(Due to the recent enforcement of a draconian law that bans posting images of alcohol on the internet – a measure that largely targets ordinary citizens rather than large corporates – Khaosod English cannot publish photos of the drinks for this review.)
BANGKOK — Mixing tea with alcohol? That’s sacrilege for any true tea drinker, or so I thought.
Having been a tea drinker for all my adult life, I find the idea almost repulsive. Serious tea drinkers are very sensitive to the slight fragrance of their favorite drinks, be it from quality oolong from Taiwan, sencha from Japan or Earl Grey tea from England, or rather India and Sri Lanka.
The Asian way is to drink it straight, uncorrupted by sugar or milk – not to mention alcohol. Unless you are a bubble of Thai tea, or chai drinker, then that’s a different category. Yet, after having sampled ten tea cocktails at Draft Land, we are convinced and a convert, a new tea-drinking category is needed.
Taipei’s famous award-winning tea cocktail bar, Draft Land, has recently opened a branch in Bangkok. It’s the second tea cocktail bar in Thailand but the first to be run as a joint-venture between the one in Taipei and a Thai partner.
Located on the first floor of The Commons Saladaeng, the bar is part of The Commons’ food court although there’s a few high stools you can sit at the bar if you prefer not to drink at a common table.
The spirits are added after the drink is poured out of the keg, as mandated by Thai law. This means mocktails are also available.
For those who have never tried a tea cocktail (or mocktail), think about Belgian fruit beer with some tannins and tea aroma.
Bangkok’s Draft Land is the second of the Taiwanese tea cocktail bars, after Hong Kong. Its cocktails on the tap recipes have been concocted by a master bartender from the Taipei headquarter using local fruits, which means what you get here is not available in Taipei or Hong Kong.
Names of cocktails like Jasmine Collins, Salty Guava Fizz, Summer Spritz befittingly conjure an image of the tropics.
After sampling a tiny cup of 10 cocktails, our two most favorites are Oolong Tea Collins and Tropical Fizz.
Oolong Tea Collins, made from Taiwanese oolong and lapsang Souchong teas retain both the floral note of the former and smoky note of the latter. Yet this is not just tea but tea cocktail and here you have vodka and rum mixed into it.
The cocktail has just enough sweetness from rum and dryness from vodka. It’s a truly refreshing drink with just a bit of tannin from the teas.
The other favorite, Tropical Fizz, is actually not a tea cocktail since it contains no tea. Here you have ginger, passion fruit, lime, rum and durian! It’s not too sweet as it is balanced by passion fruit and made more sophisticated with ginger. Another truly refreshing drink.
In charge of running the service is bar manager Suwincha Singsuwan. She has 14 years of experience in the industry and first tried a tea cocktail in Hong Kong nine years ago.
“It was expensive,” she recalled, even before talking about its taste.
At Draft Land, a glass of any of the ten cocktails or mocktails with a big ball of ice costs 250 baht. Unfortunately they serve each glass on a lux plastic cup similar to ones used by premium bubble tea makers. It’s not kind to the environment.
Suwincha said the pricing is kept affordable to encourage people to hang out and have a good time, alone or with friends. We agree the price is reasonable, in the same range as Belgian fruit beers.
Our least favourite is not a tea cocktail, but the one and only coffee cocktail offered by the bar called Coffee Spritz. Here you have cold brew coffee, elderflower tonic and Campari. Somehow, we find it to be a bad combination.
But that’s our two cents. To each his own.
Draft Land is located on the first floor of The Commons Saladaeng. It opens from 12 noon to 9pm. This review is based on a hosted visit.