So Saigon is probably not the first city you think of when it comes to cocktails. But as the craft cocktail movement grows, speakeasy style establishments, slick lounges, and simply good bars are spreading fast – including in Asia. For a deeper dive into what’s happening there, check out the online magazine, Drink, which is dedicated to all things liquid in the East. After a week exploring and experiencing the bars of Ho Chi Minh City, here are my favorite five:
The Alley Cocktail Bar & Kitchen: Best Craft Cocktails in Town
Just off a busy street but hidden down a tiny passageway, you’ll find the best craft cocktails in Saigon. The Alley offers up a selection of classics and inspired creations built around local ingredients in a cool spot decorated with retro musical decor. Here, they’re not afraid to get intense with a mustard sour or keep it simple and sophisticated by stirring up a stellar gin martini. They’ve got a good food menu, so you can snack on calamari tapas or go full dinner with something like beef noodles or grilled salmon. Service is exceptional and drink details include little extras like stamped ice. My advice? Kick off your night here during happy hour sips and snack at a steal!
Social Club Saigon: Beautiful Rooftop Bar with great G&T Menu
In a crazy-busy city like Saigon, sometimes it’s nice to get above all that hustle and bustle for a bird’s eye view from a more relaxed vantage point like the Hôtel des Arts Saigon’s rooftop bar, Social Club Saigon. The hotel lobby is uber luxurious (as are, I’m sure, the rooms) but the rooftop with its infinity pool and impressive G&T menu transport you to a totally different headspace where you can lean back in rattan loveseats and take in the scenery. Feeling curious? Cross over their suspension bridge just behind the bar, which gives you a clear view beneath your feet of the long drop to the ground below. Not for acrophobes.
The Gin House: Craft Cocktails + Infused Gins
The Gin House is not only the city’s only bar to specialize in the spirit, but it also turns out a nice selection of traditional cocktails with a twist – mainly inspired by local ingredients – and a range of infused gins. For infusions think green tea and pomegranate gin plus tonic. Sounds refreshing, no? Staff is friendly and informative should you be at a loss for what to order. And if you’re feeling snacky, indulge in the deep-fried cheese sticks. No, they’re not a traditional Vietnamese dish – but, they are damn tasty!
Snuffbox: Saigon’s Hidden Speakeasy
So, the taxi dropped us off at a somewhat dismal spot, instructing us to walk down the unmarked alley to reach our destination. After doing the conspicuous lost-tourist stroll down said alley, an elderly man lounging on in a dark corner took pity on us and said something; the only word of which we understood was “snuffbox.” Yes! We ARE looking for the Snuffbox. He motioned us up a somewhat desolate concrete stairway where we finally found a ‘hidden’ doorway to the city’s preeminent speakeasy where you can order up old fashioneds, martinis and house creations in a sexy prohibition themed environment. So, don’t be scared to take the first sketchy stairway to your right…it’s worth it.
Firkin Bar: Cool Whisky Bar + Craft Cocktails
Firkin is one of Saigon’s newer spots for sexy cocktails plus a large selection of whiskies (including the unusual and rare). It’s got a laid back vibe, chic décor and competent bartenders who create custom cocktails based on client tastes. The menu also includes an impressive section for Martinis, Old Fashioned and Whisky Sours. Though I so often order martinis, here, I’d recommend one of their specialty Old Fashioned or Sours to take advantage of the range of whiskies. They also offer flights for those who want to explore a bit more!
Of course, bar choices are always subjective and my list is based on my experience on one night in each bar. But your favorite five might be different, so I also suggest that you get out for your own explorations and consider some of the other stops we enjoyed as well: Caravelle Hotel rooftop, the Racha Room, Layla, Eon Heli bar, and Broma Not a Bar.