The secrets to Char’s superbly smoked cocktail revealed
Considering Napaphat Juengdeesomjai’s nickname, it certainly sounds like she’s in the right industry. But ‘Beer’, as her friends call her, isn’t filling pints from the tap. She’s crafting cracking cocktails with smart, sophisticated twists at Bangkok’s buzziest new rooftop bar and restaurant, Char, located on the 25th and 26th floors of the Hotel Indigo.
A self-professed fan of the classics, Beer took her talents to even higher grounds with the support of Francesco Moretti, the renowned barman who helped design Char’s signature cocktails. “We like to make drinks that get our guests talking,” she says, whilst showing off a house-made, bubble gum-pink bottle of strawberry-infused vodka. Seeing people enjoying and talking about her cocktails is “the best part of my job,” she adds.
Beer then reveals her favourite drink right now: Pandora’s Box, Char’s playful spinoff of the world’s most popular cocktail, the Old Fashioned. The cocktail combines elements of time-honoured and cutting-edge trends. For the young bartender, it hits all the right notes.
When Beer gets to work, things start normally enough. She muddles Angostura bitters and sugar, preps some orange peel for later use, and pulls out a bottle of Chivas Regal Extra. There’s a good reason she prefers this rich blend of Scotch whiskies for Pandora’s Box. Chivas Regal Extra uses malt whiskies matured in ex-Oloroso sherry fill casks, imparting the whisky with a sweet fruitiness on the nose and complex tasting notes that round out the finish. How that lightly smoky flavour plays in to Pandora’s Box becomes clear when Beer reveals a couple of the special tools in her arsenal—a smoke machine and a glass dome.
After Beer has mixed the sugar and bitters with Chivas Regal Extra, she twists orange peel over the mix, runs it around the rim of the glass to lend some wonderful zesty aroma, and drops a maraschino cherry steeped in whisky into the drink. Then she covers the cocktail with the glass dome and places applewood bourbon chips in a little cylinder, igniting them. Suddenly smoke plumes like white clouds, surrounding the amber drink. “I love the way this smells,” she says, removing the glass dome, the perfume filling the air. The aromatic smoke pulls out the underlying tasting notes in the Chivas Regal Extra—ripe pear sweetness amplified by the whisky’s complex luscious aroma. It’s a tantalising match.
Between the boozy cherry and the applewood smoke, Pandora’s Box gives the Old Fashioned new dimensions. And this shift from the norm underscores the effect that the Char team has achieved at this lively rooftop bar hovering high above Wireless Road. The al fresco bar overlooks leafy Embassy Row, perched directly across the road from the US Ambassador’s residence. From the deck, the landscape below looks incredible—Dutch, Vietnamese, and US Embassy grounds rimmed by rows of high-rises, with Lumpini Park gleaming green and gold on the horizon. As the late-day breeze blows in and the sun settles behind the silvery sky towers, the glittering lights of Bangkok’s urban skyline come into view. For Beer, as well as the packed crowds that fill the deck from 5pm onward each evening, there’s no better way to recognise the beauty and charm of the Thai capital than with some of Char’s brilliant cocktails at sundown, and on into the vibrant night.
- Wet down a sugar cube with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters over a rocks glass
- Rotate the glass whilst stirring, to line it with the sugar and bitters
- Add a single large piece of rock ice
- Pour in 50ml of Chivas Regal Extra and stir well to combine
- Drop in a bourbon- or whisky-soaked maraschino cherry
- Place Applewood chips in a smoke machine; cover the glass with a mason glass dome
- Light the chips, filling the glass dome with their smoke for about one minute
- Release the cover, breathe in the aroma, and enjoy!