A Bangkok Bar Is Building a Temple to Tequila and Mezcal

A few years ago, drinking mezcal in Bangkok was about as improbable as Donald Trump running for president. Well, things change.

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Jun 1 2016, 4:00pm

A few years ago, drinking mezcal in Bangkok was about as improbable as Donald Trump running for president. Well, things change.

Not only has importing the trending spirit become possible, but players in the hospitality game are now able to get their hands on other beloved agave spirits.

"Go back a year and you'll find zero mezcal," Ben-David Sorum said of the market in Bangkok. Sorum is one of the three Swedish co-founders of The Sapparot Group, a restaurant management company based out of Bangkok.

Ben-David Sorum surveys the construction scene at Touche Hombré in early May.

Ben-David Sorum surveys the construction scene at Touche Hombré in early May. All photos by the author.

Sorum and his partners are about to bring mezcal, tequila, and tacos to the Bangkok public with the opening of their latest project, Touché Hombre.

Melbourne locals may already be familiar with that name. The original Touché Hombre exists in Australia, but the Sapparot Group has teamed up with the restaurant's founder, Davis Yu, to become a local Bangkok operating partner.

The result of that partnership may be Thailand's largest collection of agave spirits available to the drinking public paired with food by Mexican chef Ezequiel Tinoco.

Mezcal and amaro come together on the Touché Hombre cocktail list.

Mezcal and amaro come together on the Touché Hombre cocktail list.
Sebastian De La Cruz has tattooed tiki tributes all over his body. Sebastian De La Cruz has tattooed tiki tributes all over his body.

"I'm pretty confident to say that we're going to have Thailand's biggest selection of tequila and mezcal," Sorum said. "The bar program is going to be, I'd say, 90 percent Latin spirits."

Sebastian De La Cruz is the man behind the Touché Hombre Bangkok's bar program. Like Sorum, De La Cruz is also a Swedish import. He's been living in Thailand for nearly two years and taken note of agave's rise.

"When I came from Sweden one-and-a-half years ago, one of the first things I asked was, 'Is there any mezcal here?' Nothing. 'Mezcal what?'" De La Cruz said.

"Slowly, one mezcal came on the market, and now thanks to people who are passionate about bringing craft spirits [to Thailand], more and more mezcals are available."

In addition to the mezcal problem, the tequila situation in Bangkok bars was dismal.

"Most places in Bangkok have the same small lineup of tequilas," De La Cruz said.

De La Cruz put together a menu of twelve cocktails for the Touché Hombre drink list designed to champion agave spirits.

"I won't say that all the drinks on the menu are mine," he said about the cocktail lineup. "Eight of them are mine completely from scratch; then I've taken different agave cocktails that I like from different persons all around the world."

He's pulled from international influences like New York bartender Brian Miller and the iconic Tommy's Joint in San Francisco.

De La Cruz is featuring Brian Miller's Last Train to Oaxaca on his twelve cocktail menu.

De La Cruz is featuring Brian Miller's "Last Train to Oaxaca" on his 12-cocktail menu.

"Tommy's Margarita … is more than [a] classic cocktail," De La Cruz said. "I had the honor to meet the man who created that cocktail in San Francisco. Of course I wanted to have Tommy's Margarita on the menu."

When it comes to the drinks De La Cruz came up with himself, there's a lot of tiki going on, naturally, considering the Swedish expat is a diehard tiki fan. He sports tattoos that pay homage to the craft.

"You're going to see some tropical tiki hints in the drink menu, but with tequila and mezcal," he said. "It's a mix and match of everything I like that works great."

Nacho Libre, one of De La Cruz's favorite creations of his career.

Nacho Libre, one of De La Cruz's favorite creations of his career.

His favorite mix and match, not only from the Touché Hombre menu but of his entire bartending career, is the Nacho Libre. The drink brings together fresh pineapple juice, yellow chartreuse, El Jimador tequila reposado, and Mancino Vermouth's Chinato.

"Everything goes together so well—you don't expect the flavor," he said.

Bangkok's drinking set may not expect the unique flavors, but can expect to enjoy exploring a world of agave previously unavailable in the Kingdom when doors open at Touché Hombre in this month.