2/F White Plains West, 42 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City
Open daily from 3:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
(SPOT.ph) Picture this: After a long day’s work, all you want is a good boozy drink, some peace and quiet, and an attentive bartender who’ll listen to your woes as he pours you another drink. It could be raining outside, the drops blending in with the soothing tones of jazz. One of two things is happening here: Either you’ve suddenly found yourself in the middle of a noir film, or you’re inside 78-53-86, the not-so-hidden cocktail bar in White Plains.
There’s an air of mystery that surrounds 78-53-86, from its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location to the name that’s a challenge to remember. It all just makes stumbling upon this cozy bar much more worthwhile.
With its narrow space, half of which is occupied by shelves of vinyl records, there’s no room for dancing or milling around. This is perfectly alright, especially if all you need is a quiet nook away from the rest of the world. The set-up, with a bar counter filling up most of the space plus just a few tables meant for small groups, makes the bar perfect if you’re flying solo, too.
78-53-86 is, in many ways, closely personal to owner Jay Amante. The name, he shares, is the phone number of the home where he and his siblings grew up. The concept was born simply because he needed more space for his vinyl records—currently, 78-53-86 houses 10,000 records and counting.
“I get my records from all over the place,” Jay, who also owns record store The Grey Market, says. A jazz playlist, created by Jay from his collection, plays from a huge attention-grabbing sound system. (“Vintage Altec speakers, custom built by Harana Audio's Joey Abad Santos, and a pair of vintage Garrard 301 with vintage Fidelity Research arms and vintage Dynaco amplifiers, modified by Joseph Esmilla,” shares Jay.) The music changes every day, and with Jay’s vast collection, you’re sure to hear something different on your next visit.
With two of his establishments showcasing his vast vinyl record collection (and he has even more at home), it’s no surprise to learn that vinyl records played a huge part in Jay’s life growing up. Still, the stories are fascinating. “Growing up, my brother had a group called Social Distortion. During the '80s, they were music providers for parties and events, and their medium of choice was vinyl. I would attend their parties as a little boy and enjoyed the music that came with it,” he shares. “But the turning point for me was the EDSA revolution in 1986. Social Distortion rented a flatbed truck and parked it in the corner of EDSA and White Plains Avenue and played music for the people while trying to overthrow a dictatorship. I think that was a turning point for me with regards to music. I learned of its value.”
His relationship with cocktails, Jay jokes, is less profound. “I don’t have a history of making cocktails but I do have a long history of drinking them,” he says. “But I like traditional cocktails. I want my drinks done right.”
For cocktails (P400), he partnered up with mixologist Jonathan Bo, who crafted the drinks list and also tends the bar at 78-53-86. Almost all of the drinks don’t stray far from their original recipe, though Jonathan has adjusted the recipes a bit to suit Jay’s and his regulars’ tastes.
Jonathan doesn’t mess around with the classic Old Fashioned, a mix of bourbon, sugar syrup, and bitters. He does shake things up a bit with the Moscow Mule, using a blend of ginger ale and freshly pounded ginger instead of ginger beer. The result is a stronger spicy yet soothing flavor, like a liquored-up salabat.
In A Silent Way
In a list of classic cocktails, there is one that stands out: In A Silent Way, a cocktail Jonathan customized for 78-53-86 and named after Jay’s favorite Miles Davis record. Jonathan shares that the drink was partly inspired too by Jay’s vast collection of Japanese whiskey, particularly the Yamazaki, which has hints of cinnamon. Jonathan enhances the flavor of the spice by adding Goldschläger or Swiss cinnamon schnapps. An apple slice complements all of the cinnamon-y flavors—this is probably what a boozy apple pie tastes like.
There’s no bar chow to be had at 78-53-86, and there’ll never be. “I didn’t want the smell and the grease to get to the records,” explains Jay. What they do have instead is popcorn tossed in truffle butter (P200)—addicting and almost intoxicating in its richness.
Stepping inside 78-53-86 feels like entering a different world, one where your worries are swept away by the soothing notes of jazz and a good glass or two of cocktails. With everything that’s happening in the world right now, it feels like an escape that’s needed, even for a little while.
Photos by Jilson Tiu