Unreal cocktails in an unlikely corner bar
Bangkok boasts bars specialising in bourbon, gin, whisky, and even mezcal. So it should be clear the drinking scene here has reached pretty rarefied heights. Plus, if all the recent events headlined by visiting bartenders are any indication, the city might soon stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Asia’s heavy hitters, like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. But if the variety of spirit-focused enclaves and guest appearances aren’t proof enough, consider the fact that the Old Town, a quarter of the capital oversupplied with anything-goes nightclubs, beer buffets, and booze bucket bars, now claims its very own craft cocktail mecca, Rarb.
Run by the people behind Escapade Burgers & Shakes, Rarb sits in a hipster-chic, glass-encased nook on Phra Arthit Road, across from Escapade and in front of Sheepshank. The paper menu centres on five signature drinks (B320-340) scrawled in sharpie pen. Each has a name, meant to represent its qualities, that borders on absurd—Lovely Whore, Fuck My Farm, Fake Wedding, etc. But the drinks change often, so it’s best to ask the staff about the current specials. Or check their Instagram
(@rarbbyescapade), where, as he does for Escapade’s one-off shakes, co-founder and barman Karn Liangsrisuk announces limited-edition drinks.
Karn is a bit of a mad scientist, a soft-spoken but zealous experimenter who is as dead-set about perfectionism as he is doing things his own way. Rather than placing glasses in the fridge, where he believes they could be contaminated by foreign smells, he chills them with chunked ice that he pitches after one use. He also spritzes glasses with dry vermouth to remove unwanted odours and tastes. Beyond bar-keeping tics, however, Karn gets serious.
On the counter rests a small barrel full of Negroni he has aged since the day Rarb opened. The finished product has an edge, thanks to the flavours of Menorca’s cult gin Xoriguer and the oak barrel (aged Negroni, B450). In a slightly smaller barrel on the shelf is an aged Martinez (B450), a blend of sweet Italian vermouth and gin that typically appeals to fans of the classics. Barrel-aging only marks a starting point, though. Karn also makes his own limoncello, umeshu, and sangria. The umeshu, the 20-month aged version in particular (B550), is a rare find. With a hint of spice on the nose, it finishes with a beautiful balance of sweetness and tartness. And while the umeshu is immaculate, the sangria truly reveals the barman’s remarkable attention to detail. It’s complexly layered, an infusion enriched by spare parts from Rarb’s arsenal of homemade products: a spoonful of homemade maraschino cherry liqueur, some brandy informed by lemongrass and snow pear, a touch of lavender.
Celebrate, Bangkokians! The Old Town hasn’t had a cocktail bar this exciting… well, ever.
47/1 Phra Arthit Rd.
Tel: 08 1406 3773
Open: Tues-Sun, 5pm-midnight