The couple traveled through Vietnam for 70 days while making cocktails

During 70 days traveling through Vietnam, Cuong and Tran not only explored but also learned about regional ingredients and created many new cocktails.

Nguyen Phu Cuong and Hoang Le Thuy Tran, both 31 years old, started a 70-day trip across Vietnam by motorbike in October 2023. The trip ended in January, but until now the couple living in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City continues to share videos about each destination and cocktail recipes they made throughout the journey.

In each locality, the couple uses local produce as ingredients for cocktails. Their recipes attracted attention in the Vietnamese bartending community.

Phu Cuong and Thuy Tran couple in Ninh Binh.  Photo: NVCC

Phu Cuong and Thuy Tran couple in Ninh Binh. Photo: NVCC

As a bartender with more than 5 years of experience, including 2 years of teaching, Cuong wants to create many new cocktails. When he was working in Australia, Cuong had a friend who often drank cocktails and said he missed Vietnam. From there, he came up with the idea to travel around the country and bring ingredients from each countryside into cocktails, to spread the love of mixing to everyone.

Instead of going to one destination, Cuong discussed with Tran to make a trip “to be worthy of youth”. Tran runs her own business and loves her husband’s homemade drinks, so she put aside work to go on the road with him. The bartender had his wife design a wooden mini bar, then sent a craftsman to build it and bring it along. Cuong extracts about 15 types of wine into small bottles with a few commonly used syrups. Mixing tools such as shakers, plastic cups, spoons, and ice picks are neatly stacked in a bag at the front of the car.

The couple departed from Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre, then Can Tho, An Giang, Kien Giang, Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh and then back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Phu Cuong and Thuy Tran couple in Ben Tre.  Photo: NVCC

Phu Cuong took photos of Thuy Tran in Ben Tre. Photo: NVCC

In Ben Tre, the first destination, while sitting on a boat weaving through small canals between rows of peaceful nipa palm trees, they brought out the mini bar to make drinks. Using wine, fresh coconut and some ingredients “rich in coconut”, the couple received compliments on their “delicious drink, strange taste” from a bus driver and a few people.

Arriving in An Giang, Cuong and his wife went to the market to look for fruit from the Bay Nui region. This fruit has a similar taste to lemon but is sweeter and more sour. Cuong uses it to make Mojito, a famous drink whose main ingredients are lemon and mint leaves.

The couple also experienced picking coffee with people when coming to Buon Ma Thuot. Their Central region includes Dak Nong, Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Quang Ngai, Quang Nam. Cuong makes cocktails from roasted and ground coffee, mixed with wine, creating a drink that, according to people, is both bitter and fragrant with the scent of coffee smoke and alcohol.

Coming to Quang Tri, the “cocktail on Truong Son Road” was born, inspired by the story of the Vietnam War after the two visited Hien Luong Bridge and Ben Hai River. Moving to Hue, Cuong created cocktails inspired by lotus tea. In Binh Dinh, they have cocktails with Bau Da wine, then mineral water cocktails in Khanh Hoa, grapes in Ninh Thuan, or green tea starch cocktails made at Bao Loc tea hill, strawberries in Da Lat.

Not stopping there, mixing cocktails with fish sauce was the boldest idea when they came to Phan Thiet. Cuong was quite surprised by the hospitality of the fish sauce factory owner when he came up with this crazy-sounding idea.

From Da Nang, they sent the car to Hanoi and then flew due to unpredictable rainy and windy weather. The couple continued their journey to Hoa Binh, Son La, Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong and then returned in the direction of Ninh Binh, Quang Binh and went along Truong Son road.

While in the northern highlands, the couple made a cocktail with donated meat from the kitchen in Sa Pa. “Instead of bacon like in the world, I use pork belly. It has a very distinct smell of whiskey and smoke from meat,” Cuong said.

Because Cuong is the driver all the way, 100% of the cocktails are tasted and commented on by Tran. After each video recording a new recipe she comes up with, Tran always advises: “Drink responsibly.” Cuong and Tran emphasize cocktails to enjoy and reflect on the ingredients, not to get drunk.

Cuong finds that making a cocktail requires many strange types of alcohol. Since Covid-19, he has had the idea of ​​creating many cocktails with new colors and flavors. Going further, the male bartender wants to bring cocktails closer to life, becoming a popular drink. Anyone can take advantage of ingredients at home to make cocktails such as Da Lat wine, mulberry jam and pho spices.

The couple stopped everywhere they could to brew. At a roadside waterfall in Mu Cang Chai, Cuong mixed cocktails for passersby to try and gave them the recipe. In Hoi An, they brought the mini bar onto a basket boat in the Bay Mau coconut forest. Or in Pleiku, the couple stood at Tonle Sap to make a drink. Tran recorded images of mini bars at all famous landmarks.

Couple next to motorbike and mini bar in Binh Thuan.  Photo: NVCC

Couple next to motorbike and mini bar in Binh Thuan. Photo: NVCC

On his personal page of nearly 200,000 followers, Cuong’s posts about the trip received many positive comments. He shared that he found and used more than 10 types of local ingredients. In addition to taking notes for documentation, Cuong is also willing to share recipes with the community so everyone can refer to them and make cocktails at home.

The couple’s trip across Vietnam cost 65 million VND, including accommodation and gasoline. Cuong made the itinerary, Tran took care of expenses and accommodation. Cuong still tells his students in every teaching session about his memorable trip as well as his dream of taking advantage of surrounding ingredients to mix cocktails and make popular drinks.

“Ignoring some bad roads like Hoang Su Phi and Du Gia in Ha Giang, the 70-day trip was truly wonderful. I am eager to conquer Southeast Asia and create more cocktails,” Cuong said.

Tam Anh – Thanh ThuPhoto: NVCC