An Elephant Never Forgets and Neither Will You: Where to Drink in Phnom Penh

The Elephant Bar in Phnom Penh


In the Kingdom of Wonder – as Cambodia is known – the legendary elephant is woven throughout the local mythology. Elephants and royalty share the historical limelight. At the local level, elephants were the “tractors of the jungle.” The wild elephant population is declining; few are being domesticated; sanctuaries are being set up to try to save them from extinction. 

Tucked away in this proverbial oasis of Raffles Le Royal is the Elephant Bar, an institution that pays tribute to this magnificent mammal. Elephants are everywhere: on the ceilings, beaten into the copper crests and positioned as outdoor sculptures. A signature cocktail is served in an elephant mug.

The “big-5” gather at this upmarket watering hole: expats, in-house guests, dignitaries, business people and ladies-who-do femme-fatale evenings.

The Elephant Bar is subtle and subdued. It smells of colonial times and whispers of days gone by. The furniture is locally made from rattan; the overhead fans are quiet. Those who truly want to experience the days of yore can take high tea the side room across from the bar.

The Elephant Bar is sort of place to retire with a book, pull up a bar stool or meet friends. Ah, the signature drinks. The afore mentioned “Femme Fatale” – a mixture of champagne, cognac and crème de fraise sauvage – was concocted for Jacqueline Kennedy when she visited in 1967. Rumor has it that the glass with her lipstick was found during renovations. The jury is out on that one as without DNA testing it might be a slip-up in housekeeping.

Ladies who aspire to emulate the First Lady meet at the Elephant Bar to sip the cocktail. Vay Sandans, a waiter, reports “Cambodian women don’t like the taste of alcohol. This cocktail is very smooth.” True. The sort of drink that could sneak up and come back to haunt.

The elephant-mugged “Airavata” combines rum, pineapple, crème de banana, coconut and sugar syrup. Like the Femme Fatal, it is graced with an orchid, and goes down very easily. Half-price happy hour is from 16:00 to 19:00. The cocktail list is extensive and spirits, wine and beer are available.

For a colonial experience in Phnom Penh, indulge yourself at the Elephant Bar.

Hours of Operation:

•   Monday to Friday:2:00 PM to 12:00 AM

•   Saturday and Sunday (including Public Holidays): 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM

•   Happy Elephant Bar Hours:4:00 PM to 9:00 PM at 50% discount

•   Afternoon tea: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM


A quiet place for high tea.

The Airavata in an elephant mug.



Jody Hanson

Jody Hanson is a Canadian-born freelance writer who recently moved to Arequipa. ...(Read More)

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