Formerly known as Saigon, the Southeast Asian hub is beloved by many for its characteristic nightlife scene. Walk around once the sun sets, and you’ll find locals perched on short stools by the roadside, sipping on frothy cups of freshly-brewed beer known as bia hoi. Turn into the tourist-populated District 1, and you’ll easily spot throngs of foreigners flocking in and out of compact nightclubs, less steady on their feet as the clock inches closer to the next morning.
These polarising scenarios have come to define Ho Chi Minh after-hours. But as of late, bars specialising in cocktails have begun to introduce themselves to the mix, giving thirsty visitors new options for nightlife experiences in the Southern metropolis.
The scene may still be young, but these cocktail bars in Ho Chi Minh are a promising sign that its bartenders are carving out a distinct identity for themselves in Vietnam and perhaps in the region as well. The next time you visit, be sure to drop in to the ones we’ve shortlisted below.
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The narrow confines of Pasteur Street are home to Ho Chi Minh’s trendiest cocktail bar right now. Dubbed as The Alley, the hidden bar is the flagship establishment of Minh Tan Pham, one of the key players in Vietnam’s nascent cocktail field. The former Diageo ambassador pays homage to his upbringing in the Mekong Delta by introducing fruits and spices from the fertile river into his librations. The sours on the menu are especially popular.
Expect a renewed appreciation of Vietnamese flavours with every sip you take.
Alley Cocktail Bar& Kitchen, 63/1 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1
This retro gastro-bar is a lively all-day joint that draws both locals and tourists to its doors.
Urban Kitchen + Bar is an ideal destination if you want to tick both dinner and drinks off your evening plans. The cocktail menu is spotted with familiar Western classics, and the establishment has built quite a name for itself thanks to its punchy martinis.
Urban Kitchen + Bar, 18 Ngô Văn Năm, Bến Nghé, District 1
Ho Chi Minh is known for its scenic rooftop bars, but Anan is a breed apart from those tourist baits.
Tucked along the same street as a busy traditional wet market, the ambient restaurant and bar specialises in contemporary Vietnamese cuisine and cocktails. Infusions are an Anan signature, and many of the cocktails are made with liquors that have mingled with ingredients from Da Lat, the nation’s agricultural locus.
Anan Rooftop Bar, 89 Ton That Dam, District 1
With a restaurant, lounge and long bar occupying one space, Qui is a multi-concept pioneer in Ho Chi Minh’s Little Japan neighbourhood.
Vietnamese and Japanese fruits and botanicals anchor Qui’s inventive beverages, but if you prefer the classics, the bar has a fine selection of barrel-aged cocktails that will impress even the seasoned drinker.
Qui Lounge, 22 Bis Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1
Just off Ben Tanh market is The Gin House, a snug temple to the white spirit that prides itself on its renditions of the humble G&T, made with house-infused gin.
The labels that stock its shelves is extensive by Vietnam’s standards, but don’t go there expecting flights of esoteric gins to help while away the evening. Just look out for your favourite labels, or order a gin-based cocktail and imbibe.
The Gin House, 28/3A Đường Tôn Thất Tùng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1