A view from the city - Phnom Penh

Jennifer Queen, head bartender and portfolio ambassador at La Familia, tells us all there is to know about the bar scene in Phnom Penh 


Palm Juice is the traditional drink and locals use it to make Palm Wine. I have also seen similar productions made with rice. Cambodia has a long beautiful history, rich in culture, and was once considered a quite prominent country in Asia. Devastation brought by the Khmer Rouge caused a pain that Cambodians were drinking to forget. Now it seems people are imbibing to celebrate the good times. We are happy to be a part of an era that is evolving in a balance of new and old traditions, and extremely excited to create an atmosphere that offers an escape from the static. A little Hip Hop and an Old Fashioned always bring a smile to my face, and I have been witness to that being the truth for many people.

Is the city getting into cocktails?  

In our fourth month of distribution and training with La Familia we receive new calls and inquiries each day. There is most certainly an interest in improving the selection of spirits as well as the quality of cocktails offered by bars and restaurants here. I am met with so much excitement and passion when training a staff, and our pop up events have been filled with smiling faces, and thankful patrons, from expats filled with a nostalgia for a taste of home, to locals excited by new things done with familiar flavours.

Who and what are the pioneer bartenders and bars?

I didn’t know what to expect when I packed up my things and moved here, having never been to Asia. My first experience was at The Common Tiger, and I was impressed. The meal and cocktails I was served made me feel connected to a city I had only taken a couple of steps in. Since then, I’ve come to respect many establishments over countless nights of research and development (also known as drinking profusely for the betterment of my trade). I know that Elbow Room and La Familia are going to change the game with the introduction of new products and education, but I’ve also come to know that one would be lucky to catch a wink from Flo over a glass of Pastis at Chez Flo, to hear Nick’s mischievous laugh echo through a Negroni at Che Chulo, or see the always genuine welcome of Christina’s smile during an endlessly busy shift at The Common Tiger. 

Where does the city ranks in terms of bar scenes? 

Phnom Penh is still growing and I find that to be the most exciting element of living here. We have quite a few elders to look up to in Asia – Singapore, Hong Kong,Tokyo, Taipei… all amazing cocktail cities that have helped to cut the path ahead of us. I am looking forward to the future of cocktails here in Cambodia. With the availability of new products, a bounty of wonderful local flavours, continued education, incredible passion and an evolving sense of community, we have all the components to contribute to the bar culture currently being represented in Asia.