Pour it up – Thailand’s best cocktails and where to find them
One of the most versatile and beloved cuisines on the planet, Thai food packs quite the punch, being a blend of salty and sweet, creamy and tangy as well as fried and fresh, all at the same time. One thing most of Thailand’s traditional fare has in common is its spiciness. When ground chillies and fresh ginger kick in, it’s time to cool down with a cocktail!
And luckily, Thailand’s mixology scene is in no way inferior to its culinary counterpart – in fact, many Thai drinks are inspired by the country’s flavoursome cuisine. Looking for the crème de la crème of cocktails in the land of smiles? You’ve come to the right place.
Cashew Down South at Bamboo Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
There are many reasons to stop by Bamboo Bar at Bangkok’s LGBT-favourite Mandarin Oriental hotel, but we’ll focus on its ‘Compass’ cocktail menu, launched by head bartender Jamie Rhind in 2018. Celebrating flavours from all across the kingdom, the imaginative menu boasts many a cool drink, but our favourite has to be the Phuket-inspired Cashew Down South! Made with Chalong Bay Rum, basil, spiced pineapple, cucumber and of course, cashew nuts, this smooth number reminds us of Phuket’s velvety beaches and warm breeze – it’s a day by the sea, served in a parrot-shaped mug that comes with a miniature sunhat… and boy, does it taste amazing!
Siam Mary at St. Regis Bar, St. Regis Hotel, Bangkok
With a live band and views of Bangkok’s skyline from the 12th floor, you could almost be forgiven for neglecting the menu of sweet concoctions on offer at the stylish St. Regis’ Bar. Though we suggest you don’t: spearheading an enviable list of cocktails is the intensely aromatic Siam Mary, a harmonic blend of lemongrass, coriander, Thai chilli, wasabi and tomato juice. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a Thai interpretation of a classic Bloody Mary, the St. Regis’ signature cocktail. But this is Mary as you’ve never seen her before – wilder, hotter, more exotic and, because one isn’t enough, served in a 14-ounce goblet. Spice up your life!
Kaow Niew Mamuang at Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar, Chiang Mai
Translating to ‘mango sticky rice’, the Kaow Niew Mamuang is Service 1921’s boozy answer to the tourist-favourite, three-ingredient Thai dessert you’ll have tried at Chiang Mai’s famous walking street market. Mango juice, coconut milk and just a dash of lime linger on the tongue as the last ingredient, rice, fires up the throat in the shape of Mekhong Thai Whisky! Once known as the ‘Spirit of Thailand’, this molasses-heavy liquor has toasted notes reminiscent of a setting sun that contrast beautifully with the mild mango and creamy coconut. If the drink gets you hungry, why not stick around for dinner? Service 1921 is among Chiang Mai’s finest restaurants.
Roy Thai at Dibuka, Phuket
The final cocktail on our list is as quintessentially Thai as it gets. Combining the flavours of a whopping five herbs and four spices (kaffir leaves, Thai and Vietnamese coriander, lemongrass, galangal, clove, Makwaen seed, pepper and cinnamon, in case you were wondering), this complex drink is nothing short of a game-changer. In fact, we’d say it defies the usual categories of sweet, sour, spicy and creamy. There is something truly imaginative about the Roy Thai and we’re not talking about the syrup inspired by laab, a traditional Thai salad – although that does give the drink a unique twist. Perhaps more than anything, this cocktail nails the spirit of the kingdom’s varied cuisine: it’s fresh, eclectic and unpredictable!