You’re Allowed to Love Teens of Thailand
While its heavy wooden door leads to a dark, shadowy place, it's actually a Bangkok gin bar, not a brothel.
Nonthawat Oat K adds garnishes to two popular Teens of Thailand GTs. All photos by the author.
Don't worry, Teens of Thailand isn't nearly as seedy as it sounds. While its heavy wooden door leads to a dark, shadowy place, it's actually just a gin bar—perhaps Thailand's first.
"We don't mind being the first one, we don't mind being the second one," co-owner Niks Anuman-Rajadhon said. "We're just who we are."
Before opening the bar, Niks, a bar consultant who also does cocktail catering with his company Vice Versa, was frustrated that he couldn't find a good gin and tonic in Bangkok. Inspiration struck when he and his business partners were first shown an 80-year-old shophouse that would later become their bar.
"When we arrived, we thought, Wow, there are actually a lot of spice shops here," Niks said. "There's a scent to the area. You can smell all of the botanicals, especially in the afternoon."
The idea for their gin bar emerged. Before Teens of Thailand could open its doors, the shophouse needed some intense renovations. The place hadn't been used in 30 years.
"It was in really bad shape," Niks tells me of the building. "The floor was uneven. There was a pond in the middle of the house."
They fixed the major issues, but kept the building's original charm. Stripping the space of its antiquated edge wouldn't have been the team's style, Niks said.
Art was added, gin was imported, and the accolades followed. Not even a year old, Teens of Thailand has already been named one of Asia's 50 Best Bars.
Unlike a lot of the bars on that list, however, this one isn't hard to find.
"We definitely are not going for the speakeasy style," Teens of Thailand co-owner Niks Anuman-Rajadhon tells me. "We're just a bar on the road. There's a big sign with a light over it."
Teens of Thailand now has about 30 bottles of gin on hand that get used to create classic and new drinks daily. The constantly changing menu highlights fresh, local ingredients, especially in the house gin and tonics.
"The concept of our house infusions are based on the Bangkok streets. We use stuff that we see on the street and turn it into a gin and tonic."
Some of the most popular GT creations have been made using pork jerky with pepper, sun-dried banana, and Thai tea.
The local ingredients steep in a house gin for two days, long enough for the gin to absorb the new flavors. Next, each infused gin is complemented with a different tonic and garnish. The Mace GT gets Fever Tree while the Thai Tea GT gets East Import.
The bold ingredients aren't meant to mask the gin.
"We're trying to make the gin shine. We're not going to [be] shy about it," Niks said. "You can still taste the alcohol."
You're definitely going to taste the meticulously chosen gin. Each of the house GTs—served in king-sized glass goblets—pack nearly two shots per drink. The creations are smooth and balanced, not to mention perfect antidotes for sweltering Bangkok nights.
With the hype of their Asia's Best nod and the drinks to back up the inclusion, it's not always easy to find a spot inside the 16-seat bar. If you can't get in, try passing the time outside by scrolling through the Teens of Thailand social media channels.
Or maybe don't, considering the bar's name comes from the teenagers in the neighborhoods prone to huffing glue and causing mayhem.
"These kids create a lot of problems for the whole street," Niks said. "Sometimes they rob people as well. It's a bit dodgy."
Hold onto your belongings, because you're going to want to survive the wait.