The craft cocktail scene in Bangkok is booming, and few people are as qualified to comment on it as Anya Montague.
Anya is passionate about using local and sustainable herbs, fruits, and spices to create bespoke cocktail lists. She has traveled the world as a guest bartender and trainer in some of Asia’s best bars and was a Global Finalist in the 2016 Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. Currently, Anya is the bar manager at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and the founder of Pollen Room, a series of pop-up bars showcasing the wild side of botany with cocktail menus featuring foraged ingredients.
We asked Anya to tell us a bit about her background, as well as where to drink up in Thailand’s ever-bustling capital.
“I started bartending just before my eighteenth birthday. I had originally gone to a restaurant looking for a job as a chef. Funnily enough, it was a kitchen full of brawny Scottish guys. They didn’t think I could handle the heat of the kitchen, but they said, ‘We have an opening in the bar that we really need a junior bartender. Would you be interested in that?’
And as I was a student, I said, ‘Fine.’ I really wanted to pursue my kitchen dreams, but as a job it would be fine for me.
I went from being junior bartender to making the cocktail menu after about six months, then head bartender after eight months. Then I worked with a consultancy company in London and worked there for a while. I met my partner, who I now own a company with, and a year and a half later, we started our traveling.
Bangkok is the city that I most know. It’s the place that I get off the plane and I get that heat and I feel like, ‘Ah, I’m home.’ My brother lived there for 14 years. It was one of my first experiences in Asia apart from India, where I half grew up in.
Generally what I do is I’ll stay near Ari. I’ll gravitate around that area: it feels much more Thai, and there’s people cycling on their bikes.
If I’m on a bit of a budget and I just want a luxury experience, I take the free boat from Saphan Taksin to the Anantara Hotel. I go there to hang out by this beautiful pool that they’ve got, and they’ve got an amazing happy hour. At 6 p.m., these Thai dancers come out by the Trader Vic’s at the hotel.
There’s a bunch of cool bartenders in Bangkok. Rabbit Hole, Smalls—there’s live jazz in there. My friends own a place called the Backstage Bar. Any bars designed by A. R. Sutton—I’ve known him since I was quite young, since he’s friends with my brother—Iron Fairies, Maggie Choo’s, and then he’s got his distillery there… Vesper is a really great bar, The Bamboo Bar…
When they call Thailand the ‘Land of Smiles,’ they really mean it. Everyone is happy to link you up to the bar two doors down.”
Backstage Cocktail Bar
205/22-23 Sukhumvit Soi 55, Bangkok
Mon-Sun: 7:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
The Bamboo Bar
48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok
Mon-Thu, Sun: 5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.; Fri-Sat: 5:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
The Iron Fairies
404 Sukhumvit Soi 55, Bangkok
Mon-Sun: 6:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
320 Silom Road, Bangkok
Mon-Sun: 7:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
125 Thonglor Sukhumvit 55, Bangkok
Mon-Sun: 7:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
186/3 Suan Phlu Soi 1, Bangkok
Mon, Wed-Sun: 7:00 p.m.-2 a.m.
Vesper Cocktail Bar
10/15 Convent Road, Bangkok
Mon-Sat: 5:30 p.m.-1:00 a.m.; Sun: 5:30 p.m.-12:00 a.m.