From a wild night out at a club, unwinding with coworkers after a work day, to saluting momentous occasions; drinking is usually a social activity–and it has been that way for me for a long time. But lately, though, especially now that weekdays are busier and weekends are strategically (and spiritually) reserved for catching up on sleep, there are days when I just want to sit at the bar by myself and enjoy a drink in solitude.
But soon enough, I discovered that finding the ideal place to do so was a lot trickier. You obviously don’t want to go to something so hip and buzzing, yet on the other hand, places that are so empty that it seems sketchy should be avoided. After all, drinking naturally lowers one’s guard, and going out alone adds an extra layer of vigilance to the equation.
Nevertheless, on one of those days, I found myself wandering through the neighborhood of Melawai, Blok M. The streets were lined with weathered buildings and shophouses adorned with flickering neon lights, yet amidst the vibrant tapestry; my attention was captivated by a particular square–one that, by contrast, was colored brick red and dominated by wood accents.
It was none other than Lokaholik, a burgeoning establishment that had garnered attention across social media for its novel concept. As ‘Bar Nusantara,’ they offer an opportunity to explore the nation’s lesser-known drinking culture and taste locally-made alcohol rarely found in the city’s modern drinking scene; a chance I personally feel too unique to pass up.
So I went in. Going up to the second floor, a small corner of the store stocked with bottles of local alcohol greeted the incomers; some sounded familiar, like Sulawesi’s Cap Tikus, some I had personally never encountered, like Jakarta’s own Walsh 50 Cocktail, and locally brewed Black Sand’s beer from Bali. Turning slightly to the left, a door led to the actual bar area. The space felt like an old-school classic, heavily accented with a wooden interior and retro local film posters hanging on the stone walls.
Even the outdoor area had a similar feel, with green plants and a DJ booth boasting a collection of Indonesian vintage records in the corner. Yet, despite these nostalgic elements, modern furniture, LED signage, and a mix of contemporary lighting cleverly balanced the past and the present, so it didn’t feel too exclusive and unapproachable for younger patrons.
On a solo drink quest like this one, the quality of the drinks is also becoming a very important factor for the experience. In this scenario, the need for alcohol is no longer solely to drink as much as possible and get hammered. Instead, the drinks should be sipped and savored; to be recognized and appreciated for each distinct flavor note. So after quickly stationed myself in the bar area (the perfect choice for solo drinkers), I asked the bartender for a recommendation, giving him a little prompt to not offer one with strong alcohol and prefer tastier and sweeter kinds.
The guy quickly pointed out the ‘Pischocolade,’ a drink inspired by a familiar Indonesian snack called ‘Piscok’ (Fried Banana filled with chocolate) made with Banana and Dark Chocolate sous-vide into Arak (a traditional Balinese alcohol made from fermented rice), and enhanced with banana-flavored alcohol and syrup.
Dessert-inspired cocktails aren’t new, and while many of them can taste artificial or much too overpowering, this one has the perfect balance of subdued banana sweetness to balance out the arak’s sharpness and the bitter chocolate undertone. Another drink that tweaked my interest in the menu is ‘Daramuda,’ a refreshing sweet tipple that swirls Arak with mint, Nira (natural sugar syrup), and Buni shrub, a rare small berries plant native to Indonesia; a testament to Lokaholik’s commitment to only use of purely local ingredients.
With the perfect mix of delicious drink and cozy ambiance, I can imagine myself in the future swinging by again to Lokaholic and joining in on their thrilling events; belting out local tunes on their karaoke night, or just simply hanging out with friends for a good time. But for now, I find solace in savoring my drink alone, using it as a gateway to decompress myself better while at the same time delving into the alcohol culture of my own heritage. Bonus point, the experience involved magic potions with the power of an emotional crutch. So what’s not to love?
Melawai, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta City, Jakarta