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A Wishful Night at Wishbone Bar

A Wishful Night at Wishbone Bar

Yohanes Sandy
30 September 2021

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An unassuming bar from the city of Semarang has successfully debuted in Asia’s 100 Best Bars. I visited the bar to find out about their secret.

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Whenever the Asia’s 100 Best Bars list is being released annually, I automatically  think about sophisticated bars in Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other big cities in the region. However, this year’s list got interesting as a bar in a small, secondary city in Indonesia made it to the list. I got intrigued when I found Wishbone from Semarang sits proudly on the list. The bar debuted at number 74.

I visited the bar in September, on the brink of social restrictions of the pandemic where the government has loosened the rules and allowed dine-in in restaurants and bars. I came to the bar quite early. It was 6 pm, but two groups of people had already occupied the sofas and VIP areas, imbibing glasses of wine and cocktails. It was a pleasant feeling to see people back to their normal after-work night out.

Upon my arrival, I was a bit in awe of the dimly lit bar. Wishbone dons a modern design with a bit of art-deco influence from the Great Gatsby era. There’s no tacky design that you can usually find at bars in small cities in Indonesia. Everything is well thought out, from the modern chandelier to overstuffed chairs to sofas, it makes me feel that I was in a luxury bar in Singapore or Hong Kong!

Wishbone offers more than 30 cocktails and a myriad of liquor choices from cognac to rum. As suggested by the bartender, I opened my night with Rum & Raisins, a rum-based cocktail with a hint of smoky flavor. It was refreshing but strong as how I usually like my drink. On my first sip, I suddenly understood why this bar is successfully listed in Asia’s 100 Best Bars. Wishbone crafted the drinks seriously and thanks to Ayip Dzuhri, the Head Bartender, they have done a really good job here.

Ayip is Indonesia’s rising star in the bartending world. Before joining Wishbone, he was Indonesia’s ‘Bartender of the Year’ in the Diageo World Class semi-finals and bar show 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand and he used to work as Head of Mixology at Seasalt Restaurant in Alila Seminyak. “It was fun joining Wishbone. There are so many new things to learn,” said Ayip as I met him at the bar.

Ayip explained, in terms of creativity in creating cocktails in a small town, he has to compromise with the local palate. “As I spent most of my career in Bali, an international destination where the drinking habit is diverse, and when I came to Semarang, I had to tweak my recipes to create cocktails that are well-received by locals.” And his work paid off as people are now starting to appreciate good cocktails in Semarang. For Wishbone, he has created more than a dozen cocktails utilizing unique ingredients to create distinctive tastes. One of his favorites is Pommericano. 

“It’s made with local arak infused with kaffir leaves. I used pomegranate juice as the base flavor, added with Bianco vermouth and white Amaro for complexity and a pinch of Himalayan salt to tie the flavor and topped with soda,” explained Ayip excitedly. He described it as “a very elegant long drink with hints of pomegranate, a little umami, and harmonious bitter end.”

At Wishbone, guests can opt for funky dishes like cheeseburger spring rolls, truffle mac & cheese, or chicharron. But if guests fancy some heavy meals, the kitchen team has prepared succulent dishes to choose such as crispy pork belly rice, smoked chicken betutu, black truffle pasta, and Samyang bolognaise.

As the night starts to get late, more patrons have now filled the room. The DJ was getting ready to play more upbeat music and I was just sipping my third glass of cocktail from Wishbone’s house cocktail menu. When asked about how the Tavern Group as the parent company will maintain the title or improve its position in Asia’s 100 Best Bars list, Ayip explained that they will keep pushing their beverage program with no boundaries, not only for Wishbone but as a group. “The main idea is still combining the worldwide trends and what our customers need. We are looking forward to doing collaborations with some of the best bars in Asia. Our main mission is to create a cocktail culture in Semarang,” stated Ayip. 

By the end of the evening, Wishbone had won my heart. It crawled into the list of my favorite bars. The people behind this establishment are seriously thinking about the concept and they understood their task really well. Another reason to love Wishbone is: the price tags are relatively cheaper compared to bars in Jakarta and Bali. I will definitely come back.

Wishbone Bar

Jl. Ahmad Yani No.140, Semarang, Jawa Tengah

Wishbone Bar on Instagram

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