Vietcetera recently met Philip Bischoff at The Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, where BKK Social Club is located.
Philip came to Bangkok to open BKK Social Club after four successful years as Bar Manager of the iconic Manhattan Bar at the Regent Hotel in Singapore. He was in high spirits, having accepted three special awards the night before at Asia’s 50 Best Bars Awards Ceremony and looking resplendent in his stylish signature white bartending jacket.
It quickly became clear to me that the secret to Philip’s success is his devotion to heart-felt hospitality and creating an environment where guests enjoy themselves by socializing.
The design of the bar, recruitment of the staff, and construction of the drinks list were all developed with this ultimate goal in mind for Philip, who shared that “Hospitality comes from the heart and is all about the understanding that serving is something great, it’s not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a lifestyle”.
BKK Social Club was designed by Avro| Ko, a world-leading hospitality design and concept firm, and inspired by the allure of 1950s Buenos Aires when Eva Peron held court as First Lady in the capital city of Argentina, famed for its grand architecture and cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Evoking the golden age of glamour, the new BKK Social Club at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River celebrates the legendary allure of Buenos Aires and the energy of today’s Bangkok. From the moment guests enter the bar, the vibrant yet seductive design sets the scene from the moment guests enter the bar.
The dramatic back bar, showcasing an extensive premium spirits collection, catches the eye. In contrast, the cocktail bar features green velvet upholstered banquettes with backrests stretching to the ceiling, while two semi-outdoor courtyards encourage socializing.
“The lives of people in Buenos Aires and Bangkok revolve around social gatherings,” says Philip. “That enthusiasm binds us together and makes both cities such great destinations. BKK Social Club celebrates that in a glamorous, vibrant, and spirited way. This is a bar built for socializing.”
Floor Manager of BKK Social Club, Lily Kittisrikangwan, is another key figure behind their success, and she talked about their desire to create a space that was at once fun and social, also grand and luxurious, feeling comfortable and casual with a lively and energetic vibe.
Lily shared that their concept “Isn’t just about sending drinks out, it’s also about welcoming new people, recognizing returning guests and providing them with a comfortable experience as if you are welcoming them into your home. We can identify and create bespoke experiences for our guests, from romantic dates to group hangouts to solo nightcaps. Our team is also central to this, and we’ve searched for people who are fun, chatty, and energetic to create the vibe we’re looking for.”
The signature cocktail menu is of course inspired by the Buenos Aries lifestyle as Philip explains. “While separated by half a world, the cultures of Buenos Aires and Bangkok have a true passion for life, good times, and great drinks. Our menu emphasizes this and brings guests on a journey of the people, places, and parties during the yesteryear of Buenos Aires.”
In keeping with their DNA of socializing, the list is divided into the three P’s of ‘Places’, ‘People’ and ‘Parties” with their signatures inspired by key people and moments from Argentinean history.
Their 'Evita’, a glamorous-looking cocktail concocted from Campari, pineapple rum, citrus, bay leaf, and cinnamon syrup, was created as a tribute to the world-famous musical set around these halcyon days. Another favorite is the ‘Bananazo’, paying homage to the hard-working farmworkers in Argentina producing bananas.
Philip brings this to life by creating a salted banana syrup combined with a generous serving of Michter’s US*1 Bourbon served with a banana pancake with a dollop of caviar.
The attention to detail at BKK Social Club is embodied in their practice of ice stamping with either a BKK Social Club logo or a bespoke stamp for signature cocktails perfectly preparing the guests with that last glimpse of the drink before their first sip.
As the food and beverage scene in Bangkok has developed rapidly over the last 10 years, so has its status internationally and Bangkok has featured more and more prominently on international lists such as World’s 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars. So this latest assignment feels like a case of perfect timing for Philip Bischoff who honed his skills in his native Berlin before shooting to prominence as Bar Manager of the award-winning Manhattan Bar in Singapore in 2015.
The fruits of his labor were indeed sweet as Manhattan claimed the number one spot in Asia’s 50 Best Bars for two consecutive years (2017 & 2018) and was ranked among the world’s top three bars in the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2018.
When asked about his success, Philip says, “At the end of the day, it comes down to the overall experience at the bar – the drinks are part of a bigger picture. You’ve got to understand the vibe and tune in to people’s preferences. It isn’t just about getting the cocktails right. It’s as much about the ambiance, the service, the people, and the food.”
Along with cycling, diving, and great food, Philip also loves traveling. “I love to go to new places and meet new people – it’s what inspires me. And Asia, especially Bangkok right now, is the place to be to get things started,” he says. “Bangkok is putting its stamp on the world cocktail map, and I want to be right at the heart of it all – at the forefront of global mixology innovation and craft.”
Given Philip’s love of travel and food, we hope we’ll be able to welcome him to Vietnam sometime soon.
Vietcetera met with Philip Bischoff in Bangkok on April 29th as part of our coverage of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 sponsored by Perrier. Special thanks also Sasipha Kaewkham (Pook), Public Relations & Communications Manager, Sales & Marketing at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River for her support in arranging this interview with Philip.