There is no shortage of liqueur connoisseurs with a flair for theatrics who have created alcoholic beverages named after memorable movies.
The “Tequila Sunrise,” for instance, a concoction of the Mexican agave-based spirit, orange juice, and grenadine, has color gradations which resemble the California dawn in the 1988 crime film of the same name. The “Blue Lagoon,” which combines vodka and blue curaçao liqueur, evokes the azure waters where a young Brooke Shields swam in the 1980 romantic survival drama.
Was it really surprising then that when film director Mara Ravelo and photographer JD Yu teamed up to found the INT.Bar in 2018, its signature cocktails would also be based on classic movies and Netflix films? I thought a trip to General Romulo St. in Quezon City – Cubao X marks the spot – was needed to check it out.
Originally known as the Marikina Shoe Expo, the U-shaped space built in 1972 showcased leatherware from the shoe capital before closing down in 1997. When it re-opened as Cubao Expo in 2000 (now reimagined as Cubao X), art galleries, indie film theatres, vintage shops, vinyl record stores, and resto bars flourished. I’d gone there several times to look for antiques and retro treasures, and to have lunch at Italian bistro Bellini’s (a fixture since 1999), but always during the daytime.
Having heard of INT.Bar and its cinema-themed cocktails, I knew that, like a movie critic, I had to make a review. In a word, it was incredibly entertaining. (Alright, that’s two words.) I made my entrance – the opening sequence, if you will – through a faux photo booth that conjured up an image of Prohibition-era speakeasies, and then emerged into a dimly, but not too darkly, lighted interior of wooden tables and seats, paired with green walls. Rhythmic jazzy music wafted languidly from a DJ’s booth on the second floor.
The bar at the left was manned by Alex the self-trained mixologist, and with a quick glance at the liquor line-up, I espied Maker’s Mark and Bulleit bourbons, Campari and Aperol bitters, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, Absolut Elyx vodka, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray gins, La Fee absinthe (you’ll need uncommon valor for this), and small-batch infused mixers – all outstanding ingredients that foretold of divine libations to come.
The carefully curated beverage menu certainly aroused my curiosity. Having binged on “Better Call Saul,” I thought that putting their “Breaking Bad” cocktail to test was a rational choice. This curious amalgam of bourbon, basil, and blueberry had an exquisite quality about it, but I couldn’t quite connect it with the drug-fueled neo-Western series until I spotted Alex’s final flourish – crushed ice cubes infused in butterfly pea flower tea, which is extracted from the blue ternate plant, producing icy blue crystals that reminded me of Walter White’s pure meth. What a brilliant performance.
Basking in the vibrant and energetic atmosphere outside the bar, I could see that nighttime in Cubao X brought on a lively mood, a kind of offbeat undercurrent with its unpretentious crowd of Gen Z’s, avant-garde artistes, and Millennial professionals. It’s been reinvented as an artsy hub where vintage, creative, and foodie collide, a kind of friendly, even charming, “tambayan.” I went back inside the bar, and ended my evening adventure with a classic bourbon Manhattan, stirred, not shaken.
This is not the mise-en-scène if you’re looking for the stylish sophistication of a Back Room at the Shangri-La or the Long Bar at the Raffles. But if it is the workaday, low-key, and unembellished vibe you’re after, this is the setting. I’m pretty sure I’ll…be…back.