MANUAL Night Out Debuts With a Bar Takeover Across Blok M

by Runi Cholid
30th April 2024
The first-ever MANUAL Night Out kicked off with a bar takeover in Blok M, bringing over three notable mixologists to three venues around the neighbourhood for a lively evening of special cocktails and '80s and '90s tracks.

From the ’80s breakdancers to the punk-metal crowd of the 2000s, and now a flourishing creative and F&B scene, Blok M has long embraced a diverse range of communities and subcultures that give it a unique vibrancy. It was here at South Jakarta’s celebrated hangout spot and transportation hub that MANUAL held its first ever MANUAL Night Out, channelling the neighbourhood’s energy to take over three bars around the block.

Last weekend on Saturday 27 April, twilight descended upon Blok M like a wet and humid blanket after a day of rain. Yet it didn’t dissipate the energy of the crowd that poured out of the MRT, buses and ride-hailing cars and motorbikes alike to dive into what the block has to offer.

Arriving into town from the Mexican-inspired POTS BAR in Semarang, the award-winning mixologist Demitria ‘Demi’ Dana Paramita displayed her talents at Scarlett’s House through cocktail creations that have a distinct tropical flair. The tequila-based Carajillo, for example, bore notes of pineapple, coconut and coffee that paired well with its garnish: Scarlett’s signature Salted Caramel & Brown Butter BonBon. But it was Euphoria that captivated the crowd and quickly went out of stock; the cocktail blended Hendrick’s gin with mangosteen and green grape shrub, as well as apple cider and cranberry perilla soda, all served with generous ice in a wine glass.

With cocktails in hand, some dug into Scarlett’s popular Korean-style cakes from the patisserie while many others made their way to the restaurant’s backyard, where the all-female DJ lineup from Radio Rumah Oma (RRO) had selected ’80s and ’90s pop diva tunes that sparked the crowd with a sense of nostalgia. Even as a drizzle of rain returned, spirits remained high; and they danced and sang along to ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ between the trees in the open air. 

The night didn’t end there—a shuttle service stood ready to take the party-goers to the next destination with Club Soda Jakarta as the upcoming stop. Along the way, accompanied by more tunes by RRO, travellers bore witness to the undying energy of Blok M. Hordes of pedestrians took to the streets alongside the blaring traffic; some weaved their way to one of the many food vendors that lined the roads, others simply idled at the sidewalk whilst enjoying spirited conversations with their friends.

This liveliness was mirrored inside Club Soda, where acclaimed mixologist Imammudin Azzai of Under the Armpit had taken over the bar to present three craft cocktails that marked his explorative approach and emphasis on local fruits. The Fruit Lust stood out for the way Imam had redistilled the Monkey Shoulder blended scotch and infused it with jasmine, mixing well with the clarified guava wine, low citric rose and saline drop to produce a smooth cocktail that is at once fruity, flowery and sweet with a touch of smokiness. 

Here too, RRO set the ambience with their curation of tracks, now geared towards ’80s and ’90s hip-hop and R&B tunes. As the speakers boomed across the room, Club Soda’s unique set-up allowed two scenes to take place: the more energetic party-goers mingled around between tables (and even took the opportunity to celebrate Imam’s coinciding birthday), whereas those seeking a quieter night settled down at one of the tables in the non-smoking area to have a laidback chat with their company over cocktails.

Meanwhile, a sense of camaraderie was slowly taking root at Kurasu “Kissaten” as the clock ticked closer to midnight. Less of an all-out party and more like an intimate hang-out between longtime friends, guests made themselves at home whilst tuning in to the exclusively vinyl set of jazz and city pop by RRO. Some also took advantage of the surrounding area’s quietude—a perk of being cocooned between an office building and residential houses—to sit outside and bask in the night air, letting the conversation flow from their latest Netflix binge to Premier League football.

Fueling this atmosphere were cocktails by esteemed mixologist Mirwansyah ‘Bule’, notable for his creations at The Cocktail Club. In fact, featured on the menu was a revival of one of the bar’s past signatures: Miso Miss You. Made with Monkey Shoulder’s blended scotch, the umami quality of the dashi (stock) provided a depth of flavour that lingered on the palate. It was a night for something new, though, and the Amarino Hops quickly captured the crowd’s excitement with a blend of Monkey Shoulder, Amarena cherry syrup and cascara hops soda that struck a nice balance between bitter and sour notes.

There’s a common saying among travellers that to get to know a city or a neighbourhood, it’s a good idea to visit the local bar—and the wisdom of this advice felt especially compelling that Saturday night. Whether party-goers chose to stick to one place or shuttle around through the congested traffic, they each undoubtedly came home with an impression of Blok M and the melting pot of communities that brim its streets. How positive that was, though, probably depended on how bad the hangover was the next Sunday morning.