From 26-29 March, Paul Mathew will be resident bartender at FCC’s Mansion for the FCC Legendary Cocktail Journey event. During the Mansion’s regular nightly lounge hours (opening at 530pm), Paul will have a special bar setup where he will be serving unique regional and historical cocktails. Each of the four nights Paul will focus on presenting cocktails from different time periods of Cambodia. Paul recently stopped by the FCC to talk about his life as a drink enthusiast, bartender, and crafter of specialty cocktails.
Where are you from and how did you arrive in Phnom Penh?
I’m from the United Kingdom. My wife’s a diplomat, and Phnom Penh is our current hope after four and a half years in Beijing before that, where I bartended and consulted for venues and drinks companies. I’ve been a bartender for about 20 years now, initially starting to help fund my way through university, but more recently as a full time career. After graduating I worked for conservation NGOs for around seven years, keeping my hand in behind the bar, but also seeing how different cocktails and spirits were drunk around the world, from the Caribbean to the Congo.
Eventually I left the NGO world to start my own bar – The Hide in London. I currently write for various drink magazines and consult for bars and restaurants in Beijing, Phnom Penh and London, together with other industry-related things like tasting sessions, brand marketing and judging the occasional cocktail competition. It’s a tough life!
How did you find FCC and become involved?
I’ve become interested in the heritage of Asia after being here for a few years. There are old cocktail books and travelogues with expats talking about drinks in different venues. There’s one in particular in which the author goes into the detail of every drink he encountered around the world in the 1930s. He even describes the recipes and names the bartenders, so it’s a great historical record of what was in fashion behind the bar then. In Beijing, I would find some of the locations that were spoken about, places that are still there and some that aren’t.
Every bartender I know who has been through Cambodia referenced the FCC and I came pretty soon after arriving, and got to know a few people in the industry. It’s a fantastic venue with an interesting history, and is rooted in the diverse heritage of Asia. With FCC, it’s a restaurant that fits the theme of “historical drinking.” For me it’s fun to bartend and study drinking culture now, because of the interest in the classic cocktails and how they’re made now. It’s nice to reference the history and heritage of some of those drinks.
Another great thing about being in Asia, in addition to exploring its history, is the availability of fresh fruits and spices. It frustrates me when bars try to make cocktails from fixed recipes that may not be appropriate – the ingredients used in 1980s California aren’t necessarily the best for Phnom Penh, so we get drinks that are heavy on imported, often artificial syrups. Wherever I’m based, I try to use what’s available, making local syrups and infusions, or traditional ones, but with fresh ingredients.
What’s your favorite cocktail to make? Favorite cocktail to drink?
I like things that aren’t too complicated or fussy, but that have a good story and can be twisted to fit a customer’s palate. The bartender’s favorite has to be the Negroni. Bartenders seem to have a preference for bitterness in their drinks. It’s a great drink for wakening up your palate as an aperitif and digestif. It has a nice history as well, centered on the Count Camillo Negroni of Florence in the early 20th Century. It’s a straightforward drink to make and you can order it with confidence throughout the world, but it’s also a great one to play with, as you can make many subtle changes depending on the customer and the occasion.
When it comes to making drinks, I think the joy of bartending is to create something tailored to the taste of the guest. I like making a classic, like a martini, as it’s a simple drink with many variations. It requires you to have a conversation with the customer – to ask questions and get to know them a little in order to make them the best possible drink. You have to understand all the variables, all the different components of what someone likes and dislikes to understand what they’re after. The drinks they order give you insights into who the people are, too. You’re constantly meeting new people and seeing people in a new light. When it comes to bartending, there’s a bit of sociology, diplomacy, and sometimes even a bit of psychiatry involved!
What’s the story with the Mansion drinks?
As you know, I’m interested in the heritage and colonial history of Asia. When I first saw the mansion, I didn’t know it had to do with the FCC. It was wonderful when I found out that it was part of the FCC. I said to myself, “If there’s a chance I can make some cocktails here one day, it would be a fantastic place to capture the heritage of some of the drinks drunk back then.”
Eventually I worked with the FCC and we agreed to do this fun event. I had a few wanders around trying to absorb the character and work out what drinks might fit. I looked through classic cocktail books from different eras and have put together a short list that goes through four periods of the building’s life, from the 1920s through to today. I’ll be bartending each of the four nights, so will hopefully have a chance to explain the drinks and concepts to anyone that’s interested (there will be the regular bar as well – after all, sometimes only a beer will do on a hot evening!).
For the first night, I want to show off the opulence the 1920s and 30s in historic Cambodia by remixing some of the classic cocktails from that period. For the second night, I want to continue by running up Cambodia’s history into the 1970s when things were a little more edgy. I’ll be taking some of the popular drinks of the 1950s and 1960s and twisting them a little. For the third day we’ll look at a 1980s-90s selection, exploring the theme of rebuilding by focusing on contemporary Cambodian ingredients. For the fourth day, we’ll look forward into Cambodia’s future with modern classics and some more experimental drinks. It’s a great venue in which to explore the history of drinking, but it’s also a great place to have some fun with the drinks – cocktails are about having fun and enjoying yourself, so there’s nothing too pretentious!
Paul Mathew is a British bartender, consultant, trainer and writer who has been mixing drinks for over 19 years. For the last seven, he has been the proud owner of the award-winning Hide Bar in London, and has more recently been based in Beijing writing for magazines and consulting for bars, restaurants and brands in China’s capital. He is now based in Phnom Penh, working with drinks companies and venues in emerging markets, as well as trying to open a second venue in London. You can contact him at email@example.com and and be sure to visit FCC on Facebook for all emerging event details.
FCC will be celebrating the luck of the Irish this March with special St. Patrick’s Day items on our menu. Enjoy the juicy, delicious Guinness Beef Pie, which follows our own special recipe. Or order one of your next beers “green.” From 15-31 March, we’re offering both to everyone both in Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh, so come enjoy the Irish Holiday in Cambodia today.
The Mansion in Phnom Penh is the latest addition to FCC’s property, offering insights into history and a unique outlet for arts and entertainment. Visiting guests and Phnom Penh locals now have the ability to stop by this intriguing space and be exposed to the antique, colonial atmosphere at various events throughout each month. By climbing the entryway stairs and exploring the rooms of the ground floor, guests will be exposed to rich ornamentation and sophisticated decoration unlike any other space in the city.
Located on Sothearos Boulevard just behind FCC Phnom Penh, and only a short walk to the Royal Palace and the National Museum, the Mansion has seen many uses over the years. It was constructed between 1910 and 1920 by a wealthy Cambodian trader, but its use as a private residence came to an abrupt end during the rise of the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Following Pol Pot’s occupation of the Cambodian capital, the Mansion saw ownership by the Vietnamese Army, and later the Cambodian Ministry of Interior. Then the Mansion fell into private hands.
In 2009 the beautiful and decayed building was purchased by FCC. Through extensive renovations, the FCC turned this monumental structure into a venue for the Arts. From interior galleries, to outdoor live music and dance performance, the Mansion has become one of Phnom Penh’s most iconic new performance venues. Events at the Mansion include a professional sound system and stage, as well as a bar offering sumptuous food and drink to those wishing to imbibe.
Since March, 2014, the Mansion is open seven nights a week offering a casual outdoor bar environment to wandering customers. Monday nights feature themed music related to historical Cambodia. Wednesdays feature solo cellists, violinists, or guitarists, bringing vibrant and romantic music to our guests who wish to become immersed in the curious property while enjoying a beer or cocktail. The FCC Mansion is also available for private events. Pre-booking is appreciated.
Please contact the FCC Sales and Marketing Department by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (093-700-123) with requests or if you need more information.
Luna Negra is returning to the Mansion! Are you excited to be coming back? What’s been going on since then?
It has been like 7 months since we came to FCC the last time. For us is always exited to come to FCC. With the atmosphere, the audience, the people, FCC always makes us feel like we’re at home. Plus, the great dancers bring us so much fun. When you come out, you can show everybody your new steps, and get a lot of fun all night long! It doesn’t matter where you come from! If you are a Latin music lover you will feel the magic of our music and dance!
What can we expect from this show? Who’s in the band? Any major changes in the band recently?
As Saigon’s exciting Cuban Music Band, Luna Negra will offer you a visual feast this Saturday.
Our striking choreography, colorful costumes, and intoxicating rhythms bring to life the vitality of Latin and Cuban songs. Enjoy stunning displays of Cuban Atmosphere and be thrilled by sensational salsa choreography performed by our group of energetic and passionate professional musicians and dancers. Immerse yourself in the vibrancy and excitement of Cuban and Latin-American dance!
Can you go briefly into the history of the band? How long’s it been around?
With over 10 years of existence, Luna Negra Band has worked in different countries. Its extremely high levels of musicianship and performance led to the band being recognized internationally, including in Spain, Italy, Venezuela and Cuba. In addition to being two years in Beijing (China), the last 3 years were spent performing in the Saigon Saigon Bar, the rooftop of the Caravelle Hotel, and in one of the most iconic, popular and famous bars of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City. We have been building a healthy fan base and settling in the forefront of the public, both Vietnamese and foreigner, living and visiting Saigon.
How has the Phnom Penh music community responded to Luna Negra?
The Audience and FCC is always simply the best. We always can feel their warmth, their flavor, their atmosphere and their charm! They always make us want to play all night long.
Check out all the details for the Luna Negra show on Facebook!
This Saturday, 8 March, FCC Angkor will be bringing traditional Cambodian food and traditional Cambodian dance to the boutique hotel and restaurant in Siem Reap! You won’t want to miss the quintessential flavors and art of the Kingdom of Wonder right in the heart of Siem Reap. Unlike the many other dance shows in town, FCC Angkor’s Cambodian dance performance will be intimate and inviting in the serene environment of our colonial building.
The dinner and show are $22 pax and dinner includes one free beer. Show up early and enjoy a happy hour drink before dinner to ensure you get a good seat! The dinner starts at 630pm and runs until 930pm. You can book a reservation by calling +855-97-888-5598.
Here are the final details for the most prestigious and fun golf tournament in Cambodia, the FCC Nations Cup. We’ve just released all the glitzy details on the prizes for both of our hole-in-one challenges, and have updated the schedule and pricing details. There’s still room to register, so sign up by calling Mr. Sean Vanthan at +855-96-888-5598 or sending him an email. You can also visit our Facebook event page if you’re interested in attending!
Bring your love for Latin music. Bring your dance shoes. Luna Negra is playing at the FCC Mansion this Saturday, the 8th of March. This will be their second show at FCC since their debut last year.
Bring your hunger. Bring your thirst. We’ll have our Mansion cash bar open serving kebabs, sangria, beer, and cocktails.
The show starts at 8:30pm and will go on until the dancing stops. Entry is USD $5 and admission includes two drinks. Be sure to check out our Phnom Penh Facebook page for all the latest updates, and your gateway to our other events.
Exploring the adventurous capital of Cambodia over three days.
A simple, one-day escape designed for luxury.
Body scrub and full body oil massage.
A body scrub and full body massage featuring hot stones for energy and relaxation.
Special offers and more from FCC Hotel in Phnom Penh
Save up to 47% off standard room rates.
The FCC Romantic Temples package is a re-energizing 3-day affair designed for couples.
The FCC Temple Adventure tour offers you the best highlights that Siem Reap has to offer while giving you the flexibility to venture off the beaten path.
Tour the temples of Angkor in FCC style. Stay three nights or more and receive a complimentary 1-hour Spiritual Massage.
The FCC Classic is designed for maximum flexibility for on-the-go travelers.