For a cocktail served with a slice of sophistication, the capital’s iconic Elephant Bar is the place to be. Words by Marissa Carruthers; photography by Lucas Veuve.   

Elephant Bar at Raffles Phnom PenhIt’s easy to imagine Jacqueline Kennedy elegantly seated at the sturdy wooden bar, sipping on a cocktail concocted especially for her. While the bar in today’s form wasn’t in existence when the former US first lady visited Cambodia in 1967, it evokes a timeless style befitting of J.F. Kennedy’s wife.

Called the Femme Fatale, – a mix of crème de fraise des bois, cognac and sparkling wine – the honorary drink in her name remains on the menu today ($14), paying testament to the hotel’s sophisticated charm, and top notch cocktails.

Let’s not forget, the world-famous Singapore Sling cocktail was created at Phnom Penh’s parent property, Raffles Singapore, in 1915.

While the bar, and its cocktail offerings, have moved on since 1967, they have retained the old-world charm that Raffles is renowned for. Plush sofas and armchairs, paintings of elephants on the walls, elegant arches and heavy wood detail nod to colonial times, giving a grandiose feel.

While the drinks may come with a hefty price tag, the experience of sinking into one of the seats and soaking up the soothing, luxury-laced ambience is well worth the money – and is made affordable by the daily happy hour, which sees 50 percent off select drinks between 4pm and 9pm.

Classics, such as the Femme Fatale, Singapore Sling ($14) and legendary gin & tonic ($18), are staples on the menu, but Elephant Bar’s head bartender Udom is charged with ensuring each of the concoctions is kept modern and fresh, using local ingredients where possible.

The Le Royal Negeroni ($14) sees cochi vermouth di Torino, Ungava gin and sparkling wine mixed together to create the perfect bitter blend.

A garnishing of lemon rind adds a citrusy kick, with the bite rounded out by a delicately sweet aftertaste. The refined drinking experience is completed by a heavy rock glass, which the cocktail is served in.

The Tamarind Sour ($14) is another of Udom’s inventions. Made from Four Roses bourbon, Luxardo Marasschino, orange bitters and home-made tamarind syrup, the drink is topped with a smooth layer of froth, a burned orange slice and sprig of thyme and served in a red wine bottle with the top cut off. The result is another flavoursome concoction, that is fruity and sharp.

The Pomegranate Politan ($14) sees orange-infused tequila, Grand Marnier, cranberry juice and bitters, lime and home-made grenadine served in the legendary glass designed for the former first lady’s Femme Fatale – a tall, thin stemmed glass. The frothy pink drink is smooth and boasts a tart but moreish flavour.

Recently the Elephant Bar has opened its doors for lunch on weekdays ($12 per dish), from noon to 2pm, with a menu of regional delights that changes daily, taking in the likes of bor bor lort Khmer noodle soup and Laksa Peranakan noodle soup. However, steering clear of the cocktails until after work comes highly recommended.

Raffles Hotel le Royal,
92 Daun Penh Avenue, Phnom Penh.
Tel. 023 981 888.
Open daily, from noon to late.