Vender Bar – Vendering Happiness in Taichung
Honestly, after my first bar experience in Taipei, which was one of the 50 World Best Bars disappointments, I was not really in the best mood. But the Vender Bar reawakened my spirit and my curiosity and I had a great evening. The concept is fun as it taps into the big craze for vending machines in Taiwan. The Bar is in fact a big vending machine, outside and inside. Vender has achieved remarkable recognition, being selected as the 41st “Asia’s 50 Best Bars” in 2023. It’s not just a new star in the bar scene; it’s also the first Taiwanese bar in Taichung to earn this distinction.
After a successful bartending career in Singapore, Summer Chen made a triumphant return to her homeland, Taiwan, where she partnered with Darren Lim to create Vender in 2019, a truly unique cocktail experience. Chen drew inspiration from the omnipresent vending machines that provide daily essentials, and this concept became the foundation of their bar.
The entrance, resembling a vending machine filled with bartending utensils, is unlocked by inserting a coin – a playful nod to their innovative approach. But don’t hesitate to boldly pull the vending machine.
As soon as you step inside, you’ll receive a warm welcome from the friendly bartending team. Vender is anything but your typical bar. It’s home to vending machines that dispense bottled cocktails and beers. The owner of Vender hails from Singapore, and the current menu draws inspiration from Singaporean dishes. The menu is presented in a large wooden box, unveiling the main ingredients of the drinks, either dried or in small bottles. This unique setup allows guests to explore each component, making an informed choice about their final drink – a delightful gimmick. Beyond their signature drinks, Vender offers a selection of classic cocktails, and the food menu complements the experience with dishes that embrace the rich flavours of the region.
For my first drink, being a devoted pandan fan, I couldn’t resist the Kaya Toast. This beverage is inspired by Singapore’s traditional breakfast treat, “Kaya Toast,” where Kaya in Malay refers to richness, alluding to the jam’s creamy texture. Through a process of milk washing, Vender infuses two key flavors of Kaya – pandan and coconut – into the cocktail. Champagne is added to elevate the pandan aroma, resulting in a refreshing and delightful drink. To top it off, the cocktail is garnished with a homemade traditional biscuit and a dollop of cream made with fresh pandan, providing the perfect Kaya Toast experience. The main ingredients include Beach Bum Rum, hazelnut, pandan, milk washing and Champagne.
My second drink also came with a unique cookie garnish – a mini ice sandwich. In Singapore, one of the most beloved fruits is the durian, known as the King of Fruits. Vender’s Durian Ice Cream cocktail is a must-try, made with Spanish brandy, PX sherry, and chocolate mint schnapps to create that delectably bittersweet flavour. The drink is artfully adorned with fresh durian, sandwiched between two waffles. In between sips, I also enjoyed some miniature Singapore Slings with the bartender. Of course, I couldn’t resist trying some delicious bites from the food menu as well. An all-around fantastic experience.