For the past five to six years, there has been a boom in Bangkok’s cocktail bar scene. Over a hundred male bartenders across the capital city shake and stir for the drinking pleasure of customers.
Suwicha “Chacha” Singsuwan, 36, is one of only 12 female bartenders in Bangkok. She is the first and only female Group Bar Manager in the capital city. She’s behind all the drinks at Rabbit Hole, Liberation, Draft Land, and Crimson Room.
She entered the business 14 years ago when she was still in university studying computer science, a field she thought would lead to a career. But as a student, she was running low on money and needed a job. At the time, a female cousin, who was part of the opening team of the club, Glow, offered her a job.
First, Suwicha worked as floor staff. Then, she became a barback, a bartender’s helper. Eventually, she became a bartender. Ten months later, she became a bartender at La Villa, an Italian restaurant on Thonglor, which has since closed down.
However, this was where she honed her bartending skills and developed a hospitality mindset.
Through the 14 years, her resume included St. Regis Hotel, Ku De Ta Club, and Whisgar Silom Bar. Her recognitions include winning Thailand’s Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in 2013 and taking fourth place in the global round. She also won the Campari Academy Thailand 2014.
In 2015, she found a home at Rabbit Hole on Thonglor.
Through it all, her work provided her with the financial means to complete her bachelor’s degree.
We spoke to her about what it’s like to be a female bartender in Bangkok.
What’s it like to be a woman behind the bar, making people drinks?
I’ve had customers verbally harassing me, nothing aggressive, though, all very subtle. I’ve had customers leaving the keycard to their rooms on the bar counter for me.
There was this one time I had two male customers getting me drunk. I got so intoxicated all I could do was smile. I had to tell the cashier at the bar not to let these customers come behind the bar. And I also told her not to let me leave from behind the bar. It was kinda scary to have customers waiting for me at the bar.
In other cases, some customers who just straight-up asked me to sleep with them, politely. Apart from that, there are just some friendly flirtations.
Why aren’t there more female bartenders in Bangkok?
It’s not that appealing to women, working with alcohol. It doesn’t make them look good in society.
How do your parents feel about your job?
My parents have never visited me at any bar. After 14 years, they still worry about me working with alcohol late at night.
My mother knows I work in a bar, but she doesn’t know anything beyond that. She had tried to connect me with my aunt, who works as a salesperson for a machinery factory. She also tries to tell me to get an office job.
She still thinks that I drink heavily every night and that I work too much just because I work nights and finish late. She always wants me to get a day job and sleep at night.
How are the men accepting your role?
There was this one time when I conducted a private whiskey masterclass for 12 men. At first, they weren’t convinced of what I had to say, but by the third whiskey, they finally showed a sense of approval that I knew what I was doing.
They probably didn’t think that women could do this. We ended up having a chat afterward, and I had fun talking to them. It made me feel proud of myself.
How is this job important to our society?
The government always paints a picture of alcohol as a bad thing, without adequately educating people about it. When someone has an alcohol problem, they end up being too afraid to speak up and ask for help, because they would already be blamed from the moment they pick up a glass.
And when they actually speak up, the society, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation [the organization that works to promote a better life quality for people], would blame them even more.
Education and information are very important. And it’s our job to keep raising awareness about drinking responsibly, instead of getting judged by some people in society who would only criticize people who drink alcohol.