The 2nd edition of The Bar Awards Bangkok brought with it several fun parties, but few surprises
Following three successful editions in Singapore and one in Hong Kong, the Bar Awards finally arrived in Bangkok last year. That first edition gave Bangkok’s still burgeoning bar industry, as well as its general drinking public, a much-needed measuring stick to gauge the quality and consistency of the city’s favourite watering holes. This year, the Bar Awards returned to Bangkok, but with a little more buzz behind them.
Put on by industry magazine DRiNK, the awards feature a unique voting scheme that ensures the public has a voice in the judging. A lead panel of 12 industry insiders first select a list of relevant categories, and the public then nominate their favourite venues. The list gets whittled down to a top 10 in each category by a broader panel of 44 F&B insiders. Finally, the lead panel narrows the selections to a top four, before the final vote. The winners of this 2nd edition were announced at a by-invite-only party held at the end of February at Zest, at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit hotel.
The big winner? Rabbit Hole. This Thong Lor speakeasy had been red hot throughout 2017. Despite stiff competition its ‘Bar of the Year’ win came as little surprise. Head bartender Suwincha ‘Chacha’ Singsuwan, last year’s ‘Bartender of the Year’, had done a number of guest spots at some of Asia’s best bars last year. At the same time, top bartenders from around the region regularly dropped in at Rabbit Hole. Meanwhile, the bar was evidently nurturing new talent of its own, and at the 2018 awards Noppasate ‘Depp’ Hirunwathit won in the ‘Rising Star’ category, which recognizes the top bartending talent born after January 1, 1990 (it’s okay to feel old when you read that line).
It wasn’t all about Rabbit Hole, though. Heavyweight contenders Bamboo Bar and Eat Me each walked away with two pieces of hardware, and craft beer institution Mikkeller Bangkok took home ‘Best Beer Bar’ for the 2nd year in a row. Newcomers got in on the action as well. Sathorn’s La Cosa Nostra was named ‘Best Wine Bar’, and #FindTheLockerRoom, the relocated craft cocktail joint run by a five-strong team of bartending bigwigs from across Asia, was named ‘Best New Bar’. The awards also honoured nightlife luminary David Jacobson, as the owner of the now-legendary Smalls took home the award for the ‘Best Hospitality Ambassador’.
Some big names went home without a win. That includes Niks Anuman-Rajadhon, who runs Teens of Thailand and the new Asia Today bar (which might notch a win or two in 2019), as well as the esteemed teams behind Q&A, Tropic City, and Bunker. But they weren’t left out in the cold. In the lead-up to the awards, the best and brightest in Bangkok’s bar world came together for a week of talks and late-night parties, including: nightcaps at Backstage, an opening party at Rabbit Hole, and, probably the only event relevant to anyone outside of the bar industry, a full-day cocktail blow-out at Flow House. This year, the Bar Awards Bangkok offered something for everyone. By Craig Sauers
For a full list of this year’s winners, visit: www.drinkmagazine.asia/news