Gone are the days when a fresh margarita and Negroni at a night club or a glass of wine at your hotel bar were the only options for a boozy night out in Hanoi. Thanks to the game-changers like Diageo Reserve World Class, which generated an impressive group of talented mixologists, many of whom went on to open their own bars, so there is no shortage of spots to sip inventive drinks in Hanoi.
But hold on a minute, if you are looking for a signature cocktail of Hanoi, just one drink, which should be said? Definitely I would say the Pho Cocktail, which you can order the original version of it at Nê Cocktail Bar, Attic Cocktail & Wine Lab, or Le Club at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel.
What’s Pho Cocktail?
Let’s start with Pho noodle dish, the most famous Vietnam’s traditional noodle soup which is served as breakfast, lunch and dinner. The classic noodle dish is made up of rice noodles, marrow-rich beef stock, and topped with thinly sliced beefs. The sweet taste of pho is enhanced with the flavors of herbs and spices like ginger and star anise.
Yes, I know, Pho cocktail may sound a bit odd. But the creation brought Pham Tien Tiep the Vietnam’s best bartender title from the Diageo World Class Vietnam mixology competition in 2012, and he became the first Vietnamese representative to attend its Global Final held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Without the stock, beef or noodles, the Pho cocktail features a generous splash of gin and triple sec with all the authentic spices and herbs (black cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, fresh coriander, chili and fresh lime) that make Pho the national dish of Vietnam. The taste is truly an incredible combination of alluring flavors!
Why and How Did Pham Tien Tiep create Pho Cocktail?
Falling in love with Tiep’s creation from the very first sips, I started to wonder why and how he created the drink. Here goes his story that enlightened me.
Left school in the countryside at the age of 15, Tiep started his new life in Hanoi with different jobs before settling down being a bar attender. Then, in 2012, the Diageo Reserve World Class contest took place in Vietnam for mixing artists. The young man, who did not have a degree, saw the contest as the only chance to change his life.
The competition required candidates to create a cocktail inspired by a famous diva. While brainstorming the idea, the Metropole Hotel, where Tiep was working at, stumbled upon a wartime bunker under the pool. They found the signature of the famous singer Joan Baez, who was known for both her vocal and anti-Vietnam war activities. Tiep took the idea.
What about the material? The thought of the competition kept appearing in the young bartender's head even when he was having Pho noodle soup at breakfast. A flash of light, he decided to put the unique flavor of Pho into the contest work. Although many colleagues objected and discouraged it, fearing that the smell of pho would destroy the taste of the spirits, Tiep continued with his plan.
The elaborate cocktail brought him the first prize of the competition, and his cocktail’s uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the strange way it's prepared. Tiep pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the spirit flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.
That’s the way the flavor of the noodle soup is transformed into a cocktail. These spices, normally used to give the pho’s stock its aroma, are now used to instill the characteristic fragrance into this sweet-scented drink, Pho Cocktail.
Tiep said the metal apparatus symbolizes the singing of the famous diva Joan Baez, brave in the rain of bombs and storms. He added: “It was very interesting later on that Mrs. Joan Baez happened to read the article about her and Pho cocktail. When came back to Hanoi and stay at the hotel, she tried the cocktail inspired by her anti-war activities.”
Where to try the Best of Pho Cocktail in Hanoi?
Pho cocktail are served at many bars throughout the Old Quarter and French Quarter of Hanoi, but like mentioned above, I would recommend the original version of Pho cocktail at the Ne Cocktail & Wine Bar, or the Attic Cocktail & Wine Lab where you can enjoy the unique taste of the drink and meet its creator, mixologist Pham Tien Tiep.
Nê Cocktail & Wine Bar: 3B Tong Duy Tan Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Opening hours: 19h30 to 2h00
Tel: (+84) 90 488 6266
Attic Cocktail & Wine Lab: 46 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Opening hours: 19h00 to 1h30
Tel: (+84) 98 433 4646
The Unicorn Pub: 2A Hang Than Street, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Open hours: 17h00 to 1h00
Tel: (+84) 98 121 0752
May be you are a visitor, an expat, or a Hanoian looking for a place to grab a mixed drink for cultural immersion, or to chill with your friends, or to enjoy a drink with your love, just find a reason for you to come for the cocktail, you won’t be regret.
It’s 5 o'clock somewhere!