The Bangkok bar scene has witnessed tremendous changes in the past two years, as more intimate bars have captivated night owls, compared to the noisy more ‘tourist oriented’ venues that were on offer. Soho Hospitality, with their Above 11 rooftop space, pioneered this trend. The secret Havana Social opened soon after. Competitors followed suit, with elaborate concepts like a gin distillery-turned-bar in a shopping complex, and a Chinese-inspired theatre. Here are nine of the best.
Tucked in a dead-end alley, the place is quiet, dark and intimate. There is no menu or price list, as bartenders handcraft cocktails following your preferences and alcohol base. The semi-private booth upstairs and the comfortable sofas make this a perfect venue for a romantic date, or for cocktails lovers, who know their drinks. Prices start at 400 baht .
Sukhumvit Soi 55 (between Thonglor soi 5 and soi 7) (BTS Thonglor); 02 712 6025; Open 7pm to 2am
Sing Sing Theatre
Sing Sing Theatre, the latest glam bar-club-meets-theatre designed by nightlife mogul Ashley Sutton, seduces lovers of elevated dance floors and burlesque performances, with velvet curtains, leather sofas, and hidden rooms that recall the opium dens of yore. Mezzanines flank the main stage, with a bar on each side. Secret passages lead to semi-private booths overlooking the dance floor. At the centre, resident DJs spin party-hard tunes, backdropped by birdcages, parasols, red lights and dancers dressed in sexy qipao.
Sing Sing Theatre, Sukhumvit Soi 45 (entrance between Quince and Casa Pagoda) (BTS Thonglor); 063 225 1331; Open Tuesday to Sunday 9pm to 2am
Iron Balls Distillery
Nightclub designer and owner Ashley Sutton originally distilled his own gin here under the name AR Sutton Engineers, but has since renamed the bar after his iconic gin, Iron Balls. The concept mixes winding iron staircases, dark wood, comfy sofas, low-ceiling salons and copper pipes from the distillery.
Small-batch gin offers hints of pineapple, lemon and lychee, available to take away in 375ml or 700ml bottles. The cocktail menu tends to toward gin bases (260-350 baht), with nine specialty drinks made from his famed botanical mixture.
Iron Balls Distillery, Park Lane Ekkamai, G/F, Sukhumvit Soi 63 (BTS Ekkamai); 02 714 2269; Open daily from 6pm to 1am
The Owl Society Whiskey Saloon
This whiskey saloon is a warm and cozy bar with industrial vintage charm. Beautifully crafted copper structures and an underground vibe recall the hidden speakeasy clubs of the Prohibition Era. Vintage English furniture, from the wooden tables to the leather bar chairs, lend a traditional feel. They offer up to a hundred whiskey labels from around the world, ranging from top-shelf to local favourites.
8/1 Sukhumvit Soi 61; 02 046 3798; Open daily from 5pm to 2am
The speakeasy Havana Social rewards those who persevere through its tricky entrance. Look out for the ‘Telefono” sign in a small alley opposite Fraser Suites. Step inside a nostalgic phone booth, dial the code (1940#), and a false door swings open. Patrons are transported to pre-revolution Cuba with shuttered windows, spare lighting and crumbling walls. The dimly lit bar specialises in Cuban retro names cocktails with a wide selection of Rums.
Havana Social, 28 Sukhumvit 13 alley; 087 066 7711; Open daily from 6pm to 2am
This kitschy venue has become a must-stop on the Bangkok bar circuit. Dilapidated walls mixed with manicured trees echo a Thai street food experience. The bar boasts four floors, topped with a rooftop overlooking the busy street below. The kitchen updates simple yet delicious Thai recipes. The music selection can vary from indie electronic, reggae, funk, pop and disco, with different DJs every night.
Bad Motel, 331/4-5 Sukumvit 55 (BTS Thonglor); 02 712 7288; Open daily from 5pm to 2am
Chez Jay offers a shop where you can find Italian handmade white cotton dresses and leather shoes, alongside accessories imported from Italy. The jovial owner, Jay Boccia, will often join his guests. The selection of wine and fresh dishes is like the venue itself — small but just perfect. Try a mixed platter for two to share, with olives, cheese, cold cuts, and sample a few wines by the glass.
251/2 Thonglor Soi 13 (BTS Thonglor); 02 712 5446; Open Monday to Saturday from 6:30pm to late
Bangkok is famous for its rooftop venues, but they can sometimes get stuffy and pretentious, not to mention expensive. Not so Above Eleven, which serves a mix of Japanese and Peruvian food, as well as crafty cocktails. The atmosphere and patrons tend to hit the sweet spot between lively but relaxed. The roof may not be the highest, but the view is still commendable, and your wallet will probably feel more relaxed here too.
Above Eleven, 38/8 Soi Sukhumvit 11; 083 542 1111; Open daily from 6pm to 2amMaggie Choo’s
A traditional noodle shop fronts this speakeasy in the 1930s-Shanghai mould. Step past the curtained entrance into a vintage casino-style bar, leather couches, and qipao-clad dancers who pose atop the bar or on swings. The libations are strong and aromatic; try the Empress of India, a blend of vodka, dragon fruit, marjoram, and lime.
Maggie Choo’s, 320 Silom Rd, Silom; 091 772 2144; Open daily from 7.30pm to 2am