Evoking the golden age of glamour, BKK Social Club at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River celebrates the legendary allure of Buenos Aires and the energy of Bangkok. From the moment you enter the bar, the vibrant yet seductive design sets the scene with the dramatic back bar, displaying an extensive spirits collection, immediately catching the eye. Plants sprouting from chandeliers above and layers of colonnades invite you to explore. The cocktail bar features green velvet upholstered banquettes with backrests stretching to the ceiling, while two semi-outdoor courtyards encourage socialising whilst overlooking the main water feature of the hotel. The dark wood and low lighting is masuline while green velvet and foliage adds a femine touch creating overall a very sexy bar. At the helm, innovative Beverage Manager Philip Bischoff brings his talents to the bar. Ranked #1 in Thailand and #21 in the world by Drinks International for the Bar World’s Most Influential Figures, Bischoff shares the artistry of mixology with bespoke cocktails that reflect the typical drinking culture of South America combined with local Thai touches. We were lucky enough to try a few of these creations whilst staying at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River after a very fabulous meal at their Michelin Cantonese restaurant Yu Ting Yuan.
We were greeted by Philip who showed us to a booth where he served us a small welcome drink, like an Amuse Bouche at a restaurant, a vermouth based drink with homemade cola, mint and Cacao, we sipped this while pursuing the menu deciding what cocktails to try. As massive Margarita fans we had to go with the Pistachio Margarita with Arquitecto Blanco, Pistachio Orgeat, Lime and Raspberry Salt first. A very pretty drink with a subtle green hue and pink salt covering the glass, unlike a normal margarita this was not a sharp limey drink, instead it was almost dessert-like. We went on to try the Evita, the Café Tortoni, which is a twist on an Espresso Martini, La Pampa, Hand of God and Cuarteto. My absolute personal favourite was the Aviation; this has always been one of my favourite cocktails but because it’s so simple sometimes people ruin that simplicity, but here at BKK they truly outdid themselves, it was elegant and served in a unique way with a small refill carafe, it was so good I could not help myself from ordering a second. We moved from our secluded booth near the end of the evening to the bar stools in front of the backlit bar to chat further to Philip’s team. The charming and capable Sukie and Brian showed the same passion in creating cocktails and pleasing their patrons by providing them with their perfect drink. BKK Social Club is a true asset to Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River and a destination in its own, so if you are ever in Bangkok make sure to pay a visit to absorb this cross pollination of two vibrant cities and let Philip and his team wow you with their award winning creations.
After our visit we were lucky enough to interview Philip Bischoff about BKK Social Club at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River and their recent awards and accolades.
What inspired you to become a master bartender and mixologist?
To become a bartender, the inspiration goes way back to the times when I was still studying Health Administration. During these times, I did part time jobs casually at events and at some point found that the bar teams seem to always have a great time. So it started, that I made drinks for friends at Birthday / House Parties as well as events. At some point started a regular engagement on an event series, had weekend shifts at clubs and at some point a first job offer at one of Berlin’s most recognized Club Restaurants. While still studying, my love for the Hospitality Industry constantly grew to the point that I wanted to turn my weekend engagements into my profession. So I went to my parents and grandparents to share my plan and my grandfather just said “Then do it right!”, emphasising that I should put effort and thoughts into it. That was the beginning and from there on, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by good people in our industry, that helped me to grow and sometimes, it also helped, to be at the right place at the right time…
After working at Manhattan in Singapore, what was it like moving to Four Seasons Bangkok?
Professionally, Manhattan was like my baby and our team was like a family (Papa with many little kids ;) ). Knowing Bangkok and its bar scene, I always believed that we as a Four Seasons Hotel can add something great to the local bar community. More so, to be part of a pre-opening and opening team is one of the most intense experiences. The new learnings that happen every day, the new people one works and grows with during that time. An experience not to be missed. Bangkok is unique and it’s great to see it coming back to life and it’s a great place to be in our industry right now.
As BKK Social Club is inspired by the parallels of Buenos Aires and Bangkok how does this reflect in the drinks menu and the creativity of the bar staff?
The Argentinian Drinking Culture is heavily influenced by the European influence on Latin America, especially by the Spanish and Italian. Furthermore, you also have some North & Central American influence. These impacts allow us to use lots of European spirits (Vermouth, Bitters, Amaros), which you can find widely all over Argentina. As well some Central & North American Spirits are used and of course numerous variants of Gin. One of them being Argentina’s first premium craft gin, Apostoles. We also feature some Argentinian Vermouth and Orange Aperitif. All these products, we currently feature exclusively at BKK Social Club. Our approach is to reflect the Argentinian storytelling ourmenu, that is by the three “P”,that you need to create a social environment. You need a Place, full with People to create a Party. These three elements are the inspiration for our current signature drinks. Places, like areas or iconic buildings in Buenos Aires, or People, characters, that have their moments in Argentinian history, for example. As for the link to where we are now, here in Bangkok, the food section of our menu is building the bridge between the locality of BKK Social Club and its Latin American inspiration. Dishes presented in sharing style, that combine Latin American heritage and local flavours.
What is your favourite spirit to work with?
That’s not an easy one, since there are many. I do like Vermouth to play around with, but our guests do like their spirits, so Mezcal & Tequila are currently very much liked. Personally, I do like my American Whiskies, but also love to play around with certain Island or Islay Whiskeys.
What Is Your Favourite Cocktail On The Menu?
The Social Martini is definitely one of my personal favourites. But I would not like to miss out on the Evita and our Pisco Sour. And the Hand of God as much as our Manhattan. Oh yes, our Social Negroni is as tempting as the Coffee Boulevardier…
Congratulations on achieving No 10 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022, what does this mean to the bar and your staff? Do you think it makes a difference to the bar’s appeal to clientele?
Thank you very much for your kind words. The recognition came with a big surprise – a very pleasant surprise. Of course, we are all very humbled and proud of the achievement and it’s an amazing feeling to be recognized by our dear guests & colleagues. We are very lucky that we established an amazing local and international crowd of regulars, even before the Awards and the bar became more and more a destination for visitors due to increasing tourism in Bangkok. I guess, the accolade raised the expectation of every single guest walking through the door and into our bar. That keeps us on our heels and we love to give our guests a great time. I think it’s all about consistency and constant development. But never to forget, that everyone is coming here to have an amazing time.
What’s next for BKK Social Club in terms of evolution to stay current?
We cannot stand still. Menu update is in progress, some additional programming points are developed as well, we will open doors for some external friends to showcase their amazing skills in order to enhance the guest experience from time to time. The team will grow and we want to make sure our talents develop their passion and skills constantly.