Where To Drink In Bangkok, According To An Award-Winning Bartender

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.

Ronn’s Bar — Backstage Cocktail Bar

Backstage is the first cocktail bar in Thailand that’s owned and operated by bartenders. Our signature menu is inspired by movies. Though we’re always creating special menus, depending on which ingredients we have at the time. You can check out the specials on our mirrors at the back bar.

Classic Cocktail Bar — #FindTheLockerRoom

#FindTheLockerRoom is a project from big-name bartenders from across Asia: Hidetsugu Ueno of High Five in Tokyo, Colin Chia of Nutmeg & Clove in Singapore, Nick Wu of Bar Mood in Taipei, and Chennarong Bhumichitr and myself of Backstage Cocktail Bar here in Bangkok.

The menu offers classics with a Ginza style twist. Just look for the “lockers” in the back of a Chinese restaurant called Ping’s.

Craft Cocktail Bar — Ku Bar

Ku Bar is one of my favorite places to go. It’s a very casual place that’s pure minimalism with really nice craft cocktails. Gong, the owner and bartender, used to work at Angel’s Share in New York and has brought that high-end speakeasy feeling to this spot.

Tiki Bar — Tropic City

Tropic City prefers to be called a “tropical bar” not a “tiki bar.” Still, it’s the best place for rum in Bangkok. It’s a fun spot with a good atmosphere. The walls are painted with jungle scenes and the staff is great. Grab a Bone-Thugs-In-Harmony — that’s a bone marrow and caramelized pineapple-infused rum cocktail with bitters — and get ready to party.

Dive Bar — Havana Social

Mojitos and Latin music — what more could you ask for? Havana Social draws a sexy crowd ready to dance and party with Cuban-inspired cocktails and food. Protip: Call ahead for the door code.

Restaurant & Bar — Eat Me

The food at Eat Me is award-winning and worth the wait. The cocktails are actually deconstructed from many Thai dishes! You can try a Pad Thai cocktail or Laab Moo (spicy pork salad) cocktail here. No one else is working on this level of blending classic Thai dishes and flavors into cocktails quite like this. It really is a one-of-a-kind and delicious experience.

Pub/Tavern — Saxophone Pub

I’ve been going to Saxophone Pub for about 20 years. They’re still serving pub-style drinks which are very easy to drink. Every night they have different live bands with all kinds of music. This is a great place to get a little too drunk and party a little too hard, maybe.

Hotel Bar — The Bamboo Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The Bamboo Bar is the highest-ranked bar in Thailand from Asia’s 50 Best Bars. I like every cocktail on their menu … even their mocktails. Protip: If you like a particular mocktail, you can ask the bar staff to add spirits and it’ll still be a great drink! The service really is phenomenal, and they have a beautiful live jazz band!

Themed Bar or Immersive Experience — #FindThePhotobooth

#FindThePhotobooth is a speakeasy in a sports bar over another bar! Sounds confusing? Just find the photo booth near 8 On Eleven near Grand President Hotel. The entrance is there, I promise! The drinks change with what’s available. They focus on classics with a Thai twist. Be adventurous!

Bar Run By A Friend — Teens of Thailand

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Teens of Thailand is an easy and casual gin bar. The space is very comfortable and welcoming with an amazing staff, of course. My recommendation: Try the Thai tea gin with tonic or chrysanthemum gin with tonic. They’re both a MUST!