Amidst the climbing scales, clinks of cocktail glasses, and melodic motions of dancing duos, the night assumes a dreamlike quality at Bamboo Bar. The city’s first jazz bar has been serving up classic cuts since 1953. Throughout that time, the venerable bar has maintained the humble tradition of having its own live band while rotating renowned vocalists, such as Cynthia Utterbach. In so doing, it has become a destination among discerning travellers and expats in the mood for music, especially on weekends.
The recent renovation of this iconic establishment has stirred seductive elegance in to its inimitable character. The mirror wall behind the bar counter is adorned with glass shelves of multi-coloured bottles of liquor. The backlight glints off the mirror, and the bourbons and scotch illuminate like stained glass in cathedrals. The bar is also decorated with petite oak-barrels filled with aged cocktails, such as the Port Negroni (B590), a concoction matured for one week in a 10-year-old Port Dow’s barrel.
Along with its dark wood and bamboo décor, Bamboo Bar has a subtle yet sophisticated touch of safari style carried over from its previous incarnation. Framed photographs hanging on the wall—historical images of the hotel and bar and guests from the past, like Louis Armstrong and Audrey Hepburn—recall its rich history. And, as inviting as a seat at the counter may be, sinking into one of the woven rattan chairs with animal-printed cushions makes the night all the merrier.
The Italian mixologist Mirko Gardelliano is the mastermind behind the cocktails, crafted to pique different senses and categorized by mood. The “exotic and playful” category caters to the adventurous, with spices and notes of crisp citrus. Take a sip of the signature Shooting Star (B390) and then a nibble of the citron macaron served alongside it. A second sip reveals the depth of flavour in the sweet guava-infused gin laced with yuzu zest and the tang of sauvignon blanc white wine. The food pairings are designed to elevate the spirits, not inhibit them.
The Rose Jam Tea Time (B490), a playful sip with an essence of Eros Mariage Frères Tea-infused gin and a touch of lime juice, is a riff on the classic cake and tea pairing. The scent of the rose jam hits first. Before drinking, smother mascarpone cream on the warm, cakelike scone that accompanies the cocktail and take a bite. The scone bursts with citrus notes, but also delivers a little comfort in the moist, crumbly bite.
For a more complex symphony of aged and infused drinks, explore the “mature and robust” section of the menu. The Bamboo Bar Negroni (B490) is a bitter aperitif with a lingering hint of caramel gin and a twist of fragrant orange peel. Paired with a homemade coffee tiramisu macaron, the cocktail gains a sweet dulce de leche kind of quality that is cathartic after work.
Good Times (B390) lives up to its name, as well as its category, “sophisticated and contemporary.” It’s mischievous, full of eyebrow-raising gummy bears. The cocktail is not sickly sweet, but rather honeyed with the gummy bear gin infusion and mango Aceto di Modena. With a dash of lime and a glass jar brimming with piquant little gummy bears, this combination is a mélange of fun textures and colourful flavours.
Bamboo Bar sits inside the stately Mandarin Oriental, along the banks of the Chao Phraya, where the sunset is sensational as the moon crawls into the auburn sky. As the hours slip by and rhythms start to flow, settle in to this jazz haven, an icon among Bangkok’s nightlife scene transformed.
Mandarin Oriental, 48 Charoenkrung Soi 40 | 0 2659 9000 | mandarinoriental.com | Sun-Thurs 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am; Live Jazz Sun-Thurs 9pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 9pm-1am