) is for sale.
Recommended for Bars because: For Bangkok's funkiest bar and best caiparinhias, Shades of Retro merits a visit.
Dave's expert tip: It is a bit hard to find Shades of Retro, best to take a taxi to Thong Lor Soi 21 and look across the street, where you will see Soi Thararom 2, which is between Thonglor 16 and 18 on the even side. The bar is 100m down Thararom 2 on the right.
This new hole in the wall New York style speakeasy sits hidden above a clothing shop, and looks a bit like an office space, which it actually is, home to local syrup makers Socrates, who decided to turn their crafting spot into a bar which is only open 3 nights a week. The intimate bar has steel shelves, wood tables, and a thick steel door at the entrance, making you feel like you are stepping into a giant safe, but don't worry, you are in good hands here, as the bartender, Vipop "Tor" Jinaphan, is one of Thailand's top mixologists. The yummy hand crafted cocktails here feature Socrates' succulent syrup mixtures like lychee and ginger, and drinks like the popular Old Fashioned, which mixes bourbon, orange syrup, soda and bitters, are served over hand crafted ice balls.
Recommended for Bars because: For master mixology in a hole in the wall, Sugar Ray is worth finding.
Dave's expert tip: A hard place to find, head up Ekamai to Soi 21, find Moose Bar, and go down the alley across the street to the clothing shop in it and head upstairs. There aren't any signs.
One of Bangkok's most unique and distinguished bars, J.Boroski is also its most hidden. This New York-styled speakeasy is the personal bar of Joseph Boroski, the "mixsultant" as he calls himself, who is a legend in Bangkok and elsewhere, having created and designed just about every cocktail menu for all the top bars in the city. Boroski has travelled to dozens of countries around the world, creating, sampling, and learning about the art of fine drinking, and his Bar and Hospitality School in Bangkok produces some of Bangkok's most outstanding bartenders. What started as the training area for his school later turned into a hangout for friends, and eventually expanded to become a dark and intimate speakeasy, completely unique in how it runs. There is no drink menu here. Rather, you tell the mixologists if you like it sweet, sour, or otherwise, and watch them create a drink for you. There also is no sign outside, and the bar lies down a dead end alley that is pretty challenging to find unless you've got a map or have come before. Media isn't allowed to list J. Boroski's address, you'll either have to contact the bar or have a friend who knows it bring you in, and it remains a bar for serious drink lovers, so party hounds and trend lovers should head elsewhere.
Recommended for Bars because: For Bangkok's most unique speakeasy, J. Boroski Mixology stands in a class all its own.
Dave's expert tip: Look up Boroski on Facebook and drop a line. It might be the best way of getting a map.
With 30 taps and specialised bottle selections from around the world, Mikkeller has burst onto the Bangkok craft beer scene with a vengeance, and has to be on any craft beer lover's list. The array of great boutique beers here is staggering, and the laid back brew pub, started by a couple of Danish beer lovers who worked for Carlsberg in Thailand, run their own import beer company, and now are doing their own craft thing, is one reason why the hip Ekkamai neighbourhood continues to lead the high end alcohol craze taking over the city. Mikkeller puts on plenty of special event nights, both in terms of beer specials and inviting expert brewmasters from around the world in to show their stuff, and for those who want to just kick back and relax, the garden setting here is perfect.
Recommended for Bars because: For the best craft beer in town, Mikkeller is tops.
Dave's expert tip: Check out their Facebook page for regular updates on specials and events, as they are pretty regular and ongoing.
The Moon Bar, perched on the rooftop of the Banyan Tree Hotel, offers one of the most stupendous panoramic views of Bangkok, and a sunset here is a memorable occasion, well worth the price of a cocktail. The bar sits in a stylish roof garden, seemingly sprawled out across the sky. Long divans, chic bar stools, and comfortable tables surround the bar, each with their own unique panoramic view. The cocktails are as astronomical as the views, running 350 baht per drink, but they are actually a pretty fair deal, as they are well mixed, strong on the alcohol, and are served along with complimentary dishes of cashews, wasabi peas, and chips. The drink menu is extensive, featuring mango margaritas, golden paradise concoctions with passion fruit juice and triple sec, and all sort of other exotic creations
Recommended for Bars because: For the city's best view, you cannot top the Moon Bar
Dave's expert tip: Arrive early if you want a prime sunset table, and remember, no sandals, shorts, or grubby jeans are allowed. Closed shoes are required for men.
Set in a three story shophouse over on Suan Plu off of Sathorn Road, which seems to be Bangkok's most up and coming new drinking spot, Smalls is the brainchild of David Jacobson, the nightclub whiz who started the famed Q Bar in Bangkok several decades ago. His latest venue is a far cry from the large and noisy Soi 11 club. Smalls is as the name says, very cozy and intimate, although it does fan out over three levels, with an open rooftop plus several indoor spaces to choose from. The decor is decidedly Parisienne, and the mesmerizing signature cocktail list is enhanced by a large selection of absinthe drinks, with a traditional absinthe spigot sitting on top of the bar counter. It's a great little spot for escaping Bangkok, with its eclectic crowd and funky vibe, one feels more like Paris, Berlin, or New York here, and the bar has become the latest nightclub afficionados top hangout. There is some great live jazz here, featuring the picking prowess of Dan Phillips and his quartet, who play every week, and the bar also has plenty of special nights, like Vietnamese pho served on Sundays and buy one get one drinks for members of the hospitality industry on Mondays.
Recommended for Bars because: For fans of bohemian and unique, Smalls is a must.
Dave's expert tip: Suan Phlu lies just off of Sathorn Road. Nearest public transport is the MRT Lumpini metro station, but probably easier to just jump in a taxi.
Started by the knowledgeable team of mixologists behind the experimental cocktail bar Sugar Ray, Q & A combines all the suave and elegance of a five-star hotel bar with the intimacy of a speakeasy. Hidden down a dead end alley with just a question mark on the green door to let you know you've arrived, the cozy interior here resembles a 1920's railway car, and features a row of leather bar seats from where to watch the mixologists do their tricks. The fun menu features Non Orthodox takes on classics, Questions, which tend to be stronger and more potent, and Answers, which are easier and a bit sweeter, and then a selection of Negroni options, along with a weekly special theme (Cajun flavors, Asian spices, etc). Try a Koko, which takes macaroon vodka, Frangelico, and cachaca spirits, mixes them with coconut carbon powder, and serves the tropical drink in monochrome, a departure from the usually colourful fruity. Q & A most certainly ranks with any of the top mixology bars, both in sophistication and in solid drink-making.
Recommended for Bars because: For outstanding drinks in a sophisticated speakeasy, Q & A is unique.
Dave's expert tip: Best to make an advance booking, as there are only ten bar seats.