5 Unusual Bars to Discover in Bangkok

From spiked ice cream to underwater-themed speakeasies, Bangkok’s late-night watering holes aren’t afraid to mix things up.

Photo: Iron Balls Gin Parlour

1. Iron Balls Gin Parlour

Calling all gin lovers: Bangkok’s abiding love for speakeasies continues with the latest brainchild of designer Ashley Sutton. The bar’s modest entrance is easy to miss but belies an extravagant interior. Velvet couches are paired with rich, wooden furnishings reminiscent of a turn-of-last-century ship cabin. Meanwhile, iridescent chandeliers glimmer against a ceiling of decorative glass bottles meant to capture the fragmented appearance of the sea’s surface when viewed underwater. An old-fashioned diving suit drives the theme home. Talented mixologist Carson Quinn whips up the smoky S.S. All Big-Gun, a tequila-based cocktail made with clove syrup and coconut husk, garnished with a slice of caramelized orange. Another must-try is its signature gin and tonic topped with Thai basil and pineapple.

More information here.

Photo: Ryn Café

2. Ryn Café

Rainbow animal murals, fluffy pillows, and plush toys bring to mind a child’s bedroom, but don’t let the adorable decor fool you—Ryn Café’s booze-spiked scoops of ice cream are for adults only. The liqueur is hand-picked by knowledgeable aficionados (the co-owner, Tarin Chiarakul, works for craft spirits importer Bootleggers Trading), and each ice cream flavor is tailored to a complementing liqueur. For an adorable spin on the old beer and shot stand-by, try the Pink Ranger, which combines strawberry cheese ice cream with a half-shot of gin. If a taste of Thailand is what you’re after, its Khan Kluay Mao spikes pandan-coconut ice cream with Kai lemongrass vodka. Non-alcoholic options are available for those who prefer to keep their childhood pastimes vice-free.

More information here.

Photo: Shuu Shuu

3. Shuu Shuu

At night, the ground floor bar at the Pieces Café & Bed hostel swaps latte art and desserts for umeshu (Japanese plum wine). The pink, hazmat-like suits of the cheery bartenders combined with the industrial furnishings create the feeling of a miniature laboratory. Refreshing and concentrated to sweet and sour perfection, the umeshu varieties are bound to appeal to those who don’t jive well with beer or hard liqueur. The 101 works as a very sweet introduction to umeshu newcomers, while the top-shelf 888 Aotan no Yuzushu hits the spot with a citrus-y tang.

More information here.

Photo: Maison Close

4. Maison Close

The bar-slash-gallery trend is the latest to sweep Bangkok’s nightlife scene, but no place is quite as boundary-pushing as Maison Close. A black outline of an eye greets you ominously at the door. Inside, the shadowy space, bathed in a wash of spooky crimson light, is home to experimental art exhibits (including grotesque-erotic Japanese manga), a massive framed centipede, and animal skulls, that leer at you from glass displays. Proceed with caution when sampling the bar’s strong-tasting ya dong, an herb-infused Thai whisky made from glutinous rice. Also, don’t forget to sneak upstairs and check out the in-house tattoo parlor.

More information here.

Photo: Brain Freeze

5. Brain Freeze

Set in a neon-lit, futuristic space that looks like it belongs on the set of Blade Runner, Brain Freeze is owner Parich Sanguamkul’s solution to what he perceives is Bangkok’s increasingly homogenous bar scene. The concept? Shiny metallic machines dispending slushies spiked with liqueur. This fun idea is complemented by a dance floor and a playlist of hip-hop jams. Sugar high aside, the whole process is also efficient. In half a minute you can be slurping on a boozy treat, rather than waiting for your bartender to mix everything together. The drinks are strong, despite their deceptively innocent appearance. Give The Fizzy Lady Gummy a whirl; a cocktail which combines gin, elderflower, lime, and apple juice, topped off with gummy bears. The Long Island is also a dangerously tasty fix.

More information here.

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