A perfect combination of spirit, sugar, and bitters
Bars in Nepal are slowly changing, and we believe that’s a good thing. Macho posturing and mixologist preening are on the way out. Wine bars are on the rise, and so are alcohol-free options. But despite the changes, one thing will always remain the same—an atmospheric setting where you can loosen up and enjoy drinks with good company and chill music. So, as we introduce a new section in TNM, we explored KC’s Restaurant and Bar in our inaugural review to crown it ‘Water Hole Of The Month’.
Our idea of a great bar starts with an impressive setting and an exceptional beverage programme. We think excellent cocktails are just like the best food—they should respect the past but do more than simply repeat it. And we think that any good bartender should be able to pull off that trick with a non-alcoholic mix, too. The moment we entered KC’s, our idea turned into actuality. Celebrating its 44th year, KC’s is one of the oldest tavern in Thamel as it was opened back in 1976. Currently owned by four young minds, it is a potpourri of old soul and new body. “We took over KC’s about two years ago,” said Karma Wangyal Gurung, one of the owners of the bar. “We didn’t really change things around because we wanted the place to maintain its old charm.”
A cozy bar hidden above a bakery, one would easily consider it more of a restaurant than a bar. But as you step into the second floor’s welcoming setting, the aroma of liquor fills the air and you feel a sense of belonging. Because we dedicate our March issue to The Nepali Women, we visited KC’s on a Wednesday. Why? Because its ladies night! So, when we reached the bar, the bartender offered us a complimentary welcome drink of our choice. Aman Bhujel, one of the friendliest bartenders I’ve come across, suggested I try his newest mix, a tequila based cocktail. While he was preparing my drink, we had a little chat where he gave away the secret recipe to a perfect cocktail. “The most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. All flavours are completely irrelevant if a drink is out of balance,” he said.
Barflies have been sipping classic cocktails for decades because they’re timeless—a martini, old fashioned, and daiquiri will simply never go out of style. But with the bar scene becoming more mellow than just archetypal, other easy drinks are also equally famous here in Nepal. Gurung agrees with this too. “The younger packs are more into beer and jagerbombs,” he informed.
As the hands of the clock started moving towards midnight, the crowd at the KC’s started getting bigger. A chill group of people had started their own karaoke and others joined in as well. “The best thing about KC’s is how people from different backgrounds come in and enjoy their night without creating any scenes,” Gurung said. “We usually try to close the bar by midnight, but during Wednesdays and Fridays, we cater people who come in late.” And truly so, one of the regulars of KC’s, Ashmita Shah, echoed what Gurung said about the crowd. “I cannot say enough good things about KC’s,”she said.
“Besides having a very chill atmosphere, they have a wide array of liquor that will make you want to stay until closing.”
The conversation went on and in came another round of drinks. This time Bhujel mixed us a whiskey based cocktail—a Manhattan. As we were sipping on our drinks, our kitchen orders came through too—Mustang Alu and Teriyaki Chicken, their most famous go to snacks. While soaking in on the atmosphere of the place, I could see Bhujel mixing one after another drink, mostly cocktails but a handful of mocktails too. “When I think of flavours, I almost see them in colours, or think of them as masculine and feminine or treble and bass. The ultimate goal is to hit all the notes,” Bhujel said. An alumni of Kathmandu Flair Bartending Academy, he has been mixing drinks at KC’s since November this past year. “When someone walks in, the bar’s first priority is to make sure they have something great to drink,” he said, mixing a fruit punch. “Unfortunately, the word ‘mocktail’ makes you feel like you’re drinking a mocking version of something. But now we have people who drink alcohol coming in and ordering placebos—they’re not worried about getting trashed or what people think. They’re just enjoying their night.”
Great bars don’t need to be chic or luxurious, but they must be comfortable retreats. The service should be hospitable; the atmosphere convivial. KC’s ticks all the above boxes and along with that does the best job of deepening a sense of community and making everyone feel at home . . . while also pouring exactly what you need.
Best mixes at KC’s
Text by TNM
Photos by Royal Raj Manandhar