Bangkok is so many things all at once. For travelers, it’s often thought of as one of the last true party towns, where anything goes. The sort of place where you may well end up meeting some Indiana Jones-soldier-of-fortune-types, along with a gangster or two. When you meet people who visited the city chasing that scene, you hear tales of cheap sex, dirty drugs, and fizzy beer. But that reputation is becoming more and more a fringe element, as young Thais go upscale and next-level bartenders like Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn elevate the game.
I met Ronn in Amsterdam this year at the Barcardi Legacy competition. We were at a hotel bar and Ronn was mixing me his signature competition cocktail, the Pink Me Up — a refresher of fresh tomato, basil, orgeat, lemon, olive brine, and rum. I was feeling very nostalgic about my years in Thailand while sipping the drink, or perhaps because of it. The elixir was full of deep umami and bright herbaceousness, core elements of Thai cuisine. Soon the stories started. Needless to say, we hit it off.
The Pink Me Up ended up winning Ronn the entire Bacardi Legacy competition a day or two later. I can’t remember which day exactly, as I had been drinking rum for about 72 hours straight at that point. We all partied into the night to celebrate Ronn’s victory and then went our separate ways. I caught up with him again when the dust settled and asked him to share the places that are changing everything we think we know about the bar scene in Bangkok. He did not disappoint.