Bali is a stunning landscape renowned for its Buddhist temples, beautiful beaches and dense forests. It’s not, by any means, a premier destination for world-class drinking. You can’t have it all, right? Well, don’t try convincing the elated evening crowd at Rock Bar. Sipping away the sunset on a crag jutting out into the Indian Ocean is more than most could ever dream of. But here, it’s a reality.
In 2009, Ayana Resort and Spa took on the architectural challenge of building an expansive patio onto the cliffs forming the maritime edge of its vast property. It was such an obvious and immediate hit that by the following year it had already extended its footprint.
“What began as a small locale with only one casual bar station has transformed into Bali’s hottest, most desirable watering hole,” says beverage manager Elva Buana Agung. “Over the years, Rock Bar has undergone multiple expansions,” she says. “We now have eight high-volume bar stations and entertain countless patrons every night.”
Although it’s an obligatory refuge (and inevitable Instagram post) for resort guests, the watering hole attracts drinkers from well beyond the boundaries of Ayana. Word travels fast on this idyllic Indonesian island, and it’s not that hard to establish a reputation when it has scenery like this backing it up. Conversely, it would also be easy to peg itself as an overpriced tourist trap if it didn’t have the drinks to solidify its credibility.
Rock Bar works hard not to rest on its panoramic laurels. “Our cocktail menu is influenced by the island’s local Balinese and Indonesian cultures, with drinks made from locally sourced fruits, herbs and spices,” says Buana Agung. “This authentic touch gives Rock Bar a unique identity and provides guests with everlasting memories of their time spent here.”
It turns out that all the tropical vegetation populating the so-called Island of the Gods isn’t just pretty to look at, it’s also tasty to work into all sorts of boozy arrangements. One of the flagships is the Rockatonic, a delicately layered combination of fig-infused gin, white vermouth, tonic and orange bitters. It’s served in a long tapered glass and topped with a garnish of dried figs.
Elsewhere on the menu are other local flavors: lychee, ginger, mango, guava and yuzu. All are rendered in a way that’s easy and accessible for a crowd who’s here to, of course, enjoy the view but also demands booze befitting such splendor. You won’t find any 10-ingredient cocktails on rotation, yet you’ll eye ample options venturing past the super sweet mixers typical to resort bars.
At the end of the day, the bartenders are here to enhance the natural setting, not supersede it. Nothing is going to come in the way of that view. And that’s literally the case, thanks to Rock Bar’s minimalist design. It’s elevated positioning and lack of cumbersome barriers ensure sight lines to the sea remain wholly unobstructed.
The bar itself was crafted out of thousands of layers of recycled glass canes, intended to echo the shimmering sun against the shore. The backbar isn’t so much a shelf of bottles as it is a distant horizon. It’s the centerpiece of the patio buildout, an escarpment hanging 46 feet above the waves, drawing eyes to its seemingly precarious positioning. It rests just outside the reach of the pounding surf below.
After the sun sets, Rock Bar takes on a second life as a sleek alfresco lounge. Patrons queue at the top of an inclinator, waiting to be mechanically lowered into a DJ-led party along the sea. It’s a nightly ritual catering to the Dom Pérignon bottle-service set. Nobody’s going to twist your arm, of course. Enjoy a pint of Indonesian beer or sip on a Jimbaran Caipirinha, with the local rum supplanting traditional cachaça. Here you can have your view and drink it too, any which way that suits you. This is what paradise looks like. Sip accordingly.