It was the year of the speakeasy, of strong drinks on city rooftops, of French and local wines, and of many, many exciting new bar openings across town. Culinary cocktails were a major trend, bartenders became celebrities, and gin was definitely the spirit of the year.
Summing it all up in one sip-and-savvy round-up, we put together a list of some of the very best new bars that opened in Bangkok this 2018. Avid drinkers will recognise many here (consider it a flashback to the best nights of 2018), whilst others may find inspiration for places to add to a (cocktail) bucket list for 2019. Whichever way you may see it, we’ll drink to that.
Featured and Hero image credit: ABar Rooftop
The Loft and The Champagne Bar at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
Quite possibly Southeast Asia’s most anticipated hotel opening of the year, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok opened in the capital as the first Waldorf Astoria property in the region this summer. And whilst the rooms and restaurants provide much to praise about, the bars sitting regal atop the premises have quickly risen to become a grand must-visit for anyone looking to impress (and be impressed). The Loft is an Art Noveau and New York inspired bar, based around the Old Waldorf Astoria Barbook, serving artisanal spirits and classic cocktails. Above the loft lies the luxe speakeasy-like Champagne Bar, offering unparalleled rooftop views of the city with exclusive bubbles by the glass. Both bars boast a flirtatious air of opulence. Think, old Hollywood elegance. All the glitz. All the glam.
Ending the year with a true bang, lebua no.3 opened this December as what will likely be a top choice for a wild night out in 2019. Located on the 52nd floor of the Tower Club at lebua, the modern and upscale new hangout is a power pack of gin, caviar and vodka bar, inviting guests to indulge over three indoor and outdoor spaces. There’s also a digital retina-display dance floor, said to be the first of its kind in the world, ideal for dancing the nights away after a shot or two of the exclusively-blended Absolut Elyx cocktails. Not for the faint hearted, in the best of ways.
lebua No.3, 52/F, Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Silom Rd., Bangkok, +662 624 9555, Open daily 6pm-1am
Abar & Abar Rooftop
Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park saw the opening of two very snazzy bars at the beginning of the year, and whilst they bear similar names, each offers a distinct style and vibe. Perched on the 37th floor is the dark wood and Victorian-themed ABar, serving classic cocktails in a cosy ambience to jazzy soundtracks. One level above, and a little hidden from Bangkok’s hustle and bustle, is the ABar Rooftop, renowned since its opening for having one of the largest gin selections (we’re talking over 55 gins) in the country. Intimate and illuminated by the skyline and twinkling cityscape all around, both spots have proven to become two of the most beloved sundowner locations across town.
If there was an award for the most Instagram-worthy rooftop bar in 2018, it would go to Escape Bangkok, no doubt. Nestled on the fifth floor of the swanky EmQuartier, Escape has been providing exactly what its name entails: a tropical escape of the very best kind. The Bohemian beach club-inspired bar has been dubbed ‘Sukhumvit’s Secret Sanctuary’, and amidst sofa beds, thatched patio umbrellas, and plenty of bamboo, it’s not difficult to see why. Come for the bar and bistro, stay for the ever-changing musical acts and beats. You’ll forget you’re in the buzzing heart of the city, even if just for a little bit.
Escape Bangkok, 5/F, The EmQuartier, 693 695 Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok, +662 258 6515, Open daily 5pm to 12am
KOI has a new home, and it’s on the 39th floor of Sathorn Square. The ab-fab Japanese-meets-California party lounge is a combination of KOI restaurant and The Club by KOI one floor above, with the latter taking the place of the formerly infamous Ce La Vie nightclub. The new sultry hotspot consists of a narrow bar and dance floor, with an outdoor area overlooking the skyscrapers of the neighbouring business district. A popular venue for fashion shows and extravagant parties this year, it’s the kind of place for people who like to go a little over the top, located quite literally at the top of what is during a 9-to-5 just a regular office building. Unsuspecting!
KOI, 39/F, Sathorn Square Building, 98 North Sathorn Rd., Bangkok, Bangkok, +66 2 108 2005, Tue-Sun 6pm to 2am
The Bar Upstairs
If there is one place every Bangkokian has been flocking to this summer for their wine fix, it is this one. The Bar Upstairs opened halfway through the year as a gorgeous green getaway for wine lovers to drink, shop, and even learn about French wines. Nestled into a romantic secret glasshouse garden on the third floor of Brasserie Cordonnier, the friendly wine destination provides a relaxing atmosphere for deep aficionados and amateurs alike to enjoy an indulgent glass (or bottle). Accompanied by imported cold cuts or hearty French favourites like a melty croque monsieur and classic croquettes, the one-stop shop is the closest we could probably get to a picnic in Provence from the heart of Sukhumvit.
The Bar Upstairs, F/3, 33/30 Sukhumvit Rd., Soi 11, Klong Toey Nua, Bangkok, +6628215110, Sun-Thurs 5pm-12am, Fri & Sat, 5pm-2am
As if we needed another reason to love Yen Akart, CACTUS opened this year in Sathorn’s beloved leafy soi as a tribute to the Californian way of living. A rooftop bar in the most casual cool of ways, the chill-out spot is bringing a little Palm Springs to town, and the neighbourhood has been loving it. Between abstract artworks, a fire pit, and plenty of decorative cacti, the green space is a refreshing easy breezy breather much suited to the area, and with cocktails like the ‘American Flamingo’ or the ‘Pamela on the Green’, it’s easy to see why good vibes are easily found here.
CACTUS Bar Bangkok, 15 Soi Yen Akart, Sathorn, Bangkok, +6622491451, Open Tue-Sun 5pm-2am
Quite possibly the hashtag of the year for the avid bar hopper, #FindThePhotoBooth provided much fun and buzz earlier this year, when the speakeasy proposed Bangkokians with the challenge of simply finding it. Hidden behind a – we should have guessed it – photobooth, the bar helmed by four famous Asian bartenders continues to bring much buzz. Where the crowd may have first come just to take pictures and pat themselves on the back for uncovering the secret location, the cocktail-loving crowd has stayed for the really great drinks (and the really great deep-house tunes to which they can bust a serious move).
The Photo Booth, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok, +662 117 2636, daily 6pm-2am
You may have never known that you needed to sip cocktails on a rooftop in China Town above a flower shop, but with the opening of the Wallflower Upstairs, now you do. The bar that lies on top of the charming coffeeshop and florist provides much of the same rustic vibes as its lower floor companion, and yet climbing the wooden stairs to its open-air location still has something magical about it. Between warm yellow chandeliers and exposed brick (yes it’s very hipster), guests sit amongst fairy lights and entwined vines, for a bar experience straight out of a fairytale. Fittingly, the cocktail menu is inspired by the Garden of Eden, and whilst the lingering scent of China Town’s spices waft nearby, it is indeed a sweet break and breather for the busy city dweller.
Wallflower Upstairs, Rooftop of Oneday Wallflowers, 37 Soi Nana, Bangkok, +66 96 727 6789, Open daily 6pm-1am
Yao Rooftop Bar
Inspired by Shanghai’s alley culture, Yao Rooftop Bar opened atop the Marriott Surawongse’s Yao Restaurant, bringing a beautiful menu of botanical cocktails to the Silom-nearly-Sathorn city rooftop haunt. Decorated in a blend of traditional Thai and delicate Chinese ceramics, the bar embraces both local and Shanghai culture, playing modern Chinese music whilst serving Asian-inspired drinks overlooking the Chao Phraya river. It’s a blend of all the best worlds, in large part also because for 2018, Yao Rooftop Bar really showed us that midnight dim sum and Sichuan fried noodles really do make for a fantastic late night bar snack too.
Yao Rooftop Bar, Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, 262 Surawong Rd., Silom, Bangkok, +66 2 088 5666, Open daily 5pm-2am