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An Encounter with Bangkok’s Secret Bars

The Bangkok bar scene has seen tremendous changes in the past two years with the appearance of cosier and more intimate venues. Soho hospitality pioneered the new trend with the opening of Above 11 followed by the secret bar Havana social. Competitors quickly followed suit with more elaborate concepts like Iron Balls and a gin distillery converted into a hidden bar in the middle of a shopping complex.

J. BOROSKI

One of the first ‘secret’ bar opened in Bangkok by visionary Joseph Boroski, a famous international mixologist straight from New York. Tucked in a small dead-end alley between Thonglor Soi 5 and Soi 7, the place is quiet dark and intimate. There is no menu or price list as bartenders are handcrafting cocktails following your preferences and alcohol base. It is the perfect venue for a romantic date (there is a semi-private booth upstairs and comfortable sofas), or for cocktail lovers, who know their drinks. Prices start from 400 baht up.
Found at Sukhumvit Soi 55 (between Thonglor soi 5 and soi 7) – BTS Thonglor; Phone: 02 712 6025 Open from 7pm to 2am

SING SING THEATRE

Quickly taking over the party crowd from Maggie Choo’s, Sing Sing Theatre latest glam bar-club cum theatre designed by nightlife mogul Ashley Sutton, will seduce lovers of elevated dance floor and burlesque performances. Upon entering the theatre, visitors will be captured by a mysterious and sensual atmosphere. The architecture and interior design reminds one of an ancient Chinese courtyard theatre or a high-end brothel that used to serve the nobility or Bourgeoisie. Mezzanines flank the main stage with two sunken bars on each side and secret passages leading to semiprivate booths overlooking the dance floor. At the centre, resident DJs spin party-hard tunes, back dropped by birdcages, parasols, red lights and exotic dancers dressed in sexy Qi-Pao.
Found at Sukhumvit soi 45 entrance between Quince and Casa Pagoda (BTS Thonglor); Phone: 063 225 1331 Open Tuesday to Sunday 9pm to 2am

IRON BALLS DISTILLERY

Located inside Park Lane complex, the discreet house where Ashley Sutton distilled his own gin, changed the name A.R. Sutton Engineers Siam to Iron Balls (given after the name of his iconic gin). As one would expect from Bangkok’s most famous interior designer, the concept is a mix of winding iron staircases, dark wood, comfy sofas, low ceilings salons and of course lots of copper pipes from the distillery itself. Lusciously decorated, dimly lit and reminiscence of a captain quarter on an old vessel, the overall experience is other-worldly and magical. His gin is produced in small batches with hints of pineapple, lemon and lychees, available to take away in 375ml or 700ml bottles. The cocktail menu tends to lean toward gin-base (260-350 baht) with nine specialty drinks made from his famed botanical mixture. The bar motto is “You always have options if you have balls”.
Found at Park Lane Ekkamai, G/F, Sukhumvit Soi 63 (BTS Ekkamai); Phone: 02 714 2269 Open daily from 6pm to 1am

THE OWL SOCIETY – WHISKEY SALOON

The Owl Society, located on Sukhumvit soi 61, took over an old Ekkamai house, and renovated into a warm, cozy bar with industrial vintage charm. Beautifully crafted copper structures and an underground vibe is reminiscent of the hidden speakeasy clubs during the Prohibition Era. From the wooden tables to the leather bar chairs, the restaurant/ bar uses real vintage furniture from United Kingdom for the traditional look and feel. Hoping to bring together people of different backgrounds and convey the message of “whisky in a tea cup” to women of all ages, this unique whiskey society offers up to a hundred whiskey labels from all over the world, ranging from top-shelf to local favourites. There are two private rooms upstairs to host your own private party
Found at 8/1 Sukhumvit soi 61; Phone: 02 046 3798 Open daily from 5pm to 2am

HAVANA SOCIAL

The second bar by the creative team of Soho Hospitality, the group behind Above 11, ‘secret’ speakeasy Havana Social attracts a more mature crowd than its sister venue. Once inside, patrons are transported to a portal to prerevolution Cuba with faux-semblants, shuttered windows, spare lighting and crumbling walls giving off a convincingly clandestine feel. Look out for the ‘Telefono’ sign in a small alley opposite Fraser Suites and step inside a nostalgic
phone booth, dial the secret code (1940#) and a false door swings open. The dimly lit bar teams retro cocktails with a wide selection of Rums.
Found at 28 Sukhumvit 13 alley; Phone: 087 066 7711 Open daily from 6pm to 2am

OSKAR

One of the first international bistro/bar with DJ on Sukhumvit soi 11, Oskar became quickly ‘the’ venue of choice for pre-clubbing and a favourite of the Soi 11 party crowd. Casual yet classy, Oskar offers unpretentious comfort food in satisfying portions. Chef Julien Lavigne serves classic French and European dishes with a modern twist. It’s a bistro concept, so you can eat, drink, and possibly dance as the night evolves and the crowds move in. Oskar gets lively after 10pm as a live DJ spins tunes, but never so loud that you can’t hear yourself think. The terrace is a great observation deck; watch the inebriated as they stumble out of Levels across the street.
Found at 24 Sukhumvit Soi 11 (BTS Nana); Phone 02 255 3377 Open daily from 4pm to 2am

BELLINO WINE ROOM AND BOUTIQUE

Bellino was one of the smallest bars in town when they opened, with just three tables on the inside and two more on the terrace. They recently renovated and took over more space and rearranged the bar in the middle while the boutique moved on the side. Elegant ladies can find Italian handmade white cotton dresses and leather shoes or accessories directly imported from Capri, Italy. The space layout and sofas set a particularly cozy ambiance, reinforced by the constant presence of the jovial owner, Jay Boccia, who will often join his guests to spice up their conversation. The selection of wine and fresh dishes, like the venue itself, is small but on point. We’d recommend one or two mixed platters to share (olives, cheese, cold cuts), and sampling a few wines by the glass.
Found at 251/2 Thonglor Soi 13 (BTS Thonglor); Phone 02 712 5446 Opened Monday – Saturday from 6:30pm – late.

HYDE AND SEEK

A “Culinary Playground for Grownups”, Hyde and Seek is on the Thai ‘socialite’ scene since 2010 with its philosophy of fun-dining. Lively evenings are driven by DJs spinning funky tunes seven nights a week in an ambiance evocative of a French brasserie. Smokers can enjoy a large outdoor area with lots of greenery and different ‘hidden’ spots to lean back. This place was aptly nicknamed Thailand’s first “London-meets-New-York-meets-Asia” gastro bar, and selected as Thailand’s Best Restaurant.
Found at 65/1 Athenee Residence, Soi Ruamrudee, Wireless Road. (BTS Ploenchit); Phone +66 (0) 2168 5152 – 3 Opens Monday to Sunday from 4.30pm to 1am

ABOVE ELEVEN

Bangkok is famous for its rooftop venues, but they can sometimes get stuffy and pretentious, not to mention expensive. Not so at Above Eleven, which serves an unusual mix of Japanese and Peruvian food, as well as crafty cocktails at the bar. The atmosphere and patrons tend to be lively and relaxed, and the men’s room is worth a visit for its distinctive design. The roof may not be the highest, but the view is still commendable, and your wallet will probably sigh in relief.
Found at 38/8 Soi Sukhumvit 11; Phone: 083 542 1111 Open daily from 6pm to 2am

MAGGIE CHOO’S

A speakeasy in the 1930s-Shanghai mould, it is fronted by a traditional noodle shop festooned with parasols and antique birdcages that serves a mean bowl of Ba Mee Moo Dang (BBQ pork with egg noodles in broth). Step past the curtained entrance and it’s a whole new world, with a vintage casino-style bar, leather couches, Qipao-clad lovelies that pose atop the bar or on swings, and a jazz soundtrack. The libations are strong and aromatic, like the “Empress of India,” a delicious blend of vodka, dragon fruit, marjoram, and lime.
Fount at 320 Silom Rd, Silom; Phone: 091 772 2144 Open daily from 7:30pm to 2am

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