Celebrating its first anniversary on Feb. 1, Le Boutier has brought a taste of 1960s Phnom Penh back to the capital with its mixed drinks and retro vibes. Words by Erin Hale; photography by Lucas Veuve.
It’s hard to believe that Le Boutier has only been open for one year. Since opening last February, the cocktail bar has become a firm fixture on the ever-growing Street 308, best known for its high quality drinks, modern interior and well-curated music.
The bar was envisioned by co-owners American Annemarie Sagoi and French-Cambodian David Chhay as homage to the Kingdom’s Golden Age of the 1960s, when Phnom Penh was the “pearl” of post-independence Southeast Asia.
The bar’s name honours Chhay’s grandfather Boutier, while drinks are named after famous singers and musicians from that era – whose infectious sounds combining traditional Khmer music and psychedelic riffs can often be heard in the background of Le Boutier.
While familiar to many Phnom Penh-residents, Sagoi hopes Le Boutier can educate newcomers about the Kingdom’s rich pop-culture past.
“It’s celebrating that era because even expats – or immigrants as I like to call them – that live in Cambodia who are from Western countries don’t know about some of these great musicians,” she says.
Le Boutier offers a number of specialty cocktails ($6) as well as old favourites, such as vodka and soda ($3) or beers ($2). The most popular drink is La Vie en Rose Sereysothea, which pays testament to one of Cambodia’s most famous female singers.
“It’s very approachable citrusy drink. It’s got pineapple infused vodka, grapefruit, a jasmine tincture, lime, and a little Campariis is added for bitterness,” says Sagoi.
One of Le Boutier’s missions is to introduce new concepts to Phnom Penh bartending. Sagoi and staff make their own tinctures and syrups in flavours, including curry rice and Kampot pepper, to capture some of the unique flavours of Cambodia. Another challenging mission has been to move the city’s drinkers away from the idea that cocktails must inherently be saccharine sweet or “fishbowl” sized.
“I’m slowly trying to introduce more bitter flavours because that’s still quite foreign to a lot of Cambodians, and even expats or tourists, who are used to having blue or green drinks and buckets,” she says.
Bartenders from around the world also regularly stop in for a month to bring their touch to Le Boutier’s menu.
“It’s always nice to get different points of view because every bartender like any musician or artist has their own point of view and their own flavours, and they always have something unique to offer,” says Sagoi.
The three-storey has something for everyone. The first floor is white, sleek, and a little Art Deco, with a large bar and high tables. The second floor has a subtle recording studio vibe, with low couches and intimate lighting, while the top floor offers an open terrace with a great view of Street 308 bubbling below.