Now that Dry January, the 31-day initiative that encourages people to start the year with an alcohol fast to reset body and mind, is almost over and with a good month to go before Lent, there’s no better time than now to organise a weekend to Phnom Penh, to visit its acclaimed Sora Sky Bar.
Phnom Penh may not be as well known as Bangkok and Singapore for its bar scene (yet) but Sora Sky Bar, perched on the 37th level of what is arguably Cambodia’s finest hotel, the Rosewood, is quickly putting the city on the map.
Sora, whose name is a play on the Khmer word sra or “rice wine”, gives guests the most impressive views of the city (come early for sundowners and stunning sunsets) with the fabled Mekong River snaking its way in the horizon.
Sora Sky Bar made regional headlines last year when it managed to tempt Giacomo Giannotti over for two nights of cocktail mastery. If his name sounds familiar, it is because Giannotti is the owner and master mixologist behind the Barcelona-based Paradiso, voted The World’s Best Bar 2022. But long before Giannotti turned the spotlight on Phnom Penh, Sora was already drawing the cool, moneyed crowd with its sleek drinks served in sky-scraping surroundings.
Having launched its popular Rosewood Bar Series in collaboration with The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2022, which sees leading luminaries of the industry helm Sora Sky Bar for a couple of nights, Rosewood Phnom Penh recently announced its no-less-exciting 2023 line-up. At press time, Rusty Cerven of Singapore’s Manhattan Bar (ranked No 33 on the global list and No 9 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list) has just wrapped up his stint at Sora while four of the world’s hottest names in the drinks industry are all set for their residencies, which take place over the next few months.
Daniel Simon, Rosewood Phnom Penh’s managing director, says: “Our mixology in-residency programme provides world-class drinks professionals an opportunity to explore Cambodia’s capital, culture and countryside while experimenting with local ingredients and methods to use on the menu. We are delighted that so many of the world’s top-ranked bars will be represented [here]in 2023 and we look forward to announcing more exciting events in the Rosewood Bar Series as they are confirmed later in the year.”
DRINKS DIARY 2023
Mark your calendars for chapter one of this year’s exciting line-up
Phnom Penh’s loftiest bar will host guest stars monthly, each of whom will present five signature drinks. Last year, Sora welcomed, among others, veteran Kiwi bartender Hayden Lambert, co-owner and head bartender of Above Board cocktail bar in Melbourne; Nikos Bakoulis of The Clumsies in Athens; Benjamin Cavagna of the celebrated 1930 Bar in Milan; and Benjamin Padron of Mexico City institution, Licoreria Limantour. Rusty Cerven of Manhattan Bar in Singapore kicked off the 2023 series from Jan 27 to 28 but here are the next quartet of big names to start planning for.
Who: Andrew Yap of Papa Doble, Singapore
When: Feb 9 to 11
World ranking: No 38 — but for 2019, under The Old Man Singapore
What: Bar-hopping stalwarts would immediately recognise Papa Doble, the island republic’s Ernest Hemingway-inspired speakeasy in cool and edgy Keong Saik Road, as the former The Old Man Singapore (it rebranded last year). Owner and co-founder Yap naturally displays a sweet spot for rum and is renowned for his take on the iconic daiquiri.
Who: Yangdup Lama of Sidecar, New Delhi
When: March 17 to 19
World ranking: No 26
What: Named after the classic cocktail made using cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice, Sidecar New Delhi is run by Lama and his partner Minakshi Singh, both of whom are behind another award-winning bar, Cocktails & Dreams. Unless you have plans to pop by the popular joint in Delhi’s Greater Kailash II hub, you might just find Phnom Penh so much easier to get to and navigate.
Who: Patrick Pistolesi of Drink Kong, Rome
When: March 23 to 25
World Ranking: No 16
What: Roman nightclub Drink Kong offers a pop-culture mish-mash of 1970s futurism, Japanese influences and elements of fictional monster gorilla King Kong, all illuminated by neon light. Enthusiasts follow Pistolesi’s highly anticipated drinks menus much the same way groupies do rock bands.
Who: Hirosayu Kayama of Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
When: May 25 to 27
World ranking: No 48
What: Size clearly does not matter to Kayama, the founder and main “experiential mixologist” behind Tokyo’s seminal (and tiny) eight-seater Bar Benfiddich in Shinjuku. Wowing cocktail enthusiasts around the world for a cool decade already, Bar Benfiddich is well known for using potions and elixirs crafted from fresh produce gleaned from the owner’s family’s farmland in Chichibu. International jetsetters would not leave Tokyo without one of his signature smoked G&Ts. Pray hard it is on the menu when Kayama-san takes over Sora Sky Bar.
This article first appeared on Jan 30, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.