Gin Festival Saigon is bringing together twenty-eight bartenders, Thomas Henry Tonic Water, and fourteen gin spirits, most notably Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray Gin, and Sông Cái Distillery for a one-night event at the timeless Caravelle Hotel. All of these brands and personalities will be on hand at Ho Chi Minh City’s official celebration of the juniper drink. Leading up to this year’s event, we had the chance to check in with the twenty-eight bars lending their prized bartenders to the festival.
Following Saigon’s inaugural Gin Festival last year, the community will feature twenty-eight talented bartenders to close the curtain on the summer season. Vietcetera set off to test out all of the drinks that will be on offer. Thanks to the Gold Sponsors of Gin Festival 2019, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray Gin, Thomas Henry Tonic Water, and Sông Cái Distillery, here’s our rundown of each bartender’s creation.
1. Telephone Bar
Hoàng Duy, the bartender at the Telephone Bar, honors Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin in his Paramour glass for its flavorful, uniquely smooth characteristics. In his cocktail, he uses his choice ingredients of juniper berry, liquorice, lemon peel, coriander and cassia. “Inspired by Bramble, in this cocktail, Bombay Sapphire leads the drink, but sweet vermouth is “sous vide” with raspberry and thyme with warm cinnamon syrup.” Duy said. In the finish, Thomas Henry Tonic Water is added to create a light bitterness.
Address: 41 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
2. The Gin House
If you’re a gin enthusiast there’s no doubt that The Gin House will have something on hand to satisfy your cravings. Anh Kiet creates a cocktail called the “Senorita” using No.3 London Dry Gin as the base, Gin House’s very own homemade Vermouth, and a salted cacao syrup. He tops up the drink with a Thomas Henry elderflower tonic and bits of dark chocolate as garnish.
“The Gem” is a cocktail crafted by bartender Duc Tien with Bombay Sapphire and includes a hint of Japanese flavors with his use of Genmaicha syrup and yuzu juice. Bombay Sapphire is like a precious “gem” in the drink that brings a festive atmosphere: it’s full of interest and refreshing. Some ingredients are handpicked by Duc and are imported directly from Japan.
Nguyen Phuc Toan helps to lead the line at Qui. For the Gin Festival, he’s created the Mad Men, a cocktail using Tanqueray as the base. He adds a dash of Asian citrus, salted lemon, yuzu juice, and tamarind. The finished result is a fresh, yet complex taste.
Bartender Jay Moir shares with us his “Jam N Tonic” cocktail. “It’s a cheeky something that you could drink when you just roll out of bed.” Keeping to the idea of a simple garden craft, the Jam N Tonic cocktail works wonders with The Botanist Gin, enhancing its key floral elements with a touch of tang and orange. “Top this adult delight up with a Thomas Henry Tonic Water and you are good to go,” shares Moir.
Address: 63 Đông Du, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Khanh Hung from Layla introduces his “Call Me Summer” cocktail. It starts with a Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin base and is mixed in with some rose, chamomile tea, homemade citrus syrup, lime juice, lemon bitter, and Thomas Henry Tonic Water. With a sip of this cocktail, it’s a pleasant reminder that it always feels like summer in Saigon.
Address: Second floor, 63 Đông Du, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook | Instagram
7. Summer Experiment
Thép Đinh from Summer Experiment prepares his “Blossom Bulldog” cocktail for us. Using BULLDOG Gin as the main base, he crafts the cocktail with fermented honey, grapefruit blossom water, and Thomas Henry elderflower tonic. For the garnish, Thep finishes with Vietnamese ginseng, tangerine peel, and jasmine.
Address: Second Floor, 77-79 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 70000 Facebook
8. Drinking & Healing
Head Bartender Lê Ngọc Phiên introduces his “Saigon G&T,” which uses No.3 London Dry Gin as the main spirit base, a pineapple twist, a punch of thyme cordial, and a bottle of original Thomas Henry Tonic Water. Le tops up the drink with a pour of Peter Lehmann red wine for a fuller body taste.
Quinn Thai, a bartender at Snuffbox, shares, “T&T is different from a regular gin and tonic, as it features a combination of herbs, orange, and pomelo while using a Tanqueray No. Ten gin base with a dash of lemonade and grapefruit.” The taste is sour, bitter, and lightly sweet. It’s balanced with passion syrup and lime juice. Red orange and rosemary are used as garnishes to top up the freshness. T&T is a simple yet easy-to-make drink for everyone.
Bartender Quang Huy’s cocktail, the “Invitation, is prepared with Sông Cái Dry Gin, Bianco Vermouth, homemade Oleo Saccharum, and Thomas Henry elderflower tonic. The end result is a mixture Quang hopes can be an invitation for guests to try out more of the creative drinks at Corked Tales.
Bartender Nguyễn Hữu Phú crafts his “Soul of The Forest” cocktail using a Sông Cái Dry Gin base with with ingredients such as roasted rice Kombucha, rambutan, and paddy herbs. For Nguyen, the taste and feel of the ingredients he uses in the cocktail are some of the senses he remembers the best, growing up in his neighborhood as a Vietnamese child.
“The refreshing orange palate of Damrak Gin is prepared with chocolate in the cocktail at 52/3 – LA Bar,” shares Nguyen Minh Tam, the bartender. One of his all time favorite desserts is an orange chocolate cake he tried on a recent trip to Singapore. Nguyen prepares a drink in memory of this dessert, pulling together the sweetness of the chocolate with the bitterness of Campari and Vietnamese pomelo liqueur. The fizziness of Thomas Henry Tonic Water leaves a pleasant finish.
Address: 52 Đông Du, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
Ho Huy Thanh’s cocktail is inspired by Saigon’s unpredictable weather. Named “Saigon’s Rain,” the cocktail uses FERDINAND’S – Saar Dry Gin as its base. This cocktail also uses lavender cordial, lemon mint, and garnishes of dried lavender with fresh lemon. The cocktail comes out with a bold start and ends with a refreshing finish, much like how Saigon’s fast moving rainstorms fall down on the city in the late summer afternoons.
The name of the cocktail, Oxtail, is inspired by the use of Oxley Gin. Inthe MOOD’s bartender Le Nguyen Phuc prepares the cocktail with hand-selected ox fat pieces, prepared by the “Fat Wash” technique that helps maintain the flavor. At the same time, the herbs and the splash of Thomas Henry Tonic water helps to balance the flavor.
Kim Ngan from Lubu shares with us her exclusive cocktail for Gin Festival Saigon 2019. “In the 16th century, Dutch explorers travelled the world discovering new and exotic ingredients such as lemongrass, elderflower, limes and Manzanilla sherry. On their journeys they always drank good Dutch gin like Damrak Gin. My cocktail is called “Batavia” after the name of a famous Dutch East Indies trading ship.”
When asked to share about his Bang & Bloom cocktail, bartender Cho Nguyen tells us that he gets the inspiration from shiso leaves, which are always served with sashimi to enhance the taste. In this drink, he prepares homemade shiso syrup to create the complex flavor. Pink grapefruit is then used as seasoning to create the balanced combination with Oxley gin, leaving a floral, fruity and refreshing taste.
Address: 20 Mạc Thị Bưởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
Highland Breeze, a gin and tonic prepared with Boodles Gin, is bartender Nguyen Bao Hung’s crafted cocktail for Gin Festival 2019. “The drink sounds simple, but has a complex flavor of herbs, citrus, passion fruit, honey and coriander. This Highland Breeze will lift up your soul with its refreshing and smooth character.”
Bartender Quốc Thịnh here prepares the “Healthy G” with a Bols Genever base. It’s not your regular gin and tonic, it’s a healthy version he explains. Besides Kaffir lime and floral syrup, the key ingredient here is spiny bitter gourd, a fruit famous for its health benefits and is said to help people maintain their youth.
Jacqui Perfect Morning, prepared with a base of Bols Genever Gin, by Thao Pham is prepared with matcha water, rice flavored milk honey, condensed milk and Thomas Henry Tonic Water. “Those ingredients are familiar to a perfect morning wake up, when a transition is needed to energize your mood and senses.” Bols Genever Gin carries strong grain and malt tones, complemented by sweet honeysuckle and citrus notes, leaving a complex taste that is full of depth.
“If you’ve ever had a dog, you would feel the “fun” when your flip flop is swallowed.” Bartender Hoang Anh (Jack Nguyễn) names his cocktail the “Lop-Lip” to share his experience with his own dog. Using BULLDOG gin as the base, the cocktail is complemented with “the very-Asian tropical flavor, inspired by a homemade “Kala” using kumquat, honey, cinnamon and lemongrass,” Jack shares.
Address: 38 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
21. Bann Bar
Purple Rain by bartender Tong Van Hau is prepared with Boodles Gin and is lightly spicy from the use of ginger, yet tastes rich from the use of coconut. This combination comes with a dash of floral elderflower and is served in a perfectly purple tone, lightening the mood after a long day at work.
Address: 71C Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
22. Xu Bar
Khoa Tran crafts his “The Fresh Life” cocktail based on his team’s expectation of always providing a refreshing experience at Xu. In this cocktail, Khoa uses FERDINAND’S – Saar Dry Gin and is complemented with lemon juice, butterfly pea flower infused syrup, ginger, and spring fresh thyme.
Bartender Thanh Phuc creates the “Xali & Basil” cocktail with Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin. His twist on the gin and tonic is inspired by southern Vietnamese culture and locally sourced ingredients. The delicate Xali guava meets the aromatic basil leaves creating an interesting complex compounds of flavors. Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin adds citrus and spicy notes while Thomas Henry Tonic Water provides the final bitter and floral touch.
Address: 2 Công Trường Lam Sơn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
The “Purple Kilt,” prepared by Le Quoc Thinh from Cliq Saigon, is inspired by a type of knee-length skirt, originating from the traditional dress of Gaelic men in the Scottish Highlands. Using Hendrick’s Gin, he adds a homemade cordial, elderflower liqueur and plum bitter. He hopes this combination delivers a feeling as if you’re strolling in the mountainous region around Scotland.
Address: 63 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook | Instagram
Inspired by the famous Singapore Sling cocktail, bartender Trương Thịnh decides to make a special twist to increase the drink’s complexity. Adding a fresh layer of red fruits, strawberries and raspberries, to the original Singapore Sling, together with Bosford Rose Gin, Truong introduces his “Pink Bikini” cocktail for the event.
Address: 33 Nguyễn Trung Trực, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
The drink Henber de Blanc by Tan Loc is made with Hendrick’s Gin and is based on Vietnamese culinary culture: adding pepper to increase the flavor. Tan Loc shares, “this cocktail is a harmony of Vietnamese and French flavors as fresh cucumber is “sous vide” into white wine. The mixture is then strained and infused with pepper.”
Address: 74/10a Hai Bà Trưng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook | Instagram
27. Rabbit Hole
“Some Like It Hot” is prepared with The Botanist Gin. Bartender Bui Nhu Y wants to bring out the warm and familiar feeling you get when you’re enjoying a drink while strolling in a cool and crisp environment. The cocoa butter, pandan leaf, maple cordial, and Peychaud’s bitter adds a pleasant warmth, finishing with a touch of grapefruit tonic.
Address: 138 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Facebook
At Blanchy’s, we find a cocktail prepared with all natural ingredients, including coriander, angelica, lemon peel and orange peel and strawberry and raspberry. The spirit to base this drink is Bosford London Dry Gin. The combination of a red berry flavor and a light sweet taste, makes it a great pairing with a signature rose tea and Thomas Henry Tonic Water.