Things to do in Hoi An: Best Kept Secret Cocktails
A blog post by Ryan Coles about the Secret Cocktail Experience by SecretEATS. This article keeps the mystery. Feel free to read on - spoiler free.
Our night of Secretive merriment started with us meeting at a grand hotel. Upon arrival, I wasn't exactly sure where or what I was supposed to be doing. Thankfully, Simon - our charming host for the evening - introduced himself and before we knew it, we were talking about China, tea and our favourite alcoholic beverage. My flavour of the month is local Raksi. It’s a fiery yet butyraceous grain alcohol that they drink in Nepal. If you find yourself in the mountains, I implore you to try some.
The group was having a splendid time getting to know one another in the hotel's magnificent lobby, but it was time to move on to our first Secret location. We were led to the rooftop overlooking the picturesque town of Hoi An in the fading twilight.
Our first cocktail was a refreshing citrus infused concoction that came in a bamboo cup, complimented by a salty yet sweet popcorn cube. The light, zesty tones really embodied the sunny evening backdrop. The bright pink floret caught the eye much like the colourful lanterns of the town below.
The view was a sight to behold but it was time to move on to our second Secret stop. We cut through the charmed vibrant streets below until we arrived at our destination, a private room in the restaurant of a celebrity chef who informed us that he specialised in South Vietnamese food because it reminded him of home.
We gathered around the table and tried our mulberry imbued beverage, freshly picked from the restaurant's tree. We were treated to a plate of exquisite Southern snacks: Juicy lettuce wrapped spring rolls, mouthwatering beef lemongrass wrapped in a parcel of betel leaf and flavour packed shrimp salad with cashew nuts. Every morsel was delicious, but I'll always have a place in my heart for that minced beef.
En route to our third secret cocktail location, our host Simon proceeded to take us inside one of the last remaining wooden houses in Hoi An.
Due to the winter floods, many houses have to temporarily abandon the bottom floors as the water level can rise up to the first storey. Wooden structures need a great deal of reparation afterwards, which is why many buildings are now the more resilient concrete. As Simon knowledgeably explained the architecture, he may have teased that this time-honoured residence could also feature as one of SecretEATS' many hidden locations.
At the evening's third location, we found ourselves on the rooftop of a clothing boutique. We were given a warm welcome by the shop's owner, who made us feel right at home in her home. Each member of our group had studied Spanish at some point and were keen to show the owner what they knew of her native language. After our multilingual conversation, Simon brought out our next cocktail: A drink which incorporated Vietnam's distinctive coffee flavour to deliver a robust, creamy taste that had a nice kick to it. My personal favourite of the evening.
In the heart of Hoi An's shopping district, above the bustling market, we reached our next destination. Here we crafted our own cocktails using ingredients locally sourced from the market below. The manager gave us some general guidelines to follow. Some were better than others. Sadly, I'll have to put my aspirations of becoming a mixologist on the back burner for now. The group cheered me up with a lovely team photo.
We arrived at a our final Secret spot, a Cuban Cigar Club. The owner greeted us with a black cocktail that had a rich smoky flavour that was a popular choice amongst the group.
We enjoyed some delectable nibbles as we tried to guess the ingredient that turned the liquor black. I shan't spoil it for you, I can keep a Secret.