I am lucky enough to have visited bars in around 40 different countries. I’ve had all my drinks paid for by a Yugoslavian Italia 90 Quarter Finalist in a Scottish Pub in Budapest, drank the owner’s home brew in a cozy bar / bottle shop in Andorra, kept an eye on the price of beer at a Stock Market themed bar in Dehli, had an amazing beer and curry in the basement of the Fisheries Ministry in Warsaw, and ended up lost in San Diego after visiting the Modern Times Brewery. All of these places hold special memories or have generated stories to tell friends, making them some of my favorite bars. But - which bar is the best bar in the world?
It’s such a subjective question; everyone has their own opinion, and opinions change over time. If you asked me this question when I was eighteen, I would have said The Golden Acorn in Glenrothes, Scotland. I was all about the $1.50 pints of Miller. When I was twenty-one, it was Opium in Edinburgh, where I jumped around to loud metal with a drink in my hand. I took my partner there recently (I’m now thirty-four) and the sweaty walls haven’t changed much since then. When I first moved abroad to Bucharest at age twenty-three, I loved a bar called Whispers because it was the only place I could go to watch Scottish football. They once went above and beyond the duty of any bar, and brought in a TV from home so a group of four of us could watch a Scotland International, while the rest of the bar were watching England and Romania. Would it be my favorite bar today? No, but it’s much better than Opium!
Fast-forward nine years... I was thirty-one and living in Dhaka, Bangladesh with a baby on the way. The only bars that were accessible were linked to an embassy and required a £100 monthly membership fee, or a friend to sign you in. Luckily, a baby on the way meant regular trips to the hospital in Bangkok. I had heard that Mikkeller opened a bar there two years prior, so I quickly looked into its location for our first trip to Bangkok. It just so happened that we had possibly found the best bar in the world. From that point on, we became masters of finding accommodations that were located half-way between the hospital and bar.
So what makes this the best bar in the world? Mikkeller Bangkok is located in a small residential area, just one block behind Soi 63, a heavily trafficked street. It’s quite the find to have a quiet spot so close to the hustle and bustle of this busy city, and even more impressive that it serves good quality craft beer in Southeast Asia. The building itself is a small and comfortable converted, 50’s era house, complete with bean bag seating in a lush, green garden. On the ground floor is the bar area and on the top floor is a Michelin starred restaurant called Upstairs. Outside and towards the back of the garden is the Tasting Room Bottle Shop. If you can bear Bangkok’s heat and humidity, the garden is an ideal place to relax with a cool beer, under strings of twinkling lights. Even the necessary mosquito repellant is provided for you at the tables!
Yet, this lovely atmosphere isn’t really enough to make this the best bar in the world. The service is what does it. Every few months, on our regular trips to Bangkok, we would stop off at the bar for me to enjoy a beer or two. My pregnant partner was happy some tasty Mac and Cheese and homemade ice cream! We would also stock up on quality bottles of beer for our semi dry life in Bangladesh. Mikkeller Bangkok’s service stood out every time we went. Even though we would only be there every 6 weeks or so, the manager recognized us each time, making us feel like this bar-away-from-home was our local watering hole. She went out of her way to do things like set up bean bags in the air conditioned bottle shop, so our friend’s toddler could go to sleep comfortably in a quiet space while we enjoyed ourselves. One visit even coincided with the launch of the Mikkeller/Warpigs - Black Ivory Stout in February 2017, where we’re pretty sure we spotted Mikkel mingling with customers. Two weeks after our baby was born, we enjoyed a lovely waffle brunch with beer in the Upstairs restaurant, and the manager ooh-ed and aw-ed, as the baby slept through her first visit to a bar. A week later, still stuck in Bangkok and waiting for a new passport, we enjoyed one of my highlight experiences: a birthday dinner in the Upstairs restaurant. We savored every bite of their ten course tasting menu, paired with beers throughout.
I have nothing but memories of great experiences here. We visited a few weeks ago while a Garage Project tap takeover was happening. Their Cabbages and Kings Imperial Stout was fantastic. It also wouldn’t have been a trip to Mikkeller, without stocking up on bottles to take home! Perhaps these positive feelings are what make me consider this place the best bar in the world. While I haven’t yet figured out how to rate or rank bars in any consistent way, Mikkeller Bangkok has set a high benchmark. We still have a lot of travelling to do and a lot of bars to visit. Maybe the best bar in the world is yet to be found.