Behind-the-scenes at Bangkok’s best new cocktail bar
“We want a Michelin star—a Michelin star for bars. Yeah…” says Watcharapong ‘Bank’ Suriyaphan, grinning like the cat that got the canary. “We aim high!” Minutes later, Bank has somehow snatched the notepad from this writer’s hands, shining the spotlight in the other direction, for once, with a barrage of the same empty questions that had been thrust upon him. He’s turned our interview into a conversation, throwing a wrench into the vaguest suggestion that the night will unfold as planned. So the notepad goes away, along with scripted questions, and we get back to the business of having a good time.
This, it seems, is par for the course at Backstage Bar, the burlesque-themed, no-holds-barred hideaway named Bangkok’s Best New Cocktail Bar at The Bar Awards, an event held back in late April (see pg. 101).
“We look at everyone here as our friend,” adds Kitibordee ‘Gov’ Chortubtim, co-founder and head bartender, as he prepares a classic Daiquiri (B340). Although just lime, rum, sugar, and ice, the Daiquiri is notoriously hard to perfect, but Gov’s got the balance right. The bar’s motto—“Nothing is serious behind the curtains, except for cocktails”—suddenly makes perfect sense.
Bank, meanwhile, explains the Backstage MO. Of the six co-founders, at least two man the bar each night (Bank, who moonlights for a spirits importer, claims he’s “an entertainer, not a bartender”), and the team brings on new talent all the time. Much of the clientele, he says, are regulars. And even though it’s technically an industry bar—a place for other bartenders to hang out when they’re off the clock—it still has mass consumer appeal.
While a soundtrack featuring big band covers of pop songs plays on, the fun-loving staff jokes around with everyone, even the first-timers, but they also make sure all customers get the right drink for their tastes. The cocktails are, simply put, right up there with the best in this city.
The Earthbeet (B390) is a vegetal riff on the Negroni, punctuated by a bittersweet balance of unusual ingredients: beet-infused Cimarrón tequila, Alipus San Juan mezcal, and Cynar artichoke liqueur. The Lucky 13th (B360) does away with subtlety, using an herbal-sweet foundation of Ricola-infused Ketel One vodka, Fernet-Branca amaro, and peach liqueur, while kaffir lime and honey add dimension to a tasty finished product. There’s even a cocktail made with rhubarb (the ‘Aphrodisiac’), an ingredient most commonly used in pies. Just don’t expect much elderflower. “It’s like MSG—it’s too easy,” says the pensive Gov, a frequent figure on the bartender competition circuit who admits that judges “don’t always get” his creative process.
However, you can be the judge of Gov’s creative ability, as a brand-new signature drink menu will be have been released by the time you read this—and it will have his fingerprints all over it.
Playhaus Thong Lor, 205/22-23, Sukhumvit Soi 55
Tel: 02 712 5747 | Open daily: 6pm-1am