Inside a Chinatown opium den awaits Bangkok’s newest speakeasy

Photos: @dofskyground, Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
Photos: @dofskyground, Chayanit Itthipongmaetee

Gold foil orchids dance across the black lacquer walls of a fourth-floor bar where a deep menu of cocktails are served in smoking-den chic. That’s what awaits at Opium Bar perched in a Chinatown building that’s the family legacy of Pitchaya “Chef Pam” Utarntham. 

Sitting above Thai-Chinese dining spot Restaurant Potong, Opium Bar is the latest swanky cocktail lounge for some speakeasy sips. The bar, taking over an opium den Pam’s ancestors once smoked in, was renovated into modernity while keeping its old-world charms.

Now the bar is run by Italian mixologist Matteo Cadeddu, who hails from Sardinia with a resume spanning several countries from Australia and the Netherlands to Mumbai and the Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel. The owner is Arnon “K” Hoontrakul, a veteran of the F B industry and bar aficionado himself. 

“A great drink is the one that can evoke emotions and past memories, and I want my customers to experience that,” Arnon said during a recent visit to the bar.

Century-old building that houses Restaurant Potong and Opium Bar. Photo: @dofskyground

Ambitious to serve “liquid surreality” for barflies to taste a “mix of fact and fantasy,” the menu covers an impressive range over more than 15 pages that include something for everyone – from aperitifs, digestifs, and classic cocktails to modern twists.

Opium Bar’s bar manager Matteo Cadeddu and owner Arnon ‘K’ Hoontrakul. Photo: Opium Bar / Courtesy

For a post-dinner tipple, customers who want to drink their dessert can opt for FF (THB360), a gin-based drink that comes with gorgonzola blue cheese, citrus and an opium fig cordial sprinkled with chocolate bits. The glass is finished literally on fire inside a smoker box to add a lingering fragrance and flavor. 

FF (THB360) at Opium Bar. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

If sour cocktails are more to taste, definitely try the Naughty Red Riding Hood (THB480) which comes heavy (and naughty!) with salted butter mezcal while the juicy, tangy notes owe to an opium raspberry cordial. Mystique is there, too, thanks to tiny truffle oil drops. 

Naughty Red Riding Hood (THB480) at Opium Bar. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Fancy something spritzy? Wine-based cocktails like the Opium Spritz (THB450) could easily be a new fave for the tartness and sweetness of ruby red grapefruit-dominated Pampelle matched with prosecco, opium seltzer and Thai-Chinese remedy Porkun Eabor, which is produced by the pharmacy itself. 

Don’t get too hung up on colors, especially when you’re drunk. Let’s Say It’s Red (THB420) actually arrives with a canary yellow-hued gin drink packing a few punches that combine opium jackfruit syrup, yellow chartreuse, egg white and quinine-flavored Cocchi Americano. 

Opium Spritz (THB450) and Let’s Say It’s Red (THB420). Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Visiting bars around the world, Arnon brought back an item called Porthole Infuser for Bangkok drinkers to try. The visually striking roll-y vessel created by Czech-born designer Martin Kastner allows drinkers to play around with their desired ingredients and infuse them into a cocktail. Enjoy it as flavors change over the course of time. It’s recommended for two to three people per infuser, Arnon said. Options include North Sea Oil (Aquavit, cocchi americano, opium orange liqueur, smoked single malt whisky for THB2,300), Manhattan (dry gin, vodka citron, Lillet Blanc for THB1,900) and Vesper (bourbon & rye, sweet vermouth for THB1,900).

Porthole Infuser at Opium Bar. Photo: Opium Bar / Courtesy

Opium Bar is currently doing the soft opening thing. The bar’s music will shift from jazz in the early evening to funk and electronic later at night. 

In the future, Arnon says it will offer a “cocktail experience” tour which starts as soon as visitors step foot in the shophouse. The details will be announced at a later date.

Opium Bar is located on Soi Vanich 1 in Bangkok’s Chinatown area. It’s open 5pm until midnight every day except Monday and Tuesday.

Naughty Red Riding Hood (THB480) at Opium Bar. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
FF (THB360) at Opium Bar. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Opium Bar. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Opium Bar’s menu. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok


Opium Bar 
422, Soi Vanich 1, Samphanthawong
5pm-midnight daily (except Monday and Tuesday)

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