Manila is becoming quite the small bar town these days, and instead of focusing on cocktails, the new crop is devoted to certain liquors alone. Whisky is the more popular selection—as hidden bar Mandalay, and Japanese-inflected Lit have shown—but gin is the spirit of choice at The Bonbon Club. Only two months old, the tiny spot hidden along Gallardo Street in trendy Legaspi Village has set itself apart from the competition by focusing on gin, and describing itself as more of a leisurely after-work lounge than full-fledged boozy watering hole. Open as early as 4pm with a closing time of 12mn, the lights are never too dim, and instead, encourage conversations over scratchings of vinyl, rather than shots eclipsed by loud music. The interior may be a little odd, but it makes for an interesting gathering space of sorts.
The team behind The Bonbon Club are responsible for two of Manila’s brightest bulbs on the nightlife scene, but wanted to create a concept that was entirely different. They wanted to build a world around gin, and educate Manila drinkers on the liquor, which is often dismissed in the city for other more popular spirits. According to them, it is the hardest liquor to understand or appreciate because of its herbal and liquorice-heavy notes. It is incredibly hard to create cocktails around the spirit because its inherent bitterness and aroma will always permeate most flavors paired with it, which has become The Bonbon Club’s challenge. How does one make gin pair perfectly with other notes to create a cocktail that still lets the liquor shine without dominating?
The answer lies in The Bonbon Club’s cocktails, half of which are classic combinations, while the other half are crafted by their head bartender to do just the trick. Their Negronis (PHP 300) and Gimlets (PHP 300) are perfect examples of their ilk, but it is in their own signature mixes where one can truly appreciate the herbaceousness of the liquor. Dr. Sylvius (PHP 350), named after the supposed “doctor of gin”, uses ginger and lemongrass syrup, and black pepper, to create slight heat and a savory tang to gin. Hog’s Lane (PHP 350), enhances gin’s botanical aroma by infusing gin with rosemary, and adding a sweet blueberry marmalade into the mix. Earl of Milan (PHP 350), employs similar techniques, but brings out the lingonberry note of its base gin with sprigs of oregano at the forefront, and the lingering potency of earl grey tea in the background.
Gin joints are rare in Manila, and The Bonbon Club makes a strong case for these establishments to be the next big thing. Casual and easy, educational but far from intimidating—these are the kind of small bars we need around here.
Have you been to The Bonbon Club? What’s your favorite new bar in Manila?
The Bonbon Club
Address: G/F Tropical Palms, Gallardo St.,
Legaspi Village, Makati, 1229 Metro Manila