Without a doubt, Vesper http://www.vesperbar.co/ on Soi Convent is barrel aging, shaking and straining not only some of the best cocktails in Bangkok, but some of the best cocktails I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. This, combined with the fact that they have a delicious menu – overseen by Chef Luca Appino from La Bottega di Luca no less – land Vesper firmly in my “Best of Bangkok list”
It’s always a good sign when you are recognized on a return visit to a bar or restaurant and both the bartender Milk (I hope I got that right!) and Colin the bar manager – who has worked “behind the stick” everywhere from Canada to China before making his way to Bangkok last year – remembered me from my fleeting first visit when I popped in for a cocktail before dinner at Eat Me. I enjoyed that first drink so much that I returned earlier this week for dinner with the intention of making some serious headway on the rest of the cocktail list! Whilst there I also had the opportunity to chat with the owners Chotipong and Debby – who are also partners in Thonglor’s Little Beast – whose passion for everything food and drink related really shone, you can’t fake this level of engagement and it shows.
My first drink was the “Portofino” (420 THB) made with Gin, French aperitif (Lillet), Aperol, tonic water, orange bitters and citrus air. The presentation was just beautiful – the pre mixed cocktail came served in an old soda bottle with a beautiful label alongside an oyster shell filled with the citrus air and a hiball glass packed full with chunks of crystal clear ice. On the menu they say to imagine you are in a glamorous seaside café in Italy and I really loved how the presentation was designed to add to this. It was the perfect aperitif and I know I shall be bringing a bottle of Lillet back from Europe when I visit next month.
On my second visit I left myself entirely in the hands of the bar team, requesting only something light and delicate for my first drink before moving on to something more spirituous. They started by serving me a “Secret Earl Grey” (340 THB) based on Audrey Saunders Earl Grey MarTEAni where Gin – Tanqueray in this case – is infused with Earl Grey tea leaves and shaken with lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white to get a lovely rich, frothy mouth feel with a few drops of grapefruit bitters on top. It is then served with a lovely herbal dry ice smoke which plays on the herbal notes of the tea beautifully, not to mention it looks really cool!
One of Vespers signatures is that they barrel age cocktails – that is to say they make the cocktail and then leave it for up to 6 weeks in American oak barrels before its ready for bottling and serving. The barrel aging process serves to round out some of the spirits, making them appear softer as well as adding hints of vanilla and other interesting layers of flavour to otherwise familiar drinks. I have previously tried negronis this way and so when Colin recommended the “Bobby Burns” ( 380 THB) with Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Benedictine, Grand Marnier and Cinzano Rosso I happily agreed. I really loved the herbal notes from the Benedictine and the barrel aging, combined with the use of sweet vermouth made the overall cocktail much more mellow and approachable than it otherwise might have been.
Next up was one of Colins own creations, the eponymous “Colin A Tait” (390 THB) made with Calvados, Laphroig and Bourbon. What a great combination this was! The smokiness of the Laphroig played off perfectly with the slight sweetness of the bourbon and the calvados, making for an intriguing depth to the drink, not to mention a beautifully smooth cocktail. I love Calvados even though you don’t’ see it in cocktails so much, I will definitely be ordering this again!
My last drink was one I was more familiar with – the Boulevardier. This is essentially a Negroni made using bourbon, or Michters rye whisky in this instance, instead of gin. The use of rye just adds a whole new layer of flavour to what is one of my favourite drinks and this was another huge success.
Of course I had initially gone in for dinner and so decided to have a couple of dishes alongside my drinks. The bruschetta with lardo di colonnata (360 THB) – a sort of aged pork fat – with pickled red onions and honey is a great little snack to nibble on with a drink, the sharp red onion playing off nicely with the sweet honey and porky fat. For my main course I chose their “Nose to Tail Burger” made using a special mix of Sloanes pork. The burger patty seemed to have everything inside it from pulled pork to cubes of glistening fat and consequently was far more flavourful than just a regular pork mince. At just 290 THB I was also impressed with how reasonably priced it was too.
Vesper is the kind of place you can visit purely for cocktails but with a food offering this good I cannot imagine not ordering anything to eat. They also do a daily happy hour form 5-7pm where for 300 THB you can have a cocktail from their “Aperitivo” list along with a little mini plate of appetizers which I need to go back and try when I have a day off as it looks great! When you have a group of people as passionate about what they do as they are here at Vesper the end result just magical.
Vesper 10/15 Convent Road, Silom, Bangkok