A newcomer to Bali’s bar scene, 40 Thieves is humble in size but larger-than-life in quality and ambience. We take a peek, have a sip and sit down with the mastermind to find out what the fuss is about.
How do you combine the dapperness of New York and the laidback vibe of Bali, and make a New York-themed bar in Bali work? You come up with a raw, working-class-edge concept, and voila, you get 40 Thieves. Movie buffs with a penchant for Martin Scorsese would immediately get the Gangs of New York reference. The namesake comes from a real, notorious Irish gang in New York back in the days, and it’s chosen because that’s what 40 Thieves aims to be – a clubhouse “for the gang”.
The gang leader, Shah Dillon, is an unapologetically cheeky dude who has been in love with bartending since he was 16, and is now the founder and owner of The Midnight Brigade – a Singapore-based holding company running boutique and bespoke bar concepts around Southeast Asia. A fan of the American-style bartending hospitality, Shah brings that particular idea to run 40 Thieves. “It is what it is, you treat whoever comes in like a friend, and you serve them good cocktails,” Shah stated simply.
The bar goes for the more classic approach when it comes to its cocktails – old fashioned, whisky sour, that sort of intoxicating goodness – and it backs up the New York concept with excellent products. 40 Thieves’ pride and joy is its comprehensive selections of bourbon, rye, whisky, New York and Washington gin, California rum and more. “We use very few ingredients – three, four or five – for the classic cocktails. We don’t do crazy garnishes. But we do it with the right techniques. The classic menu is very simple, but we do it super good!”
The house cocktail selection was recently launched. It introduces cheekier and more fun drinks, like the Cereal Killer, in which you actually have a lovechild between a nightcap and breakfast, something you have to taste for yourself. Don’t bother ordering the intricate drink on a busy night though. With two men bartending and one man running the floor, packed nights call for the fine simplicity of fast cocktails.
Yes, 40 Thieves is a small bar, but that’s where the finesse lies. With the homey and charmingly rustic vibe, the bar accommodates about 50 people sitting down, and has enough comfortable space to boogie. The music isn’t overpowering so you can still have a great conversation, the glasses are always pre-chilled and the bartenders are friends. Cheers fans will immediately associate 40 Thieves as a place “where everybody knows your name”. “The beautiful thing is, no matter if you’re the Canggu crowd, the Jakarta crowd, the Seminyak crowd, or wherever, you come in here and you don’t feel weird,” Shah explained. The crowd’s favourites include the Boogie and Bourbon Friday and the relatively newer Saturday Sabbath Service with old-school Chicago house tracks.
40 Thieves is definitely something else. It’s the kind of place that’s just so effortlessly cool you want to show it to visiting friends. It’s the kind of place that closes when the last guest has gone home. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t have any unnecessary, conspicuous signage so it might be slightly tricky to find it. But when a bar has good products and unrivalled hospitality, it practically speaks for itself.