Ten bespoke cocktail bars to visit in Singapore
Cocktails have come a long way from being the domain of luxury hotel bars and shed their ever so slight kitschiness. Today’s highly specialised cocktail bars are helmed by deadly serious mixologists and ‘bar chefs’ who are more akin to social scientists mixing and shaking, stirring and muddling their way to exciting the refined palettes of even the biggest alcohol snob. But more than just creating concoctions that will thrill the cocktail illuminati, these bars now offer bespoke cocktails as either an extra service on top of their usual menu or exclusively.
Spontaneous and highly personal, the bartenders who excel in this dark art are a combination of artisan, mind reader and daredevil. The drinks they create are like snowflakes, unique – and if your bartender is very skilled and you have articulated your desires clearly, chances are you’ll have the pleasure of drinking something that’s tailored exactly to your tastes and thirsts.
The influx of top barmen from around the world and the surge of excellent local bartenders have placed Singapore on the map of the international bar scene. We cherry-pick the 10 bespoke bars to treat yourself to.
The Other Room
Prohibition-era inspired in decor, cocktails and spirit, The Other Room at Marriott Tang Plaza harks back to the free-wheeling 1920s when drinks were strong and men made their own moonshine. Multi award-winning master bartender Dario Knox’s dominion lies in this intimate drinking house behind the velvet curtain and he personally ages and casks each liquor – rum, whisky, moonshine and more – himself. And for your reading pleasure, each drink in the extensive menu is accompanied by its history, ingredients, strength and flavour profile.
When only hand-carved ice made from the purest of water will do, it’s time to have one of the luxe cocktails made by head bartender and owner at D.Bespoke, Daiki Kanetaka. Sitting just 28 guests, this cozy Ginza-style bar ensures each client gets Kanetaka’s full attention.
Kanetaka’s 16 years of experience in the super-strict Ginza bar system and stints in the whisky distilleries of Scotland ensure that you are in good hands. In fact, he always insists on mixing your first drink and will take into account length, aroma, body and strength as well as the taste when doing so.
One of the pioneers of the modernist cocktail scene and helmed by charismatic chef Ryan Clift, Tippling Club is an established name in the fine dining scene for having a deft way with the unexpected. An actively experimental venue, head bartender Joe Schofield (who joined in 2016) has devised an equally unusual method of ordering drinks to accompany Clift’s cutting edge menu. The Sensorium menu comprises individual droppers, each listing out a drink’s name and ingredients, and spritzed with a distinctive scent specially created by International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. While this may seem gimmicky, considering that 80 per cent of the flavours we taste actually come from our sense of smell, this concept is a rather clever way to highlight the many flavours and elements that go into the sophisticated cocktails Schofield has crafted.
Number 11 on The World’s Best Bars 2016 list and first on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017, Manhattan Bar at Regent Singapore wholeheartedly embraces its 19th century speakeasy inspiration from the decor to the drinks. It offers a seductive Great Gatsby-eque version of that era complete with Chesterfield sofas, herringbone floors and velvet armchairs and drapes.
The vast drinks menu is a tour of the neighbourhood from which bar gets its name, featuring drinks and bar snacks inspired by the history of each. Each drink is an expertly mixed concoction using barrel-aged spirits from the bar’s very own rickhouse located at the rear while the ice is hand-carved, of course.
Blessed with a panoramic view of the Singapore River from its rooftop bar, Braci’s kitchen has been getting rave reviews for its progressive Italian grill cuisine deliberately cooked and served in close proximity to diners. This familiarity with guests extends to the upstairs bar where the bartender will craft your poison from a selection of modern classics and originals created with an alchemic combination of culinary and bartending techniques. Premium spirits and liqueurs are blended with top quality seasonal ingredients echoing the Italian gastronomic ethos of creating with simplicity and freshness – every cocktail is also prepared a la minute to ensure that the flavours are at their freshest and brightest with every sip. And if stars mean something to you, the restaurant bar was awarded a single Michelin star this year.
Shock and Awe is the unapologetic modus operandi of Atlas where the world’s largest gin collection resides behind a three-story-tall gin tower of carved wooden columns. The lightly renovated space still plays to the building’s art-deco style but now feels refreshed and looks fetchingly like it fell out of a Lolita Lempicka painting. The resident master of gin, Jason Williams, is on hand to help you wade through the vast menu and choose the perfect gin to go into your G&T or Martini while head bartender Roman Foltan from London’s award-winning Artesian at The Langham will help to craft your dream cocktail if you’re not partial to herbal spirits.
There is absolutely no shame in day drinking and there’s no more pleasant venue to do it than at the One-Ninety Bar by Four Seasons, a day-to-night bar destination with an al-fresco terrace set among the hotel’s lush tropical gardens. Ably taking the baton from internationally acclaimed Spanish mixologist Javier de las Muelas is Joseph Haywood, who has clinched his share of titles and awards in the circuit. While classic cocktails make up his metier, Haywood is also known for his bespoke cocktails and spearheaded the l’aperitivo programme here where each cocktail comes with an appetising nibble.
From the first glimpse of the gargantuan 26,000-piece Borosilicate glass chandelier dominating the space, it’s evident that Anti:Dote is a hotel bar with a difference. The bar derives its name from the ‘remedy’ concept of mixology (we’re completely on board that great drinks improve the humours) and its crafted cocktails are thoughtfully concocted from premium spirits, house-made preparations (bitters and flavoured liquors) and fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables (some medicinal like cinchona and gentian) grown organically in the Fairmont’s own edible roof-garden. Head bartender, Tom Hogan and his assistant, Bannie Kang are both award-winning mixologists so the quality of the cocktails are beyond reproach. Do give chef Carlos Montobbio’s appetising menu of modern European tapas dishes a try, for it was specifically created to complement the cocktails’ taste profiles.
Smoke & Mirrors
A spectacular view of the Singapore skyline, an elegantly appointed locale aloft the stunningly restored Old Supreme Court Building and bespoke cocktails by renowned award-winning bartender Yugnes Susela (of Tippling Club fame) – Smoke & Mirrors doesn’t need any sleight of hand to impress, like each of its meticulously composed cocktails, it already has all the right ingredients. The thoughtfully put together menu features some with unusual ingredients (think Peking Duck fat, Trigona honey and coconut agave), drinks inspired by the canvasses in the National Gallery below it, and Susela’s own riffs on the classics. Unsurprisingly, reservations are a must.
1919 Waterboat House
Location wise, it’s tough to find one as perfect as this. Not only is 1919 Waterboat House situated on the roof of a quirky heritage building that was once occupied by the Port of Singapore Authorities to supply fresh water to ships anchored offshore, it has an unrestricted view of Singapore’s CBD skyline, the magnificent Fullerton Hotel and iconic Marina Bay Sands. Named after the year the building was constructed, the bar is completely alfresco, all the better to enjoy the gentle breezes and take in that view. The only thing missing is a drink in your hand. You’ll want to try the bar’s signature summer cocktails, the Merlion Punch and The Orchard, both concocted to quench and refresh.