Lemongrass, chilli, honey, passion fruit and Tiger Beer
Super tasty and not hard, this drink is thick and satisfying like beer, but way more nuanced. Taste the lime on the front, the chilli on the back and let the sweet honey linger in your throat. A little syrupy, but not annoyingly so. This is Hanoi in a glass. Enjoy it during Happy Hour with some salted peanuts and it’s almost like you’re sitting at Bia Hoi Corner.
Press Club (VND148,000)
Jim Beam and Vermouth — Perfect
This drink comes with three options: dry, medium or perfect. Why opt for anything less than perfect? And perfect it is, if you’re into elixirs that conjure up weekends of camping. It’s a manly beverage; a nice break from pink sugary affairs and its woody taste fits the Press Club’s paisley printed walls.
Izakaya Yancha (VND46,000)
Grapefruit, shochu, soda water
Shochu is a nutty-flavoured Japanese liquor. When combined with fruit and soda water, the refreshing mixed drink is known as a chuhai. This particular chuhai is minimal; a taste you can’t remember, but won’t forget. It’s a clean, well-rounded taste almost like an Italian soda and pairs particularly well with sushi. Don’t confuse the Grapefruit Sour with the Grape Calpis Sour, as the latter tastes like grape soda from a can, or as one taster described, “a cartoon”.
Long Island Iced Tea:
Jaspa’s Lounge (VND110,000)
Vodka, gin, tequila, triple sec, Bacardi and a splash of soda
This long drink will take you back to your college days or perhaps to a rocking chair in South Carolina. “It’s not too sweet or too strong,” says a woman taster. And indeed, it’s a refreshing, easy to drink rendition of the famed cocktail. But tread carefully; this is no sweet tea. A few of these and some lightweights might be floored.
The Salty Batman:
Don’s Tay Ho (US$5.75)
Viking Vodka, pomelo juice, grenadine
Uyen, Events Manager at Don’s, invented this tangy tipple and named it after Don’s Dalmatian, perhaps the best-fed dog in West Lake (now you know where your leftovers end up).
The drink is unlike anything else in Hanoi. It’s refreshing and clean, palate-pleasing but not saccharine. It would be best enjoyed on Don’s rooftop. The Swedish vodka used in the drink is distilled in Ha Tay. Go local.
Le Club Oriental (VND150,000)
Crème de cacao, brandy, fresh cream
This should actually be called Brandy Alexander, as the original Alexander was made with gin. And it really is the musky brandy that makes this drink feel like Christmas. It’s stiffer than its creamy appearance suggests and evokes a pensive mood and profound conversation. Perfect for rainy evenings when cocktail umbrellas seem like a cruel joke. Sip this cocktail at one of the two bars at Le Club Oriental or along with your meal. Warning: this Alexander might mask the delicately balanced Vietnamese flavours on your plate.
The Metropole (VND235,000)
Vodka, lemon juice, sugar syrup, wasabi
It smells like sushi and tastes like sweet fire. The wasabi cuts the sugar but isn’t overwhelming. An adventurous drink that goes down easily, though it probably won’t become a nightly habit. The ingredients start to separate after a while so if you sip slowly, you might need to stir. Perfect to drink while listening to live jazz inside the Bamboo Bar or sitting on the deck outside near the pool.
Restaurant Bobby Chinn (VND137,000)
Malibu rum and cherry brandy with lemon juice, frozen
The list of cocktails at Bobby Chinn’s is like a tome and one of the more adventurous ones contains codeine. This icy affair is thirst-quenching in the summer, but also suitable for a blustery night because of the dark brandy. While the frozen concoction is a joy to drink (it’s not too far removed from those massive amusement park snow cones), we couldn’t taste so much alcohol.
A Cocktail Education
After choosing the nine best cocktails, we went to a tenth spot and drank nine more cocktails. But these we made ourselves. We were at the House of Son Tinh and the cocktails were all composed of Son Tinh liquors, flavoured rice wines distilled just outside Hanoi.
Tinh Nep Phu Loc liquor, mint syrup, lemon juice, soda, mint leaves
This mojito hybrid drops the rum and adds a traditional rice wine that fills the void with an organic, rich alternative with a tequila-like taste. The club soda helps balance the mix and keeps it smooth
Tinh Nep Phu Loc liquor, Malibu, pineapple juice
This creamy mix is popular with female customers and is said to go well with grilled dishes… or breakfast. Shake hard for a thicker froth
Sa Pa Mary
Bo Sa Pa liquor, tomato juice, lemon juice, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper, Worcester sauce
The breakfast of champions. Herbal rice wine adds a sturdy element to the thick drink and is a sufficient replacement for vodka. A smooth rich taste probably better enjoyed outdoors
Son Tinh Iced Tea
Tinh Nep Phu Loc liquor, triple sec, sugar syrup, lemon juice, Coca Cola
Like most Long Island Iced Teas, the sweetness masks the large level of alcohol in the mix. The Coke adds a carbonated and refreshing touch
My Tuu liquour, grenadine syrup, lemon juice
The sweet and sour flavours go hand and in hand in the cocktail. The thicker the level of froth on the top of the drink, the better
Ca Na Sunrise
Apricot liquor, Campari, orange juice
Named after a southern district of Ninh Thuan Province, you smell the fruit more in the nose than you taste it in the palate. The orange juice almost makes you feel healthier
Apricot liquor, pineapple juice, brown sugar syrup
Say it. Say it louder! Popular with female clientele, the mix is sweet, so it doesn’t hurt to add extra ice to the concoction. A good drink to follow lunch, but not necessarily one for the evening
The IQ Test
Nhat Da Liqour, peach Schnapps, cranberry juice
It’s smart and herby. The intricate blend of flavours gives something to talk about, and unlike some other pink drinks, it’s not too sweet
Dragon’s Breath Shooter
Gecko liquor, chilli syrup
The gutted gecko liquor is no longer made, but while there are still bottles around, some still shoot them down. This shot is will flame up any dull night