A weekend trip to Bandung, Indonesia, at the end of 2021, proved an eye-opening experience for me. A city that used to represent family visits and insane traffic showed me a budding underground cocktail bar scene well worth the attention. Two nights out in the town felt like a step back in time as many popular cocktail bars are hidden within restaurants, eateries, and even a guest house. These speakeasies operated well past the closing of other establishments giving an allure of a night out during prohibition, fearing the arrival of the police to break up the night.
The capital city of the West Java province, Bandung is known for its culinary scene, highland landscapes, and fashion. Also a popular destination for out-of-town tourists, on the weekends you'd find a lot of cars with Jakarta numberplates on the streets causing a pile-up of traffic. However, since 2018, the city of Bandung has slowly been growing a cocktail culture scene driven by a few bars. Ever since then, I've only heard through whispers of the development in the city. On my weekend visit to Bandung, I just had to see this drinking scene for myself. Here are the four cocktail bars shaping the drinking culture in the city.
The night's first stop was to visit an old friend, Ghalim Pati, at his new bar Pati, in the bustling and old Bandung neighborhood of Braga. Located hidden behind a row of colonial buildings in the Stocker House Building, one would not be able to find it without the doorman's help. Inside, Pati is a cozy speakeasy bar that only seats around twelve people. We escaped the chaotic energy and landed in a brilliant oasis of good drinks. Warm and cool color tones bathed the interior, and comfortable seating made one feel right at home.
Pati has a secret signature cocktail menu with deliciously flavorful cocktails that surprise even veteran drinkers. For access to these drinks, you must ask the bartenders directly. My favorite of the night was The Hail Mary Pass, a light and cleaner take on a tomato cocktail. Savory with touches of sweet and sour, this gin drink blew our tastebuds. It was a combination of gin, tomato, pineapple, lemon, and salt. Incredibly easy to drink, I urge everyone who visits to try this for yourselves. In addition to the signature tipples on their menu, the Pati cocktail menu also carries cocktails borrowed from various talented and famous Indonesian bartenders from around the country who also happen to be friends of the bar. A rare and exciting concept for a bar menu; however, it provides the opportunity for customers to try the drinks from other cities without having to leave Bandung. A complimentary take to the classic cocktail menu.
A brilliant cocktail bar, a must-visit when you drop by Bandung next.
Stocker House Building
Jl. Braga No.43, Braga, Kec. Sumur Bandung, Kota Bandung
Klas Tap Bar
Next, we ventured to the next bar on our list: another one hidden away, this time behind an unassuming mirror inside the Kisah Manis coffee shop. We stepped into Klas Tap Bar. A building interior similar to a cathedral, it is an impressive looking space with massive arched mirrors over the bar. A cocktail bar with a unique concept stands to say that it's one of the most interactive drinking holes in Bandung.
Klas Tap Bar has several ready-to-drink cocktails on tap. Like tapping a beer, these cocktails can be served swiftly and directly to the customers. They have five cocktails on tap, probably the most I've seen in Indonesia, that are entirely ready to drink out of the tap. What's even more exciting is that customers themselves can tap their own cocktails to their glasses. There is no need for any training or expertise; anyone who can reach the taps can do it—making the entire experience interactive and unique. Of the on-tap cocktails, the two that stood out were the Apple Pie and the Aegean Sea. The Apple Pie is a delicious dessert-inspired concoction of cinnamon whiskey and apple. It comes carbonated and reminiscent of the holiday dessert everyone likes. The Aegean Sea is a Piña Colada-inspired blue-colored cocktail straight from the tap.
An incredibly unique and interactive experience tapping my own cocktails. Something everyone should try. Great hospitality all around, not to mention the food they served was deliciously solid!
Klas Tap Bar
Jl. Sunda No.65, Kb. Pisang, Kec. Sumur Bandung, Kota Bandung
The next night we ventured up the hills into Dago, the hillside neighborhood of Bandung. And walked into an even more unassuming building to find another of the city's hidden bar gems. Located in the complex of a guest house on Jl. Cigadung Raya is Pot Valor, a speakeasy decorated with portraits of gangsters of old and film. As I walked into the bar, I felt like walking into the den of the Don. Also remember, to enter through the second door to the left to avoid stumbling into one of the private rooms. In addition to the portraits, the bar had black leather armchairs and sofas, providing seating in the dimly lit space. A long bar stationed the center of the room with a large framed still of Marlon Brando's Don Vito Corleone from the Godfather films hung behind. Everything about the ambiance made one feel like we were in one of Coppola's scenes in the 1972 classic.
Despite the general theme of Pot Valor, the cocktails reflected an Indonesian flavor-forward menu designed by head bartender Iman. Sitting at the bar, I could see him cooking up an array of cocktails only someone with the intense knowledge of the local ingredients can do. The Moonlight opened my cocktail tab for the night. A creamy whiskey delight enhanced by the flavors of the indigenous jackfruit, or buah nangka. A seamless combination if there ever was one. Every other cocktail after the Moonlight continued the theme of interesting local fruits and ingredients that enhanced the classic recipe that inspired it. It was clear from a night at Pot Valor that its cocktail menu highlighting local produce is a good enough reason to make the trek up to Dago.
Jl. Cigadung Raya Barat No.9a, Cigadung, Kec. Cibeunying Kaler, Kota Bandung
Anyone familiar with the bar scene in Bandung will recognize this not-so-secret entrance to the most famous cocktail bar in the city. Disguised as a little wooden box made to be a cigarette kiosk is the entrance to Gloomy Sunday. This Bandung speakeasy first opened three years ago in 2018. A pioneer in the industry, it was THE cocktail bar that began the drinking movement in Bandung, Indonesia. The first of its kind to put out a solid cocktail program, the owners took a risk by introducing something new to the city. Three years later, we can see Gloomy Sunday's impact on the bars opened today.
When you first step in and look to the back wall, recognizable artwork adorns the back bar promising the patrons a night of good vibes and memorable cocktails. A small space despite renovations to expand since they opened, the bar gives one an ambiance of a neighborhood bar where everyone knows each other. We were pretty fortunate to visit Gloomy Sunday on our last night in Bandung. Coincidentally they were celebrating their third anniversary that very night. The bar was packed with customers celebrating the fantastic feat, and all seemed like friends like family to the bar.
With a cocktail program that started it all, Gloomy Sunday has a quality selection of Signature Concoctions for everyone. My pick for the night was the Mango Forever. A sweet and sour concoction with rum and a homemade mango shrub garnished with a mango cracker. The Nerracino was also a good one. A warm, freshly brewed black coffee cocktail with spiced rum for some added warmth.
Realizing the impact this bar had on the Bandung drinking scene, I'd expect everyone to pay homage to Gloomy Sunday and have a drink at this pioneering bar.
Jl. Anggrek No.34, Merdeka, Kec. Sumur Bandung, Kota Bandung