In Siem Reap’s famous downtown Pub Street, one can sample everything from cocktails served in bedpans to cheap beers at bars that compete with carts selling alcoholic beverages.
Essentially, one can find a beverage that suits every palate and price.
But with all those choices at hand, there is one venue that stands out as a must visit in the boom tourism destination in Cambodia’s north.
Asana Bar, which strives to offer patrons a new experience, opened almost seven years ago. It is still able to maintain its “cut above the rest” stature, thanks to its unique cocktails that are a mix of Khmer kitchen ingredients and white wine.
One of a kind
Located in the centre of town, patronising this one-of-a-kind bar gives visitors the impression they have arrived in a village. The traditional design of Asana Bar is due to the fact that it used to be a family home in the 1960s.
Considered a contemporary “modern house” when it was built, today it is said to be the last traditional house in the Phsar Chas area and stands as evidence of the progress Siem Reap, which was once a sleepy hollow, has made.
The bar’s owner, Un Sophary, says she is proud to be able to show off a rural, Khmer-style house in Siem Reap to the foreign guests who flock there.
“They go wow! and ask where the house comes from? But they are not the only ones in awe,” she says.
“Our younger generation Khmers are just as surprised at the design since they know very little of Khmer traditions, especially of how houses used to be built decades ago.”
Dwen Franke, a guest at Asana, says: “When I heard of a bar designed from a traditional wooden house in the centre of the town, it piqued my interest.
“I had not been to Southeast Asia before arriving in Cambodia. This is an experience of a lifetime.”
Trial and error
Asana Bar mainly serves traditional Khmer and Western cocktails created by Sophary, who says she uses ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, a paddy herb, kaffir lime leaves and white rice wine.
“Initially I made only non-alcoholic cocktails from ginger, lemongrass and tamarind, among others. But because I had no market, I started to blend in some spirits,” she says. “And over time, I expanded the range to offer more unique ones that have become popular.”
Sophary says her cocktail blends are unique, and nobody else has managed to copy the recipes thus far.
Apart from the white wine that is blended into the cocktails, the rest of the ingredients are uniquely Khmer, she stresses.
She even teaches guests how to mix cocktails like Asana Sling for US$15 (about Bt500), which includes a plate of snacks.
Pointing to a patron, Sophary says: “She created a tamarind water cocktail.”
Asana Bar is open from 5pm to 2am and located at house No 7, Modul 1 Village (second entrance in front of the provincial hospital) near Pub Street in Siem Reap.