Recently crowned with the coveted "Bar of the Year" title at the Vietnam Restaurant & Bar Awards 2023, Enigma has established itself as the perfect destination for cocktail lovers to unwind.
This is Enigma's first collective award since its establishment and serves as proof of the success of its unique concept.
Unlike traditional bars or clubs, Enigma stands out with its cutting-edge design, inspired by a futuristic library in France. Its bold and modern aesthetic, coupled with its high-quality materials and stunning lighting, captures the vibrant and dynamic lifestyle of the youth in Ho Chi Minh City.
In our conversation with founder Biện Ngọc Vũ, we delve into the story behind Enigma's realization of its vision for a cocktail library and the dedicated team's journey to reach the pinnacle of the F&B industry.
Where did you draw inspiration for Enigma?
Since I first thoughtfully planned to open the bar, I envisioned Enigma as a harmonious ecosystem – a seamless fusion of name, main concept, artistic design, and cocktail menu.
The idea of a library has always captivated me. What comes to mind when people hear the word "library"? Is it a place steeped in timeless elegance, and vintage atmosphere filled with neatly put wooden bookshelves?
Enigma's library, however, will give you an entirely different experience. Drawing inspiration from futuristic libraries in Paris, Enigmar's space boasts vibrant, modern, and bold colors that reflect the spirit of today's youth.
Upon entering Enigma, you'll find yourself enveloped by soaring cocktail "bookshelves," captivated by your reflection in the mirrored ceiling, and immersed in a mesmerizing ambiance illuminated by the striking interplay of red and blue lights.
How can Enigma become a unique "library" of cocktails?
You can't call a place a "library" without books. So, Enigma, as a library, has its own unique "books," too, which are the drink menus our bartenders use to guide our customers on a captivating journey to explore this one-of-a-kind library.
The "knowledge" contained within this book consists of our 30 signature cocktails, divided into various chapters. For example, in the chapter on botanicals, you'll find locally-sourced fruit cocktails featuring grapefruit, mango, and Phan Thiet dragon fruit - all from Enigma's exclusive suppliers.
Enigma provides a diverse cocktail experience by organizing the menu into sections based on the drinks' unique characteristics, such as long drinks and highballs, to cater to each guest's preferences. Enigma's skilled bartenders guide guests through the menu, helping them explore and discover their own tastes and preferences.
A futuristic library transcends conventional stereotypes. As such, Enigma's architecture emphasizes contemporary materials and cool metallic tones. The ceiling, adorned with aluminum panels, reflects and amplifies light, fostering a crisp, stimulating, and lively ambiance in the evening.
As for visual elements, you can see many "book spines" interspersed throughout Enigma. Imitating the boundless array of volumes in a vast library, these "book spines" protrude from the shelves across the walls, conjuring a sense of awe akin to the experience of reaching for your favorite book in a genuine library.
How would you introduce Enigma to someone unfamiliar with the establishment?
For me, Enigma is a blend of three elements: Fun, Creative, and Futurist.
It's "fun" because that's what guests feel upon arriving at the venue. At Enigma, we play Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rap, which can resonate with the global youth nightlife scene, inviting patrons to immerse themselves in the rhythm. Next is "creativity," which inspires Enigma's bartenders to craft innovative and unique cocktail flavors continually.
Lastly, I'm a young person who loves the youth's vibrant energy, so "futuristic" is the keyword that helped me shape the "futuristic library" concept for Enigma from the very beginning. This vision transforms interior architecture into something beyond conventional expectations, offering guests an extraordinary and priceless experience. From the initial idea to execution, I've consistently incorporated this modern element into every aspect of Enigma's operations, ensuring Enigma's distinctiveness.
Has running a bar been different from what you expected?
Yes and no. Operating a bar is like managing a business. As a bartender, I felt I needed to be equipped to handle marketing independently, so I relied on a Marketing team to help me oversee all promotional activities on social media. Marketing is still the aspect I have the least control over.
One area that needs improvement at Enigma is refining the target audience for our marketing efforts. Our loyal customers are primarily acquired through our connections in the bar industry, while the potential walk-in clientele we aim to attract still needs to be made familiar with Enigma.
We focus on engaging two customer groups. One group is young, energetic individuals passionate about nightlife; the other is seasoned connoisseurs seeking novel cocktail experiences.
This presents a challenge for the marketing team and me to position Enigma's branding within the competitive bar landscape.
What are the opportunities and challenges that Enigma faces being located in a hidden alleyway?
Located in a bustling food alley at 74 Hai Ba Trung, Enigma is surrounded by various restaurants, which presents a unique opportunity for us. Customers often visit Enigma after dining at nearby establishments, as it is the only cocktail bar in the area.
However, positioning at the far end of the alley (74/10A Hai Ba Trung) results in Enigma's relatively low visibility to its potential customers. To address this issue, we consider redesigning the exterior to make Enigma more eye-catching and appealing to a younger audience.
Ultimately, we aim to create an inviting space where young people can unwind and enjoy unique cocktail experiences and nightlife events.
How would you craft a cocktail for someone dealing with heartbreak and unfamiliar with alcohol?
I'd create the strongest cocktail possible for those with a heavy heart, as in vino veritas (in wine, there is truth). I would use whiskey as the base, blending its bitterness with sweetness and spice to create a distinctive flavor.
Enjoying a strong cocktail would let the guests immerse themselves in their emotions. Once they start to open up, the bartenders will be ready to lend an ear to their heartfelt stories.
For those without much cocktail experience, I'd introduce them to a simple yet quintessentially Vietnamese drink made with Song Cai Gin. The name itself exudes a Vietnamese essence, and the cocktail features ingredients from Vietnam's northern mountainous region. Customers can appreciate this drink’s sour, sweet, and herbal flavors.
They can gradually uncover their favorite tastes by connecting with their roots and taking their time to savor the drink.
On a satisfaction scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Enigma?
Considering Enigma's overall performance, I would rate my satisfaction level at around 8 out of 10. Enigma will continually improve but I won't strive for a 10 because nothing can be 100% perfect. A 95% satisfaction rate would be sufficient for me.
The recent triumph at the Vietnam Restaurant and Bar Awards holds great significance for the team and me, motivating us to strive for that 95% satisfaction rate. In the future, I hope to continue to work with the Enigma team to provide our customers with an even more refined bar experience.
What does winning the Bar of the Year 2023 title mean to Enigma?
Throughout the long journey of building Enigma, I appreciate the team's efforts more than ever. This is the first recognition of Enigma's team and the unwavering commitment of each individual even before the establishment took shape.
I am proud and honored to work with such a talented team. This milestone serves as a catalyst for us to elevate our craft, forge new paths, and inspire the next generation of bartenders in the future.
Translated by Bich Tram