“Bartending changed my life,” admits Ronnaporn “Neung” Kanivichaporn, one of the five co-owners of Backstage Cocktail Bar – currently #33 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020 list. His early professional years, however, revolved around his career as a singer, model, actor and TV host, but when he was introduced to craft cocktails at drink spots like Syn Bar at Park Nai Lert (since closed), his passion for mixology was ignited. He later got a chance to get behind the bar and create drinks at Roof Hideaway, the top floor of the Muse Club (a now defunct Thong Lor venue he had a hand in launching).
For several years he was the emcee of the Diageo World Class competitions in Thailand, where he got to watch top bartenders in action and also attend the seminars and classes they’d give. In 2014 he entered the competition himself, and became one of the finalists – representing Thailand on the global stage. Out of 50 countries he placed #11.
In 2016, at the age of 35, Neung and his friends opened Backstage, taking over the bar that already existed on the ground floor of the Playhaus hotel. “I went to see the space and as soon as I stepped into the bar I fell in love,” he recalls. “It’s not too big, kinda cosy, so you have a chance to talk with customers.” In the years that would follow, he and a different group of partners would open the popular “hidden” speakeasies Find The Locker Room and Find The Photo Booth. And while all three venues have been shuttered during the Covid-19 lockdown, Neung promises at least 10 new movie-themed cocktails when Backstage opens its doors once again.
His Quarantine Drink
“For the first two or three weeks of lockdown I felt really depressed. With nothing to do I felt my days were so wasted. So, together with one of my partners we launched a line of cordials [sweet, fruit-flavoured, lightly acidic syrups] called ‘Spaceman’. We wanted to create something to mix with, so people could enjoy drinking spirits at home. Currently we have two recipes. The first is Venus Dude, a mixture of golden apple and yuzu, and the other is Galaxy X, with mixed fruit and strawberry. We use malic acid, so the taste is not too sharp, and we work with a lab to get the extract of the flavours.”
His Teen Idols
“I used to be a singer in a boy band. The name of the band was 3 Plus One. Not many people in the industry know about that, just my old friends. We only had one album, but we did lots of concerts. You can still find my songs on YouTube. Sometimes my friends make fun of me about it, especially when we go to karaoke parties and they make me sing.”
His Current Go-To Drink
“I won the 2019 Bacardi Legacy global cocktail competition in Amsterdam with a drink I created called ‘Pink Me Up’. It’s designed as a daytime, brunch-style “pick me up” cocktail. It’s made with 45ml of Bacardi Carta Blanca, fresh tomato (one whole piece), 5-7 leaves of sweet basil, Orgeat syrup (10ml), fresh lemon juice (20ml), and olive brine (5ml). Muddle the tomato, and then put all the ingredients in the shaker, and shake with ice. Double strain in coupe glass and serve garnished with basil leaf and pitted olive on a cocktail stick.”