From elegant eateries to tawdry take-outs, Thai cuisine—with its blend of spicy and sweet—has emboldened American palates. But beyond the sweet, milky version of iced tea, there’s little liquid variety—or so you thought. Thai coffee spiked with Kahlúa and vodka? No problem. Malty Bangkok brews? Covered. Here are our picks for Thai-ing one on.
I’m an American. I love baseball and burgers, Bud in Styrofoam cups, shopping malls, and Charles Bronson. And don’t get me wrong, since 9-11 I’ve been flying Old Glory as high as the next guy. But I’ve also been listening to NPR, and I understand the importance of embracing different cultures. The other night, I popped into HOLY BASIL THAI RESTAURANT AND BAR (149 Second Avenue, 460-5557) for a beverage. Not wanting to offend, I removed my shoes at the door. The hostess gave me a curious look and asked, “Do you have a reservation?” I replied, “Nope, just a date with a bottle of hot sake.” She rolled her eyes and said, “We don’t serve sake, but you can have a seat at the bar; just put your shoes back on.” There was none of the neon flash I had seen in Jackie Chan movies, just dim lighting, dark wood, and stained glass. I settled for a Singha ($4)—a light but powerful Thai malt liquor—and duck spring rolls with tomato chili sauce ($6). A few minutes later I asked, “Any word on those spring rolls?” The bartender answered, “You just ordered them!” Geez, I thought, can’t we all just get along? —KEN SWITZER
Before mojito mania, saketinis and lychee daiquiris elbowed for space on the cocktail lists of savvy mixologists. The Eastern chic lounge still thrives, and Soho standby KIN KHAO (171 Spring Street, 966-3939) is no exception. It may be past its prime, but the haute Thai bar-eatery still serves creative concoctions in a stylish setting—a cast-iron storefront and exposed-brick interior lend to the old-factory feel; deep-red walls and leafy fronds add Asian accents. Sip a fizzy Ginger Sabsa ($8; ginger vodka, champagne, lemon juice) that’s evocative of the soft drink, or a straight-up Kin Khao Colada ($8; pineapple-infused vodka, pineapple juice, Malibu, coconut milk), which reduces the tropical classic to its blissful essence. Tapas like Khao Chee Nuea Tod ($5.50)—sun-cured beef and sticky-rice croquettes—are masterpieces of alcoholic absorption. We’ll take well-seasoned over hot any day. —C. SPARTOS
Sweet smells of lemongrass and ginger mingle with the cool breeze at open-air Q A THAI BISTRO (108-25 Ascan Avenue, Forest Hills, Queens, 718-261-6599), which beckons passersby with its bamboo-like chairs, tall plants, and promise of wine-induced intimacy. Inside, the narrow surroundings seem to have multiple personalities—splashy modern art shares the walls with a giant Twister game board (alluding to entwined bodies or just innocent fun?). The fusion of ideas carries over to the extensive international wine list—16 white, 17 red, and an array of blush and dessert tipples—and to dishes like the curiously named Bang Bang shrimp (marinated shrimp with cool mint cucumber slaw and peanut dipping sauce; $8.95). After a glass of the 1999 Ariana chardonnay ($6), everything starts making sense. I order a second drink, and whisper, “Right hand green, left hand blue,” to the cute bartender. —GRACE BASTIDAS