Pump up the (Alcohol by) Volume

It's all about American nostalgia at ABV. Come for the classic cocktails, stay for the hotdogs.
IMAGE Gabby Cantero

“I wish to be irresponsible. Let’s get drunk,” I declare to my friends as we sit down on a tufted leather booth inside ABV, a speakeasy tucked away behind The Lazy Bastard, a joint known for American comfort food, which in turn is tucked away in a corner of Jupiter Street in Makati. In other words: this place is not easy to find. But therein lies part of the fun of going to ABV and introducing the bar to your friends. To get in, you must first go through The Lazy Bastard, and through a small door that hides what looks like an old-fashioned elevator shaft. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the dim lighting inside ABV after the bright lights of Lazy Bastard, but once they do, you are suddenly transported to another time with the same delightful confusion that struck Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. A long glass wall of alcohol, curated by ABV’s Lee Watson, is the first thing that greets you. Peer inside and you will find a treasure trove of whiskeys, gins, vodkas, and the like from all over the world. Some are familiar names, others more obscure that the well-traveled tippler may recognize with some excitement. 

We sit at the bar while we wait for the rest of our group to arrive. The bar menu is promising, most of them a homage to classic cocktails like the Moscow Mule (served in a copper mug) and the Whiskey Sour (done with egg whites). I choose the Whiskey Sour while another friend asks for the Gin Basil Smash. The bartender suggests that she try the Gin Basil Smash with whiskey instead after overhearing how much we enjoy a good whiskey cocktail. I like a bartender that pays attention, and the bartenders at ABV know their stuff. The result was a surprisingly refreshing mix, which took away some of the heaviness that whiskey usually leaves on the palate. 


A glass of giggle water, please! Clockwise from top: Whiskey Sour, Moscow Mule, and Negroni

Creating the perfect ice cube: the spherical shape ensures the drinks stay cold longer without watering down your cocktail.

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Damn, bastard: Tater Bombs, Bacon Cheeseburgers, and Honey Parmesan Hotdog

The menu in ABV reflects that of its “front,” The Lazy Bastard. Burgers, hot- dogs, and tater tots, the ultimate in American comfort foods, take up one whole page of the menu. My eyes zero in on the macaroni and cheese. We must have that! Bacon-wrapped tater tots? Yes, please. We order three kinds of hotdogs-the Chili Dog (for we always start with a classic), the Good Morning Dog (topped with cheddar cheese and a fried egg), and the Honey Parmesan Dog (which had real honey and arugula leaves)-I was skeptical about the last choice but Lee promised this was their bestseller and I wouldn’t regret it. I didn’t.

True to my promise to be irresponsible, I kept a steady stream of cocktails by my side. My favorite was the Jupiter St., another whiskey-based concoction with ginger ale, served in an amber beer bottle, wrapped in a brown paper bag. Unglamorous, yes, but it seemed to fit in with my agenda to leave ABV three sheets to the wind. At the table next to us, an excited bunch of 20-somethings ordered a bottle of absinthe. I raised my eyebrow, remembering my own experiments with the notorious liqueur when I was a 20-something wanting to meet the green fairy. In ABV, however, you will not find the bright green liquid that popular culture tells us is absinthe. The good stuff has a tinge of green, nothing more, and ABV does its best to educate the neophytes on the traditional way of serving and drinking absinthe, complete with absinthe water fountains. I watched the spectacle while popping another bacon-wrapped tater tot into my mouth.


Eight cocktails later and I’m barely tipsy. It could not be due to weak drinks. The bartenders were quite generous with their pours. “Have we forgotten how to get drunk?” I ask. Not quite. A glance at our table showed not just every kind of cocktail glass available in the bar, but also a number of wooden chopping boards with the remnants of hot dogs and burgers, attesting to the comfort food feast we partook of as the night wore on. With all the grease, carbs, and cheese we consumed, it was nearly impossible to get sloshed. We didn’t mind. Each bite was well worth it. Bacon lovers will rejoice since nearly everything-hotdogs, tater tots, burgers-comes wrapped in bacon fried to crispy perfection. We ended the night, dignity still intact and sated by alcohol and fat, not minding that even the teetotalers left pretty sober. As we exit the bar through the brightly lit Lazy Bastard once again, we return to the present albeit reluctantly, wishing that the next car that passes us by contains the ghosts of writers and raconteurs of the past, ready to whisk us away back to midnight.

ABV is at 22 Jupiter Street, Makati City.

This article originally appeared on the November 2015 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquire.ph editors.

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Patricia Barcelon
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