Introducing BARSON’s Liquid Love Letter To Vietnam

The BARSON team

BARSON, a verdant urban tropical oasis, where lush greenery intertwines with bespoke wallpaper imprinted with exotic flora and fauna, has an equally exotic new cocktail menu that takes in the rich tapestry of Vietnam’s terroir. From the misty peaks of Sapa to the sun-drenched shores of southern Vietnam, each meticulously crafted libation is a celebration of local ingredients and age-old stories.

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

When BARSON opened, it seemed like it had soaked in its surroundings. A few blocks from the zoo and botanical gardens and a stone’s throw from the riverfront, this was a tropical oasis, with a contemporary-botanical style that incorporated bespoke wallpaper imprinted with tropical flora and fauna, lots of lush greenery, and the odd now-extinct animal. Somehow, the large space felt intimate, wherever you sat – at the bar to watch the mixologists at work, or in the sunken lounge nodding to the DJ. 

BARSON's Huyen Anh sharing her Gift Of The God
Head Bartender Huyen Anh contributed the Gift Of The God to the new BARSON signature cocktail menu.

The concept was to introduce the city to vibe dining, a bougie boutique space with sophisticated cocktails and a menu of sumptuous bites, that transformed as the night wore on and the volume turned up. 

There’s another Boujee upstairs – an Italo-disco inspired club – and Akuna Restaurant, from Sam Aisbett, meaning you could happily spend the entire evening here without stepping foot outside, especially during their decadent dinner parties, like the Pause + Savour series, or their DJ Fingaz-helmed Rumble In The Jungle hip hop parties. 

Winter Grasshopper at BARSON Saigon
The dry-ice on the Winter Grasshopper disperses to reveal a toy grasshopper hiding in the foliage.

Drinks As Tropical As The BARSON Decor

Satisfyingly, the drinks were unerringly brilliant. The breathtakingly feminine Red Dragon, in its long stemmed glass, with gin, berries, and a hint of basil. Or their more macho Ananas Old Fashioned, with its blend of spiced- and coconut-rum, and some pineapple-infused whiskey, that’s as tropical as the BARSON decor. 

As guests tucked into those, BARSON’s bar manager, Chester, and the team, were considering making the menu even more local, perfectly capturing the wave of interest in Vietnam’s ingredient rich, but underexplored, terroir. 

From the jagged peaks in the north to the deltaic plains and tropical islands in the south, Vietnam’s terroir is terrifically diverse. 

We’re arguably some way behind neighboring Thailand, where the fine dining restaurants lean heavily on high-quality local produce and even locally made wines. But gradually, restaurants and bars are waking up to the abundance of local produce here in Vietnam. Only you have to work a little harder to find it. 

“It definitely feels like now is the time to deeply explore the abundance of ingredients we have available,” Chester nods. “And to add some creativity to that.”

BARSON's Cana Berries cocktail that represents the history of Hue, with a bit of tiki flavor.
Huyen Anh adding the thủy mặc-style garnish to the Cana Berries cocktail, served in a ceramic cup that summons the spirit of historic Hue.

The Span Of The Country Through Cocktails

So, BARSON have launched a new drinks menu that references the span of the country through cocktails, while still feeling thoroughly at home at BARSON. 

“For this menu, we wanted to retain the modern style of presentation – in keeping with BARSON’s concept – while incorporating Vietnam’s traditions and stories, so tasting each cocktail is a little like taking a sip of history,” Chester smiles. 

With a diverse clientele – a mix of hip young hotel guests from Le Méridien Saigon, office workers from the sprawling skyscrapers along the riverfront, and residents looking for an after-work rendezvous – the drinks are also conversation starters.

The bar team happily dispense some stories about the provenance of the drinks, and get playful with the tiny non la hat on the Gift of God, or helping to waft away the dry-ice on the Winter Grasshopper, to reveal a shy toy grasshopper hiding in the foliage in the bowl below the glass. 

The original Grasshopper cocktail goes way back, with evidence to say it was the signature at the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, Tujague’s, which opened in 1856. This thoroughly modern Vietnamese update adds white rum to the traditional base of mint liqueur, and some silkiness from pandan and coconut flower nectar, with a hint of citrus from its calamansi juice. 

Smoke On The Water cocktail at BARSON with head bartender Huyen Anh.
Smoke On The Water, served in a metallic cup, to which Johnny Walker Double Black adds some of the eponymous smokiness – both of which evoke Danang’s breathless growth.

Creating The New Six-Drink Signature Menu

Creating BARSON’s new six-drink Vietnam-inspired signature cocktail menu, which begins with Gift Of The God, in the spiritual hills and highlands around Sapa, and continues on to B.n.W. in the far south, beyond Saigon, was a team effort, Chester points out. 

Head Bartender Huyen Anh contributed the Gift Of The God, for example, created from a base of Tanqueray Malacca Gin – with its angelica, coriander, licorice, rose, black pepper, nutmeg and clove notes. To that she added jasmine cordial and black tea – touching on the taste of the tea from the fields of Thai Nguyen – and a citrus milk punch. And it’s served with that tiny non la hat that guests can doff to their friends before taking a sip.

A mini bánh mì comes with BARSON's Bread Talk cocktail.
Bread Talk comes with a mini bánh mì with a paper wrap, “because growing up, everything from notebook pages to pages of the newspaper became bread wrap.”

Heading South And Taking A Tiki Turn

Continuing south, towards historical Hue, the menu takes a tiki-style turn with its Cana Berries. Served in a cup reflecting classic Vietnamese ceramics, to Flor de Cana 12, some pandan syrup, and passion fruit espuma give it sweet and sour flavors, typical of tiki cocktails, and the garnish is like a traditional thủy mặc wall hanging.

Danang gets a Smoke On The Water, a refreshing Moscow Mule style drink in a metallic cup, to which Johnny Walker Double Black adds some of the eponymous smokiness – both the cup and spirit evoke the Central Vietnam city’s growth – softened with pineapple juice and coconut liqueur to reflect the fresh sea air, and topped with a crispy black garnish, made from tapioca powder and fried calamari, as a nod to the city’s famously fresh seafood.

B.n.W. cocktail at BARSON
B.n.W. made with some of the abundant fruit flavors of the south.

But perhaps the most dazzlingly presented is Bread Talk, a rich golden-colored spicy, sweet and herbal cocktail, made from Cilantro-infused tequila, pineapple and Chilean pepper liquor, that’s served in an angular glass that catches BARSON’s lights, and that sits nonchalantly leaning to one side is a reassuringly sturdy wooden coaster. With it comes a tiny sandwich, sat on a piece of edible paper (this one with a QR code that leads to the BARSON Instagram), “because growing up, everything from notebook pages to pages of the newspaper became bread wrap.”

And finally, as the menu hits the far south, Chester sets light to the covering of a pot holding some gold-encrusted macadamias, beside the B.n.W. made with some of the abundant fruit flavors of the south – with Ketel One infused with roasted black sesame, jackfruit and jasmine syrup, coconut flower nectar foam, and olive powder. 

Solomon, Chester, Huyen Anh, and Sang celebrating the launch of the new BARSON signature cocktail menu.
Solomon, Chester, Huyen Anh, and Sang celebrating the launch of the new BARSON signature cocktail menu.

Cocktails Can Be These Multi-Sensory Things

“Cocktails can be these multi-sensory things,” Chester smiles as the fire crackles and fades. “A good drink needs not only a good concept and name, but it needs to ignite emotions too.”

And, BARSON’s new signature cocktail menu has all that and more. 


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