Bar Sathorn at the House of Sathorn in Bangkok recently released a new signature cocktail menu. We ask Bar Sathorn’s Bar Manager, Marco Dognini, about its inspiration.

What happens when an acclaimed Italian bartender and Thai ingredients walk into a bar?

In the case of Bar Sathorn, Marco Dognini, its Bar Manager, jumped at the chance at using the abundant and diverse produce that Thailand has to offer and incorporating them into the bar’s new cocktail menu. The well-travelled native Milanese, who joined the Bar Sathorn in July last year, also used the opportunity to weave Thai culture and the rich legacy of The House of Sathorn into a refreshed cocktail programme with innovative twists on timeless cocktails that, dare we say it, is same same but different.

We ask acclaimed award-winning bartender – whose experience includes a spell at Michelin-starred Carlo Cracco Restaurant in Milan, Sweetwater Rooftop Bar in Perth Western Australia, five-star Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort in Mauritiu, and most recently Buddha Bar in Dubai – about his new challenge helming Bar Sathorn.

Bar Sathorn

Congratulations on such a beautiful bar! The House on Sathorn is such a historical heritage site. How do you think Bar Sathorn fits into the overall century-old landmark that has so much meaning in Bangkok’s history?

Marco Dognini: Thank you for your kind words! The House on Sathorn indeed holds significant historical value in Bangkok’s rich tapestry and Bar Sathorn, nestled within this century-old landmark, serves as a bridge between the past and the present. It’s designed not only to offer a timeless and luxurious drinking experience, but also to pay homage to the cultural and historical significance of The House on Sathorn.

Everything from the bar’s ambiance, decor, to its signature cocktail menu are curated to complement the architectural grandeur and historical charm of the building. Guests are invited to immerse themselves in a journey through time with our cocktail menu that is artfully segmented into four different time periods of the House’s history.

What is the inspiration behind Bar Sathorn and its latest cocktail menu?

Marco Dognini: The inspiration behind Bar Sathorn and its latest cocktail menu draws from a variety of sources, including Bangkok’s vibrant cultural scene, the rich history of The House on Sathorn, and global trends in mixology and culinary arts.

I was inspired by the eclectic and dynamic atmosphere of Bangkok. To me, that involved incorporating local ingredients and flavours such as longan, kaffir lime, tamarind and mangosteen, and cultural motifs, including Chinatown, or some local farm or vendor, into the cocktail menu to create a sense of place and identity.

As part of a century-old landmark, the architectural details, the stories of its past occupants, and the building’s significance in Bangkok’s history all contribute to the narrative of Bar Sathorn. We pay tribute to this through our signature cocktail menu, which is artfully divided into four significant phases of its history – ‘History of Sathorn’, ‘Hotel Royal’, ‘Embassy Row’ and ‘The Present’.

At Bar Sathorn, the bar team and I also ensure that we’re keeping an eye on global trends in mixology and culinary arts. Our cocktails incorporate innovative techniques, flavour combinations, and classic presentation styles that are popular in the contemporary cocktail scene worldwide. This infusion of global influences adds a modern twist to the traditional elements present within The House on Sathorn, creating a unique and memorable drinking experience.

Overall, the inspiration behind Bar Sathorn and its cocktail menu is a fusion of local heritage, historical context, and contemporary creativity, resulting in a dynamic and immersive drinking experience for guests.

How did a highly-acclaimed Italian bartender find his way all the way from Milan to Perth, and then to Mauritius and Dubai, to finally land in Bangkok at Bar Sathorn?

Marco Dognini: For me, travelling has always been my primary goal in life. The main reason I chose to become a bartender was precisely to have the opportunity to travel, to have new experiences, meet people, and above all, experience different cultures and flavours around the world.

The most difficult thing was finding the courage to leave Italy for the first time. But once I got over the initial shock, I developed a taste for it. Every time a new job opportunity arose, I embraced it with ease. I believe that, for a bartender to improve and find inspiration, they must travel. Until a certain age, one shouldn’t focus on their resume or career but on gaining life and work experiences around the world.

Rice Flower

How do you think Thai flavours fit in cocktail making? 

Marco Dognini: Thai flavours offer a unique and vibrant palette of sweet, sour, spicy, and aromatic elements! When I first arrived in Bangkok, I was surprised by the variety and quality of fresh produce such as pineapples, kaffir lime, and lemongrass, that significantly enhance cocktail making. I’m glad to have the opportunity to create cocktails using these ingredients, allowing both the drinks and local produce to shine. For our guests who appreciate Thailand’s rich culinary offerings, these flavours add an element of authenticity to their drinking experience that is unique to Bar Sathorn.

Was it challenging as a ‘farang’ to understand and adopt exotic Thai ingredients and to incorporate them into your creations?

Marco Dognini: Actually, for me, integrating into a new culture wasn’t difficult. I had been to Asia many times, especially Thailand, so I already had a moderate knowledge of the ingredients. Of course, once I moved here, I was fortunate enough to deepen my understanding and discover more particular ingredients and their best uses.

I’ve always dreamed of living in a country with an immense quantity and variety of products; it’s like a playground for bartenders, a country with so much variety that it allows the bartender’s creativity and flair to flourish.

Where do you think Bangkok as a city fits in the overall scheme of cocktail things in the world? Will it be the next cocktail capital in Asia?

Marco Dognini: Bangkok is undoubtedly emerging as a significant player in the global cocktail scene, and its position continues to strengthen over time. While cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore have long been regarded as cocktail capitals in Asia, Bangkok’s rise in prominence suggests that it is well-positioned to join their ranks. With its rich cultural heritage, diverse culinary landscape, and a burgeoning cocktail scene, Bangkok has all the ingredients to become the next cocktail capital in Asia, drawing both local and international acclaim for its contributions to the world of mixology.

Marco Dognini making cocktails

What is your favourite cocktail to drink? And to make?

Marco Dognini: To be completely honest, I’m a big wine lover. While I don’t have a particular favourite cocktail, I do love the classics like Daiquiris, Margaritas, and Americanos, but I also enjoy whisky highballs and Espresso Martinis.

When it comes to making drinks, I really enjoy the classics, especially stirred cocktails. I find them very elegant to make with a mixing glass.

What are your favourite places to eat and drink in Bangkok, and why?

Marco Dognini: Bangkok has such an infinite number of bars and restaurants to choose from, and it’s so difficult to have a favourite! I usually enjoy trying new places, especially local bars and restaurants, especially ones that aren’t “famous.”

However, when it comes to Italian restaurants, I have my favourite spots for pizza and pasta where I’ve been going for months now.

[Photo credits: Bar Sathorn]

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