Apoteka, the newest bar concept to open its doors on Sukhumvit 11, is vintage and modern all in one with an open, industrial space themed after an old apothecary shop.
Text & Photos By Paul Cypert.
Stand anywhere on Sukhumvit 11, throw a rock, and you’re guaranteed to hit someplace selling drinks. A friend recently referred to the bustling soi as an upmarket Khao Sarn. There’s certainly less backpackers and t-shirt stands. But if you’re looking at the sheer volume of Westerners out for a drink, the comparison holds. While many areas around town will struggle from night to night to find their crowd, established clubs and bars along this relatively short soi will see full houses most nights of the week.
So as we’ve said about previous new entrants to the soi, opening on this busy street can be both blessing and curse. It almost seems like you can print yourself money by opening on this energetic soi. Google new club and bar reviews on Sukhumvit 11, dig a few pages back, and you’ll find a shocking list of failed “sure things.” Nothing’s certain on 11, and the survivors seem to have found the perfect balance of price, concept, and good timing.
Apoteka is the newest bar concept to open its doors on Sukhumvit 11. It’s vintage and modern all in one with an open, industrial space themed after an old apothecary shop. The medicine peddled here is the favorite of Bangkok expats – booze.
Sukhumvit 11 has its cheap beer bars, cheaper VW van street-side “bars,” and inexpensive wine bars but up to now it has been lacking a concept bar pushing custom mixed drinks. Whether that’s something Bangkok has wanted remains to be seen, but at least the bar seems to be working on the most common hurdle faced by mix drink bars in Thailand – the consistency of the mixes.
There’s a reason most people in Bangkok order Black Sodas, Vodka Red Bulls, or just plain old bottles of beer, they are foolproof, easy-to-manage drinks. But order something like a Bloody Mary at most places and you’ll be shocked at what comes out.
That’s why the drink menu here is currently so small, according to the manager of Apoteka. “We have more drinks we’re experimenting with now, and hope to roll them out soon, but we want to make sure our entire staff is consistent and competent with the current menu before expanding.” Wiser words are seldom uttered in Bangkok.
For a signature cocktail bar, the menu is quite reserved. You can select from a couple handfuls of drinks covering everything from sweet to bitter and most in between. Our favorite of the night had to be the espresso cocktail, a solid shot of alcohol combined with freshly roasted espresso that’s as energizing as it is tasty. They seem to be constantly tweaking and playing with drinks and even offered us a sneak peak of a tom yum infused shot that tasted like really damn good tom yum where the alcohol hits you as much as the spice. If you visit and they’re still sampling, ask for a shot or two if you’re feeling up for it.
If you prefer less fancy drinks they offer the standard mixed drinks with premium spirits and a nice selection of micro brew beers. Sure the beers aren’t to the level you’ll find back stateside, but for Bangkok it’s a huge start. There’s a low-alcohol raspberry beer for those looking to sip without regret and more potent IPAs for those who want a mouthful of hops.
We’ll reserve judgement on the food for now. At the time we stopped by the chef had literally just been poached up from Phuket and was in his infant stages of learning the lay of the land, the staff, the concept, etc. The menu was finger food; light-bite style eats with goat cheese and tomato bread topping everyone’s favorite snack food of the night list. The burger was decent, but with Firehouse next door it’s hard not to just recommend that. They’re looking to offer up thin crust pizzas, small pasta dishes and more soon. I wouldn’t make it a food destination for the moment, but there’s more than enough to satisfy if a couple after work drinks turn into five or six and you need to get some food in your belly.
The location is hard to describe and really needs to be seen to fully appreciate. What you see from the street is only half the story. There are literal hidden rooms and secret compartments behind two-way mirrors and tucked away to the side. You’ve got an open-air smoking lounge area that can get quite social as well as a deep red, sultry private area where you can whisper to your date rather than shout.
If no one’s booked it, ask to see the hidden entertainment room. Located behind the mirror immediately viewable when you enter the bar, this private room is the perfect place to have a poker night, bachelor party, hens night, or even just a solid drinking night with your friends when you’d kind of like to be left alone (or will be up to mischief you’d probably not like the rest of the bar to see).
As far as we can tell the place has done everything right. They’ve got an experienced staff and they’re focused on taking the time to train them right. The locations got style and you can tell there was a lot of thought and care put into the place. While I don’t care for mixed drinks I enjoyed all that I tasted and would honestly return for the espresso drink in particular as a pick me up for a night on the soi. Only time will tell if the sometimes fickle and routine based Sukhumvit 11 expat will wander over from Cheap Charlies or Oskar to give this one a go. We’d recommend they do.
Apoteka Lounge Bar
33/28 Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok (BTS: Nana)