Best restaurants and bars in Bangkok to sip Thai-inspired cocktails
When world-acclaimed food bible, Michelin Guide, launched in Bangkok last November, Saneh Jaan was, expectedly, one of the 17 local restaurants awarded with a star. Tucked behind an unassuming facade, Saneh Jaan revels in the most authentic elements of Thai culture, from interiors that resemble a Thai pavilion, to private dining rooms named by a national poet, to dishes inspired by old recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. But diners don’t only come for the food. Complementing Saneh Jaan’s savory—and often, (very) spicy—dishes is a collection of drinks created with much respect to Thai culture and ingredients. Ruen Ruedee, for example, is a sweet, fragrant Mekhong-based cocktail inspired by a lesser-known Thai dessert. Thaijito is the mojito-like drink mixes white rum, soda and brown sugar, but substitutes the mint with lemongrass and ginger. The result is a very Thai version with tart and tangy flavors.
With nine outlets across San Francisco, Osha took its interpretation of Thai cuisine back to its roots with a stunning two-story space on leafy Wireless road in 2014. The restaurant injects a glam modern touch to centuriesold Thai heritage in both its food and décor. Semicircular tables are scattered strategically amidst glistening black wood and a dramatic traditional mural depicting scenes from the Thai national epic, Ramakien. The food at Osha is no less theatrical— avant-garde gimmicks are used to give a more contemporary feel to traditional recipes. Fried squid, for one, is served with salted egg sauce and smoked in a plastic-wrapped coconut shell. Drinks-wise, expect Thai-inspired creations that deserve an award just for how they’re presented. Chada (Thai traditional headpiece) is a noteworthy example. The photogenic cocktail, which blends Mekhong with passion fruit, apple juice and vanilla syrup, is served with a golden chada headpiece and an ice cube dressed in gold leaf.
TEP BAR in Charoenkrung is a crowd-puller for all the right reasons—local hipsters go here to indulge in a bout of nostalgia, while tourists flock to the bar to experience a bit of Thailand’s exotic mysticism. TEP BAR is credited for making Thai musical instruments cool again, offering live music by local musicians playing traditional xylophones and wooden flutes. Along with casual tapas-style Thai treats like khao krieb wow (traditional rice crackers), the bar also pays tribute to traditional libations with a house-infused ya-dong (Thai herbal liquor), as well as local spirits like au (spirit made from sticky rice) and sato (beer-like booze made from sticky rice). The cocktails blend local branded liquor with fresh ingredients to create complex Thai-inspired drinks. For example, Yala (named after a province deep in the south) is a creamy tipple that blends Mekhong rum with coconut milk, honey and pomelo, while Mango of Himapan Forest is an exciting mix of Mekhong with mango, coconut sugar, honey and egg white with drops of lime juice adding a hint of acidity.
Thai cuisine powerhouse Supanniga Eating Room has been indulging locals with Eastern-style cuisine with a Khon Kaen flair for years. At its latest offshoot in Ta Tien neighborhood, the restaurant teams up with popular coffee roasting house Roots to create a riverside venue that offers exquisite Thai fare alongside Thai-inspired brews, as well as unparalleled views of Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn. Roots takes over the first floor and doles out creative variations on their house brew. The second floor, meanwhile, features a cocktail bar that serves an array of Thai-inspired libations. Mantra, a refreshing high ball cocktail, playfully combines spice-flavored Mekhong with ginger ale and orange garnish. At this outlet, Silom cocktail bar Vesper exclusively creates concoctions with a hint of Thai influences. Try Supanniga G&T, which uses jasmine-infused Thai gin as a base or Ahoy Mantei, a heady mix that contains Mekhong, Cointreau, Aperol, Green Chartreuse, honey clove syrup and absinthe.
This restaurant on Soi Sukhumvit 33 resurrects old recipes from Trat, Thailand’s eastmost province, in a charming house-like setting festooned with nostalgic details, such as framed photographs and a colorful painting of the owner’s mother. The reception room is dedicated to a bar that’s highlights a massive painting of a rose on the floor, as much as cocktails given a Thai twist. Kam Khong, inspired by the song composed by Luang Wichitwathakan, sees Mekhong mixed with French port wine and a dash of spices. Pair it with delicately spiced Eastern seaboard staples like pork stew with chamuang leaves or massaman curry with young durian.