In Hanoi’s trendi­est bar, Pham Tien Tiep’s cre­ative con­coc­tions com­bine mod­ern mixol­ogy with the savoury tastes of pho, fish sauce and Viet­namese pick­les

Southeast Asia Globe - - Flavours - – Paul Mil­lar

Smell has al­ways pried open the door­way to mem­ory. The cloy­ing sweet­ness of an age­ing page thrusts a reader once more into the sto­ries of their youth. A trace of per­fume can re­call feel­ings long-since for­got­ten, or for­saken. And at Ne Cock­tail Bar in Hanoi, a cock­tail smelling of noth­ing more than Viet­nam's fa­mous pho noo­dle soup can bring back mem­o­ries of long days lost in the cap­i­tal's wind­ing streets.

Lay­ered with traces of co­rian­der, car­damom, star anise, cin­na­mon and chilli – key in­gre­di­ents in Viet­nam's iconic dish – the cock­tail com­bines the rich aroma of Hanoi street food with the pageantry of mod­ern mixol­ogy as the flam­ing spir­its are poured through three sil­ver fil­ters laced with the native botan­i­cals.

Pham Tien Tiep, the mind be­hind the con­coc­tion and now head bar­tender at Ne, told South­east Asia Globe that the cock­tail was a legacy from his child­hood spent ek­ing out a liv­ing on the streets of the cap­i­tal.

“I worked in pho restau­rants, I worked as a shoe shine,” he said. “All the time I lived around cheap street food – those smells still bring back so many mem­o­ries. So when I be­came a bar­tender, I wanted to make some­thing like real Viet­namese – what I wanted when I was work­ing on the street. I wanted just one bowl of pho, but I had no money.”

Dubbed the Joan Baez cock­tail, Tiep's cre­ation draws its name and in­spi­ra­tion from the leg­endary folk singer who en­dured the US' dev­as­tat­ing 1972 Christ­mas bomb­ings in the bunker of the Metropole in Hanoi.

“She was an Amer­i­can singer who came to Viet­nam, and sup­ported Viet­nam, dur­ing the war,” Tiep said. “She was singing in­side the bomb shel­ters. That's why I make the cock­tail with fire – to be like the bombs.”

Hav­ing al­ready per­fected a fish sauce-based cock­tail named Un­der Bridge, Tiep is now ex­per­i­ment­ing with bev­er­ages de­rived from Viet­namese cof­fee and even lo­cal pick­les. For first-timers, Tiep said, the com­bi­na­tions can have a po­tent ef­fect.

“They love it. All the peo­ple, when they come to my bar, they're al­ways sur­prised,” he said. “And they're cu­ri­ous – the drinks smell just like food, but the taste when they drink it is noth­ing like it, and they love that.”

Clock­wise from top left: the Hanoian, a Ne­groni­based cock­tail pre­pared with Viet­namese ice cream; Hanoi-born bar­tender Pham Tien Tiep; the scent of fish sauce abounds in his iconic Un­der Bridge con­coc­tion

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