Rum Cocktail Week 2018: Our journey through Bangkok’s buzz-worthy cocktail bars

 

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Tasting notes of flamed wood, hints of spice, vanilla, and coconut. The distinct notes and tastes at Bangkok’s Rum Cocktail Week 2018 drew us in and opened up a whole world of cocktails. If you missed this annual gathering of rum lovers at Bangkok’s most intriguing bars and social lounges, don’t worry. Come with us on the trail of gold rum — one of the most sought after spirits — because it’s always better to have a drinking buddy.

First, test your knowledge of the glowing amber liquid. Here’s a quick rum-down before we embark on our journey.

Rum 101

Craft beer and gin and tonic might be big movements here in Thailand, but rum is catching on quick. After all, rum originates in warm climates as a way to cool down. Cuba, for instance, is run on mojitos as much as its vintage cars run on fuel.

Familiar with sugarcane? If you’re here in Bangkok, then we hope so. Other than making a refreshing drink, naam oy (sugarcane juice) can be processed into molasses – a thick black goo that looks like Marmite but tastes much sweeter. The molasses is then combined with alcohol’s magic ingredient, yeast, in the fermentation stage.

Soon after it proceeds to the distillation process – either pot or column still, but let’s not get too technical. Rum gets its warm color tone through a deliberate ageing process where the liquid is poured into internally charred oak barrels for anywhere between a few months to two decades.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Rum blind tasting with Bangkok Rum Week
Photo: Coconuts Media – Rum blind tasting with Bangkok Rum Week

Color is not the only result of the aging process. The scent and unique taste give each batch a unique experience for the eye, nose, and palate.

Ready to move from info intake, to imbibing?

Photo: Coconuts Media - Rum connoisseur and Phraya's brand ambassador Paul Warathep Chandeeraj
Photo: Coconuts Media – Rum connoisseur and Phraya’s brand ambassador Paul Warathep Chandeeraj

What is a great rum?

Bangkok Rum Week 2018 gathered some of the world’s elite bartenders and mixologists, for  masterclasses and tasting sessions, exclusive to Bangkok rum drinkers.

The much-awaited event kicked off with an insightful seminar with concise but passionate delivery by David Cordoba – a rum expert with an illustrious background in aged spirits. To add to that, Phraya Rum’s Paul Warathep Chandeeraj provided in-depth knowledge about the process of distillation and ageing of their gold rum, plus how these steps influenced the aroma and taste.

When asked what makes a great rum, David Cordoba firmly said it must be one that you “can always go back to, and smile with an extra notch of ‘Wow!’ regardless of taste and aroma.”

From an enthusiastic introduction to blind tasting, participants were left with a greater appreciation (and thirst!) for rum. Next up, a bar hop through Bangkok’s exciting cocktail scenes from Q&A Bar to local favorites Vesper, Eat Me Restaurant, Bamboo Bar, and to the recently hyped #FindTheLockerRoom.

 

Q&A Bar with Natalie Lau

Asoke’s secret speakeasy bar with barely enough room for a small crowd is the first place we checked out. We were greeted by the guest bartender from Hong Kong, Natalie Lau. The policewoman-turned-mixologist from Hong Kong’s The Old Man bar introduced a signature menu list with a unique concept. Each drink’s name is extracted from Ernest Hemingway’s short story, The Old Man and The Sea. The recipes are inspired by the question ‘What if Hemingway had traveled to Asia, and what would have been his drink?’ Any assumptions were soon challenged by Natalie’s flavorful combos of Asian and local ingredients.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Natalie Lau intricately making signature cocktails
Photo: Coconuts Media – Natalie Lau intricately making signature cocktails

It Is Better To Be Lucky

Phraya Rum, Burnt Butter, Sour Strawberry, Avocado Burst

A rich and frothy specialty that on first sip is similar to Whisky Sour, but leaves a sweeter dark, copper and fruity notes. With heavenly cloud-like texture in the mouth, the first drink is definitely off to a right start.

But I Would Rather Be Exact

Phraya Rum, Oleo Saccarum, Sweet Vermouth, Ruby Port, Coconut Coffee Soda

A mixture that would be perfect every morning if only you could drink your way to work — the dark aroma of coffee, rum, and the creaminess of coconut is undercut by the light bubbly cocktail.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Natalie Lau adding the finishing touch to her signature cocktails
Photo: Coconuts Media – Natalie Lau adding the finishing touch to her signature cocktails

When Luck Comes, You Are Ready

Salted Phraya Rum, Umeshu, Blend Sherry, Cider Syrup, Bitters

The most notable drink of the repertoire. Its savory flavor, derived from salted rum, umeshu and bitters invoked a resounding positive reaction from drinkers. The best part of it lies at the bottom of glass: a fresh US-imported cherry.

 

Vesper with David Cordoba

At a homey session with the master himself, David Cordoba, aka Mr. Daiquiri, donned a campy fruit-patterned apron, and offered up a twist on the classic cocktail he’s named after. Fun is the name of the game here with interesting local ingredients mixed with what David explained is a timeless formula.

Photo: Coconuts Media - David Cordoba showing off his mixology craftsmanship
Photo: Coconuts Media – David Cordoba showing off his mixology craftsmanship

Dark Ink Daiquiri

Phraya Rum, Fresh Lime, Black ‘Magic’ Sugar

Challenging the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ status quo, the twist on the classic proves that the taste is not intimidated by its unconventional look. Acidic, sour and sweet, just like the classic taste but with a pinch of spice from the signature gold rum.

Regular Use Medicine

Phraya Rum, Pineapple, Mango, Rice Syrup, Coconut Cream, Coconut Water, Banana

Incidentally, its acronym is RUM (slow applause for being crafty). The rich texture and exotic taste is truly an ode to summer, blending the coconut flavor with fresh fruits to create a tropical combustion. If this really were a medicine, we might just OD.

Photo: Coconuts Media - David Cordoba’s Minister Survival
Photo: Coconuts Media – David Cordoba’s Minister Survival

Minister Survival

Phraya Rum, Apricot Brandy, Honey, Lime, Pineapple, Mint

Tweaked from the classic Tiki cocktail Missionary’s Downfall, David’s latest interpretation is earthy, smooth, full-bodied, and paired with a lively scent of apricot — all the elements which are “necessary for our survival,” according to Mr. Daiquiri himself.

 

Eat Me Restaurant with Mari Kamata

A methodical and precise approach to crafting each cocktail is finessed by Tokyo-based and multi-awarded mixologist Mari Kamata. Proving that ladies are just as creative and cunning behind the bar, Mari serves up four Japanese-style specials using Phraya Rum as base. She describes the Thai rum as being a sensitive spirit that can be used to fix a range of various drinks for different tastes.

However, she added that certain ingredients will complement the rum without overpowering it, and vice versa.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Tokyo-based mixologist Mari Kamata preparing drinks with precision
Photo: Coconuts Media – Tokyo-based mixologist Mari Kamata preparing drinks with precision

Hoji-Cha Negroni

Phraya Rum, Hoji-Cha infused Campari, Dolin Rouge

The classic Negroni always carries a strong taste, but Mari’s signature twist finishes with the smokiness of roasted Hoji-Cha and lemon zest. Expect a slight hint of sweet vanilla from the rum, as opposed to the original recipe, which uses whisky. The creamy coconut aroma from Phraya Rum pairs surprisingly well with Negroni.

Soba & Pineapple

Soba Tea-infused Phraya Rum, Pineapple, Lemon, Ginger Ale

Soba is not just for noodle slurping. We were delighted to discover that a unique mixture of earthy buckwheat and sun-dried pineapples offers a smooth, rich taste, with a bittersweet end on the tongue.

Matcha & Passion

Phraya Rum, Amaretto, Matcha, Lemon, Passionfruit

As direct as the name goes, the drink catches you off-guard with a noticeable almond aroma, followed by a sharp sourness of passionfruit and warm, golden notes from Phraya Rum. Despite a clash of unique flavors, this is a pleasant surprise.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Ginger Espresso Martini is served
Photo: Coconuts Media – Ginger Espresso Martini is served

Ginger Espresso Martini

Phraya Rum, Coffee, Ginger, Rosemary

Garnished with fresh rosemary sprig, the rum-based alcohol is reminiscent of robust Arabic coffee with a whiff of ginger and botanic ingredients. Phraya Rum’s amber hues are hidden in the dark tone of Mari’s pre-brewed coffee, but at least the rosemary gives it a bit of lively color.

 

Bamboo Bar with Dinos Constantinides

This social lounge, frequented by hotel guests and cocktail connoisseurs who visit to drink and listen to all that jazz (literally), is one of the more crowded stops during Bangkok Rum Week. Hosted by Dinos, mixologist and co-founder of Lost and Found Drinkery, whose intricate craft involves detailed preparation techniques to serve up gastronomic-like cocktails.

Photo: Coconuts Media - At Bamboo Bar with Dinos Constantinides
Photo: Coconuts Media – At Bamboo Bar with Dinos Constantinides
Photo: Coconuts Media - Sipping on Dinos’ Behind The Seeds
Photo: Coconuts Media – Sipping on Dinos’ Behind The Seeds

Behind The Seeds

Phraya Rum, Orange, Almond, Citrus Hybrid Seed

Sweet. Tart. And nutty-aromatic. Dinos cast a spell by using seemingly simple ingredients, but the resulting taste is anything but.

Banana Old Fashioned

Phraya Rum, Banana, Bitters

This is one of our favorites, even more so than the original, we must admit. Considering the effort of putting banana through a sous-vide treatment to extract the essence for the aroma and flavoring, this drink is unquestionably outstanding.

Coalified

Phraya Rum, Gunpowder Rum, Mezcal, Passionfruit, Eucalyptus Cola, Bitters

Simple as it may appear, this drink is a twisted adaptation that bears similarities to Long Island Iced Tea (minus the vodka), but a lot classier, and with a sour passionfruit punch that balances the whole thing out.

Kubamaru

Phraya Rum, Amaro, Lime, Tonic

A typical signature from Lost and Found Drinkery, this makes for a much needed refreshing thirst quencher powered by the dark sweet taste of rum and fresh squeezed lime.

 

#FindTheLockerRoom with Diego Ferrari

The entrance of this secretive untitled social bar is through a perplexing wall of lockers (thank goodness we were still sober at the time). When we made it through, we found an elite bartender flown half way across the world to concoct his signature mixtures. He goes by the name Diego Ferrari, the author of “Low Alcohol Cocktails – New Frontiers in Mixology”. (Great for those nights you want to sip delicious cocktails and appreciate the flavor, without the hangover.)

Photo: Coconuts Media - Italian mixologist Diego Ferrari concocting Tempest Mint
Photo: Coconuts Media – Italian mixologist Diego Ferrari concocting Tempest Mint

Like many Italians who appreciate beauty, looks are as crucial as the taste. Diego believes in the packaging of the rums. They are ‘previews’ to what we will taste, and the appearance must be alluring to our brains. With Phraya Rum, a blend of two friendly warm-tones, gold and soft brown, allow our eyes to get a taste of the beautiful rum.

Diego suggests that Tiki-styled cocktails are a pleasant introduction to rum. There’s no shame in starting with a Dark And Stormy or even the traditional Mojito. With that said, his Phraya Rum-based signature drinks are definitely unique takes on the classics.

Frozen Basil

Phraya Rum, Fresh Lime Juice, Gomme Syrup, Fresh Basil, Pink Peppercorn

If you manage to avoid brain freeze, this is an unbelievably refreshing cocktail. An aromatic blast of blended basil leaves is enhanced by lime juice and a hint of spiced rum to get your mind wondering to a summer night in Havana.

Photo: Coconuts Media - Tempest Mint, a playful creation by Diego Ferrari
Photo: Coconuts Media – Tempest Mint, a playful creation by Diego Ferrari

Tempest Mint

Phraya Rum, Creme de Cacao, Creme de Menthe, Gomme Syrup

This cocktails requires a certain level of sobriety. You are required to spray Mint Liqueur per each sip of the drink to create a balanced storm in the mouth. The sweet, cool taste from Mint Liqueur, is played out perfectly with the flavor of rich dark chocolate and Creme de Cacao. After all, Diego’s MO is serve a playful experience for his customers. He’s never satisfied with customers simply drinking and going home.

 

Phraya, Thailand’s luxury rum

To say that Bangkok Rum Week is fantastic experience for rum lovers (and would-be rum lovers) is an understatement. Each bar and each drink offers a deep experience. With each unique cocktail, Phraya Rum proved its elegance as Asia’s luxury rum. Its amber-gold appearance, complemented by handcrafted grip, and rich creamy tastes from deliberate aging techniques are all the reasons why so much buzz is surrounding this relatively new spirit.

Next time at the bar, why not indulge yourself with a Phraya cocktail and see what surprises are in store.

Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo: Coconuts Media

Never miss a golden opportunity (pun intended) to get your hands on this rum and stay ahead of the cocktail game by following Phraya Rum.

Photo: Coconuts Media - deep matured gold rum Phraya
Photo: Coconuts Media – deep matured gold rum Phraya

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