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5 trends in the Bangkok bar scene, according to an expert

From the rise of agave to the perfect summer sip, Marco Dognini, bar manager at the W Hotel’s Bar Sathorn in Bangkok, gives his take on the best trends in the Thai capital’s cocktail scene.

5 trends in the Bangkok bar scene, according to an expert
Kevin Dewever, Marco Dognini and Thanchanok Rinthorn

Bangkok is pulsating with bar activity this year with a new bar opening almost every week. On a recent visit to the city, We asked Marco Dognini, bar manager at W hotel’s Bar Sathorn, for his take on the booming bar scene.

Born and raised in Milan, Dognini helms the resident bar which sits outside the hotel in a beautifully preserved heritage property called House of Sathorn. His new menu takes inspiration from the old and new and blends a host of local ingredients with modern mixology and classic cocktail formats.

So what are Dognini’s top insights into the Bangkok bar scene for 2024?

Tequila and Mezcal are trending

Tequila and Mezcal are new trends in the city, following in the footsteps of the gin trend which began in the 1990s. Many Hollywood celebrities are making their own Tequila brands, and their availability in local bars is rising.

Dognini says there is still some reservation from patrons, however. “As we introduce Tequila-based cocktails, we have to be a little careful. The spirit is still slightly misunderstood with some clients who think it’s too strong. I prefer to introduce agave spirits gently. For instance, I won’t make a Tequila Negroni, but I have introduced Tequila in a gentler highball classic, like a Paloma.”

Highballs are the perfect summer drink

“High-ball cocktails are best suited to hot afternoons and work well with Bangkok’s warm weather,” Dognini says. “People want sparkling and refreshing drinks, and a carbonated highball checks all the boxes.”

The bar manager will also add a lower-ABV cocktail to Bar Sathorn’s menu as people are becoming more conscious about their consumption. He says: “We have four low- and no-alcohol cocktails on our new list, and I have noticed non-ABV options at other mainstream bars too, like Opium and BKK Social Club.”

The Thai touch

“I remember back in the day when I started working in Milan, I made cocktails with lemongrass and kaffir lime, but the European-sourced ingredients didn’t have much taste. Here, I have rediscovered the local produce, and the flavours are so vivid,” he says. “Thai pineapple, pomelo, lemon grass, kaffir lime, and coconuts are the best in the world. You have to incorporate them.

“Also, since most of our guests at Bar Sathorn are foreigners, they’re looking for a taste of the country they’re visiting, and we want them to savour the Thai flavours in our drinks.”

Are we oversaturated with global trends?

Dognini is seeing rotovap machines and expensive centrifuge machines everywhere, but argues that, at least sometimes, they’re overused. “I believe less is better,” he says. “We also advocate for minimalist garnish and practising sustainability at the bar and hotel through waste management programmes like the Bangkok Rooftop Farming. Other bars like Mahaniyom also practice a zero-waste approach.”

New bar every week

The Thai bar scene is booming. Guest bartenders are descending on the city in from all parts of the world, not just Asia. Since January, several bars, including the likes of Pickwicks Chronicles and Dry Wave Cocktail Studio, have opened in the capital.

Dognini is confident the positive trend is set to continue. “Opening a bar in this city is relatively cheap and we have amazing talent and ingredients to work with,” he says. “Don’t forget that Thailand welcomed 28 million visitors last year, so there is a demand for new establishments.”

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