BANGKOK, Nov 3 — With a sharp knife and a spoon, Worawut Joowattanapong carefully places a single freshly plucked bergamot leaf on the frothy surface of the drink.
Named after the dried Thai dates (intapalum) that the home-brewed black coffee is infused with, this concoction isn’t whipped up by a cocktail shaker-swinging mixologist but by a barista with a flair for the whimsy.
Joowattanapong, who is the owner of 4th Floor Drip Bar along the tree-lined Soi Sukhumvit 26 in Bangkok, had been in the coffee business for eight years, including a stint at local coffee roastery Roots, when he decided it was time for a change.
“I got bored,” he says. “I started first as a barista. Then I became a roaster and finally as a coffee processor. But after a while, I realised there was only that much everyone was doing with coffee — the usual espresso, cappuccino or filter coffee from single origin beans. I wanted to do something different.”
That notion of something different becomes apparent as we climb the stairs of the four-storey building the bar is located in.
To reach the top, we pass walls plastered with printed copies of William Shakespeare quotes. The bard is a man Joowattanapong can identify with; romantics and dreamers both.
The charming 4th Floor Drip Bar is suffused with plenty of natural sunlight. Surfaces and furniture are lined with or made from wood.
Various tea and coffee brewing equipment as well as grinders are part of the décor. It’s clear the bar is a playground for Joowattanapong. This is where he can put his years of experience brewing coffee and tea — and put a uniquely Thai twist to the results.
Take his signature drink called Toob-Tub: home-brewed milk coffee with peanut, chocolate and Thai-style toffee sauce. Joowattanapong explains, “It’s my take on a traditional Thai snack that’s also called toob-tub. It’s a street food, a candy made from hammering crunchy bits of peanuts. I’m inspired by the foods of my childhood, you see.”
The affable barista’s childhood is certainly one filled with delicious treats if his Arunothai — a blue-hued dessert-drink – is anything to go by.
Inspired by a mix of both loy kaew (chilled fruits in spiced syrup) and nam kang sai (Thai shaved ice), Arunothai is bowlful of delightful surprises — peeled white grapes, jackfruit, sugar palm fruit and butterfly pea flower granita, all topped with slivers of orange peel. Colourful and fun, just like the always-smiling Joowattanapong.
It’s not simply mixing Thai ingredients or making pretty beverages that are instant Instagram bait though. Joowattanapong is guided by a sense of balancing flavours gained from his previous career as a coffee processor.
He says, “I visited coffee farms and guided the farmers on the proper ways to process the beans that we buy. For example, whether the beans are dry or wet processed makes a difference... impacts the flavours we can extract from the final product.”
Beyond flavours, what Joowattanapong hopes to extract is a sense of wonder. A simple cup of black coffee — 4th Floor Drip Bar also offers straightforward coffee and tea, albeit made from single origin beans and premium tea leaves — is elevated to an experience when poured from a square whiskey decanter.
Joowattanapong believes everyone should take time to enjoy life. For him, the greatest pleasure comes from taking his time with every step of crafting a drink.
For Kobori, one of his favourite creations, he slowly whisks matcha the traditional way before pouring the foamy green tea over vanilla bean ice cream. He finishes by drizzling some homemade lemon-orange wasabi syrup on top.
He smiles, and whispers, “Perfect.”
We couldn’t agree more.
4th Floor Drip Bar
4F, 61 Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Open Thu-Tue 10am-6pm; Wed closed