There are few cocktails as refreshing as a gin and tonic to beat the heat. Between the chill of the ice cubes and the trickle of the tonic, it’s a cocktail in which the spirit is only subtly noticeable, yet requires much, if not all, of the mixer’s attention. And perhaps this is gin’s charm. In comparison to many other alcohols, gin is incomplete without a pairing. You can drink wine by the glass. You can have a whisky on the rocks. You could down vodka shots. But you would never, ever, want to drink gin on its own.
Largely dependent on its accompaniments to lure out its botanical flavour, a gin cocktail is a true testament to the mixologist’s skills. Not every gin goes with every tonic, soda, or liquor, and a detail as small as a garnish can have a severe impact on its taste. There’s a real science to the craft, which is why Bangkok’s gin scene is really beginning to thrive, with educated drinkers seeking quality gin and quality gin cocktails. From classic G&Ts and their not-so-classic remakes, to the locally-distilled, home-infused, and wildly creative reimaginations, check out our roundup of Bangkok’s best gin bars, and find out where to sip the beloved juniper joy in the city.
Teens of Thailand
With wafts of herb and spice whirling over from the fringes of China Town nearby, it’s easy to see where the famed Teens of Thailand gets its inspirations from. Located on Soi Nana inside what appears to be an old shop house with a carved wooden door and a bunch of skateboard stickers, Teens of Thailand boasts an unexpected look for a classic gin bar, yet measures up in cool points like no other. As the first proper gin bar in the country, Teens of Thailand serves a near 80 gin-based cocktails, with a creative drinks list that is changed on the daily. Prepared by mixologist Niks Anuman-Rajadhon, the bar takes gin seriously (in fact, we’ve heard they only hold one solitary bottle of rum), and guests are encouraged to discuss with Niks their individual tastes for a bespoke cocktail. The selection is truly impressive here, from all-time gin favourites to artisanal craft concoctions. Our tip? Definitely opt for the house infusions, inspired by fresh, local ingredients of the area. Whilst they do change often, some of the incredible past creations have included sun-dried banana, pepper pork jerky, and Thai tea infused gin.
Teens of Thailand, 76 Soi Nana, Pomprab, Bangkok, +6696 846 0506
Iron Balls Gin Parlour
A true Bangkok gin bar through and through, Iron Balls Gin Parlour may serve up only one brand of gin, but it’s definitely a very impressive one. Handmade from fermentation to distillery, the house-own Iron Balls gin is made using hand-picked fresh coconut and pineapple, and distilled with 15 botanicals in the heart of the city at the Iron Balls Distillery in Ekkamai. Quickly establishing itself as an exclusive Thai gin brand, the flavour notes are smooth, fruity, and tropical — a good combination for the many local ingredients used in the cocktails here. The brainchild of the highly celebrated Ashley Sutton (the bar designer behind the infamous Iron Fairies, Maggie Choo’s, and Sing Sing Theatre), the dark wood, red velvet, and endless glass bottle-adorned ceiling create a vibe that is elegant and beautifully bewildering. Whilst a classic gin and tonic definitely comes highly recommended here, we love the diving-themed cocktail list, tying in with the maritime history of gin, and Ashley Sutton’s very own love for diving. Definitely try out the ‘Spitcock’, made with gin and Thai roselle syrup, and topped with passion fruit, cinnamon, and a meringue. In essence, no matter what you opt for, as the craft distillers themselves put it, “you always have options if you have balls.”
Iron Balls Gin Parlour, 4 Soi Sukhumvit 45, Klongton-Nua, Bangkok, +6622584858
ABar Rooftop Bar
It’s no secret that Bangkok has a plentiful array of stunning rooftop bars to enjoy a sundowner cocktail or some after dinner drinks. Bringing what is quite possibly the greatest selection of gin in the country to its picturesque location, ABar Rooftop Bar’s extensive gin menu is sure to impress. Grouped into London dry gins (think, No. 3 London Dry, Filliers, or the newly released Star of Bombay), light, floral, barrel-aged, fruity, or even gin liqueurs, the bar proves that it is more than just a scenic spot to enjoy a good cocktail. The ABar Rooftop Bar knows its gins, and knows exactly how to bring them to bloom alongside a premium selection of tonics, and an inspired list of cocktails. Opt for the G&T signature serves, or try the ‘Botanist Fashioned’ — consisting of Aged Beefeater gin, homemade coffee vanilla syrup, and dehydrated orange served on the rocks. Located on the 39th floor atop the Marriott Marquis Bangkok Queen’s Park hotel, it’s an exquisite way to sample many different gins with an unobstructed view of the city, at a bar that sits high above a lot of the competition, quite literally.
ABar Rooftop Bar, 199 Sukhumvit Rd., Khlong Toei, Bangkok, +662 059 5999
Just A Drink (Maybe)
Tucked into a mysterious hidden alley on Soi Thonglor 1, Just A Drink (Maybe) lures you in with its sweet, unassuming bar name, and yet ensures almost every time that you’ll definitely stay for more than ‘just a drink’. The laid-back atmosphere provides a popular destination for after-work get-togethers, yet it’s the massive gin collection that really keeps customers coming back for more. Lit up behind the bar like true pieces of art, the selection manages an impressive balance between global and local gins. The drinks list is split between G&T remakes and classic gin cocktails, and the beverages are creative without being over-the-top. Definitely try out the ‘Beauty and Hendrick’, combining Hendrick’s gin and Thomas Henry Blossom Tonic, Aperol, and lemon juice, or the ‘Bee’s Knees’, made with lemon and honey, served in a Japanese ceramic mug. It’s a perfect spot where gin beginners and hardcore gin experts alike can get together over drinks, in a relaxed, unpretentious setting.
Just A Drink (Maybe), 44/3 Thong Lo Soi 1, Bangkok, +662 023 7285
Junker & Bar
It’s pretty rare for a spot to provide both excellent cocktails and excellent post-cocktails munchie food, yet if there’s a place that comes very close to mastering the skill, it may just be Suanplu’s Junker & Bar. Owned by Bard Passapong, former cocktail waiter at the nearby W Hotel, the drinks (and the food) here provide a hefty dose of no-fuss, no-nonsense reasonably priced indulgence. Yet this in no way translates to ‘simple’ nor ‘boring’, as the extensive premium gin selection stocks both the usual suspects and a few unique numbers, like the unusual German Monkey 47 gin. Reflecting Bard’s very own passion and obsession for gin, it’s a great location to chat about the in-house infused creations, and the various inspirations behind each cocktail. As a plus, drinks here can also be “upsized” for groups to share, or for extra thirsty gin lover to devour.
Junker and Bar, 454-456 Suanplu Road, Sathorn, Bangkok, +6685 100 3608
The 88 Surawong
An American pub-style bar may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of gin, but if there’s one place that can change such perception, it’s The 88 on Surawong Road. Manned by New York barman Eric Stephenson, the bar at The 88 Surawong impresses all eyes with its high-reaching shelves and the very cool drinks selection housed within them. To the tunes of old-school American classics, guests can sample a history of cocktails here, as each classic drink on the menu comes with a reference from where it’s originated, and in what year and place it was first created. Whether you’re a cocktail nerd or a clueless sipper, The 88 embraces classics and elevates many of them with a few innovative tweaks, using locally sourced ingredients and local gin brands, such as the famed Grandma Jinn. Definitely try the ‘Rose Petal’ made with dry gin, sparkling wine, raspberry, peach, lemon, and egg white with rose essence, and definitely go for some of the American-style bar snacks to accompany it for a whole new gin experience like you’ve never had it before.
The 88 Surawong, 88 Surawong Rd., Bangkok, +66818297189
UPDATE: As of summer 2019, The 88 Surawong has permanently closed its doors. Silom city dwellers have been crying gin tears ever since. They head to the other spots on the list, though.