As the resident Bar Manager at The House on Sathorn, Davide Boncimino has just completed a new cocktail menu which illustrates the history of the historic building he works in – consisting of four sections, to represent four eras, and each with a fascinating story.
You might say living in Southeast Asia has always been part of Davide Boncimino’s destiny. Although born in Italy, he’s half-Filipino – on his mother’s side – and as a child he spent summers visiting extended family in The Philippines. By high school, however, he was busy studying accounting and computer programming, later switching to languages and literature in university. And like many students before him, he thought bartending would be a fun and lucrative part-time job. “I still remember my very first shift,” he recalls. “It was a private catered party, and I had so much fun I said ‘I want to do this!’”
In 2013 he left his hometown to work in Milan, but soon after he relocated to London. Although he couldn’t speak English that well, he nevertheless found a job at a swanky Mayfair bar called Mr. Fogg’s Residence where he spent the next two years perfecting his craft. He also began entering cocktail competitions, one of which was presented by the Filipino rum brand Don Papa. “I won both the regional and the national competition, so my prize was a trip to The Philippines,” This first-prize jaunt also included a stop in Singapore, where Davide met key players in that city’s booming cocktail scene. When he was offered a job there he couldn’t refuse, which led to a lengthy stint running the bar at Madame Fan, at the JW Marriott Singapore.
His tropical tenure took a new turn when he moved to Bangkok in October of 2020, shortly after his 31st birthday, to oversee the drinks program at The Bar at The House on Sathorn. “The new cocktail menu will be sharing the beautiful history of this historic building,” he shares. “Four sections, to represent four eras, and each with a little story.”
Tell us more about your plans for The Bar at The House on Sathorn, and the revamped thematic cocktail menu you’ve been working on.
The House on Sathorn has been open for about six years now, but there wasn’t so much of a focus on the bar, more with the restaurant. The bar has been doing very well, but there wasn’t really a person in charge of the concept and taking care of the small details. Part of what we want to do now is to share with customers about the beautiful history of this building. It’s almost 130 years old. In the early days of Sathorn there was basically nothing around, and this was built as a private residence. Then in the 1920s it became a luxury resort, and then it was the Russian Embassy. Basically the new cocktail menu will be touching on all these histories. For the ‘present day’ we have a cocktail trolley, which is inspired by the traditional food carts of Thailand. It will be classical cocktails focused on one Thai ingredient. That’s our present day W era. Then there will be the Russian Embassy era, with Russian influenced cocktails. As for the hotel area, it was managed by an Italian lady so there will be Italian touch. And the historic Sathorn era will have a Chinese influence.
Can you reveal what’s in the mysterious Madame Staro cocktail?
“In the 1920s The House on Sathorn was a luxury resort called the Hotel Royal, and our Madame Staro cocktail is named for the lady from Italy who managed it. The main ingredient is Hendrick’s Orbium gin. The Italian touch is some Cerignola olives, and we make a kind of cordial with them. Mixed with Sauvingnon Blanc grape juice and Cynar, an Italian bitter aperitif made from artichoke, it’s served on ice and garnished with a prawn mushroom cracker and an olive.”
The Mansion cocktail gives a nod to when the house was first built (by Yom Bisalayaputr, the wealthy Chinese businessman who engineered the digging of what would become the Sathorn Canal). How does it reference that earliest era?
Our Mansion cocktail comes served in a ceramic stone, referencing the earliest days of Sathorn when the foundations of the house were just being laid. The base ingredient is Michter’s Kentucky Straight Rye whiskey. We then combine it with Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, pu-erh classic Chinese tea, sweet tamarind, and choya umeshu (plum wine). It’s presented with a small chocolate shell filled with a foam of Greek yoghurt, blackberry, smoky whiskey, and tamarind.”
Speaking of stones and rocks, I understand you have a keen interest in a certain sport.
“I like rock climbing, and I went to Krabi about a year ago, well before moving to Bangkok. Then during my [October] quarantine I saw one of the gyms here was hosting a rock climbing competition. I thought it could be a great opportunity to meet the climbing community, and make some friends, so I entered – and I placed third! Now I’m climbing with some of these guys, and in December we organised a trip to the Khon Kaen Zoo, where they do bouldering.”