Everyone is seriously into whisky these days. In Manila alone, it seems as if most of the bar openings of 2015 are dedicated to the liquor: there’s a Maccallan Whisky bar in Solaire, a newly-opened one called Lit in Serendra among others, and then there’s Rye. Located inside the new version of Il Ponticello, it is a handsome, small space that looks as if it’s tucked away for some clandestine revelry. And if you’ve come here for some delicious drinks, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Way back when, Ponti was the hot spot for the yuppie crowd. No matter how many big nightclubs or boutique bars popped up, you’d still find people at Ponti, spending many a drunken night here. It is a nostalgic space for many, and what Rye is is a more adult version of its predecessor. One of the owners, Ren-Ren Reyes reiterates that quite clearly, that Rye is like a starter course to more grown-up drinking. “You know, when you’re in college, you start with jam jars, etc. then your drinking starts growing more refined. So when you start working, you want to start drinking wine, cocktails. Then when you’re a little older, you get to the serious stuff.” Rye bridges the gap between your memories of the party days of yesteryear, and your more adult self, who still wants to have a great drink but in a much more mature setting and context.
That’s what makes Rye so great—they offer whisky tastings, which allow you to get more acquainted with the spirit. They come in flights, which you can drink in order of the year, to get a better grasp on the taste difference and maturity between different types of whisky. Maybe you’ll learn what the difference between whisky and whiskey is (apparently just the spelling since one is more commonly used in Britain) or the differences between scotch, Japanese whisky, and American whisky (subtle, but still distinct, so let me get back to you on that one). If you’re looking to educate yourself on other spirits too, they offer both vodka and tequila flights. They even have a cocktail menu with drinks by famed bartender Enzo Lim, with a little guide that will help make your choices much easier, if you have a preference for a certain type of alcohol and flavor profile.
Bar food is often a paradox, two things that hardly ever go well together. But a night at Rye isn’t all about the drinks; the grub is delicious too. You get your standard greasy fare, but some dishes are delightfully uncommon, and are a welcome pairing to your night out. You get food at opposite ends of the spectrum, from a loaded chili cheese fries, to a version of gambas with plump shrimp and delicate, rather than overpowering, smattering of garlic. What they offer on their menu is ultimately more refined to match the surroundings: bacon comes in thick slabs, and with sweet onions that highlight sweetness and smokiness; tuna loin was a crowd favorite with the perfect swaddle of peppercorn and spice.
Its location in the old Ponti lounge gives Rye an immediate history, and a chance to reinvent what has been established before. The people behind the place have a vision in mind when it comes to that reinvention. And with its masculine interiors, clearly thought-out menus, and its newfound sensibility, it might just work.
What’s your favorite libation of choice? Have you tried any of Rye’s flights yet? Let us know below!
Rye Tasting Room, Ponti Lounge
Address: 2F, Antel Corporate Center, 121 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati