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Top shelf tipples, tips and much more

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
La Casita will be open serving drinks one evening per week. SCOTT ROTZOLL

Top shelf tipples, tips and much more

La Familia – a recently founded local distributor of niche premium spirits – has soft-opened its first retail outlet, offering hard-to-find cocktail ingredients and equipment as well as classes in cocktail making and appreciation.

At La Casita, the shelves are stocked with vodkas, gins, tequilas, rums, liquors and more that aficionados in Cambodia in the past had to bring themselves from overseas – brands like Sipsmith, Death’s Door, Maison Ferrand, Luxardo and Diplomatico Rum.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
La Casita stocks a wide range of niche spirits and mixers previously unavailable in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Singaporean Andre Chalson started La Familia here a year ago, with American hospitality maven Louisa D’Orazio and master bartender Jennifer Queen, and now supplies top-shelf booze to the likes of Raffles, Chinese House, Samai, Farm to Table, Bouchon and Le Boutier.

But Chlason said La Casita was more than just a bottle shop. “It’s a space where, if a customer has a cocktail that they like, instead of just picking up a bottle from the shelf, we can teach you how to make it and we’ll have the right glasses for you, the shaker and tools … you can pick up everything here,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Jennifer Queen has worked at more than 20 bars over the past decade. SCOTT ROTZOLL

What are ‘craft cocktails’?
“‘Craft cocktails’ is a reference going back to farm to table food and things being real from the earth. You want to use a spirit that’s made by hand, not primarily made with machines, that’s harvested in a place that’s sustainable, that’s cared for through the still [with a priority on] making it taste good and being digestible in the body and providing good flavours. And then taking your modifiers primarily from your local habitat. I live here, so I walk to the market and use a lot more tropical fruits – I haven’t used a lemon in a year because they’re hard to find. And then utilising those local provisions to make house-made items or express flavours to enhance what’s been done with that spirit.” – Master bartender Jennifer Queen.

“But it’s more the experience than anything else.” He said there were plans for cocktail-making masterclasses and competitions for those in the industry as well as classes, tastings and appreciation sessions open to the public.

And from later in the month, the bar will be open until late in the evening for drinks one night per week.“Ultimately, I want to see – doing all the training that we do and the competitions – Cambodians representing Cambodia in bartending competitions around the world.”

Chalson said La Familia was also building a bar called Elbow Room in Street 308 that would open in the coming months and focus on “craft cocktails” (see sidebar).“We’re investing a lot in growing the scene,” he said. “The scene has developed a lot over the past year. There’s been a huge change. We couldn’t have done this six years ago.

“If you look at the craft cocktail scene in Singapore right now, it’s massive.“While there’s still not a super high demand [for premium cocktails] here yet, I think there’s huge potential.”

La Casita is located at #5Ae0 Street 244.

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