Elijah Ferrian finds solace in a fresh and bright bar concept that is bucking the trend in the frantic jungle that is Bui Vien,Whiskey and Wares. Photos by Vinh Dao.
If it’s in Bui Vien, smells like Bui Vien, it must be just another backpacker bar, right? Wrong. Whiskey and Wares is like an alcohol and handcrafted goods oasis from the insanity that is the tourist-focussed areas of downtown Saigon.
Director Wan Winters and head bartender Derek Jay are the cofounders of this new whiskey and craft beer focussed watering hole wedged right on the periphery of the most popular drinking destinations with travelers and locals alike. The pair met when Jay first moved to Ho Chi Minh City, and they’ve been close friends ever since.
The concept is partly based on the whole process every expat is familiar with after they have lived in Saigon for a while: showing visiting friends that are traveling Southeast Asia on a shoestring budget the ‘best’ and most exciting spots the city has to offer, yet having a place to go that they can enjoy after being exposed to some of the finer things on offer..
Arguably, most folks tire of the Bui Vien drinking scene after being here for an extended period of time, but you definitely have to drag your friends into the fray if they are keen on partying a bit.
Enter Whiskey and Wares. A rotating selection of craft brew, featuring Fuzzy Logic, Phat Rooster, Te Te, Pasteur Street Brewing, and a rotating keg of some of the newcomers to the scene: East West Brewing, Winking Seal, Heart of Darkness, among others.
Whiskey. A bunch of it. They pour Knob Creek bourbon for VND85,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Irish whiskey, bourbon, single malts, and a solid selection of cocktails are all available. Jay mixes up a fine off-menu old fashioned (all cocktails are VND140,000), manhattan, bloody mary and ginger-lemongrass julep.
The ‘wares’ portion of the name shows up in the handmade Vietnamese products that they feature on the wall as you walk in. Artisanal soap (VND140,000), T-shirts (VND240,000), foodie postcards (VND22,000), and nifty wooden and pipe-fitted lamps (from VND325,000).
Everything you can purchase in this bar, with the exception of the spirits, is made in Vietnam. If they could source all of the spirits locally, they’d surely do so.
They set the tone of the space with a jazzy, downtempo hip hop playlist on the first level, and a ‘choose your own adventure’ musical set up on the couch-lounge upper level. The space is tight, but they can seat 50 in the entire joint, and there’s a little smoking patio upstairs.
Twenty-percent off cocktails and buy 2 get 1 beers on Sunday make this a good spot for teachers looking for an escape pod from the intensity that is the surrounding area. They plan on a comfy, compact bar food menu in the future.