The Best of Cocktail Creativity: Top 8 Picks in Singapore
When it’s that time of day that you’re ready to swap your coffee for a cocktail, wasting time on the lacklustre is not an option. That’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up the best of Singapore’s bar scene to shine a well-earned spotlight on those that are channelling their creativity into true cocktail craftmanship. Whether it’s an innovative use of alchemy, novel ingredients or transforming the traditionally eaten into the sweetly sipped, these pre and post-prandial libations are sure to whet your alcoholic appetite.
Turning traditional bartending on its head with their own style of cocktail mastery is Anti:Dote, a trendy and elegant bar on the first floor of the Fairmont Singapore. Their menu seeks to sidestep convention at every turn; breaking down their list not by spirit, but by grouping them into what they call ‘cure-all’s’, with category titles like ‘Elixirs of Life’, ‘Therapies’ and ‘Remedies’. Of the latter, discerning drinkers have got to try the Donkey Kong. Light-heartedly named and served in a crystal tumbler, it’s a heady mix of the bitter Italian digestive liqueur Ramazzotti, Monkey Shoulder whisky, palo cortado sherry and hazelnut syrup, topped with chestnut candy. A little easier on the palette is the tangy – and supposedly ‘Therapeutic’ if its section name is anything to go by – Mellow Shallow. This one is a long drink combining a Mexican Mezcal with jicama juice, pink peppercorn syrup and grapefruit acid.
Whichever you choose, each cocktail showcases the creativity of head craftsman Bannie Kang and his carefully put-together combinations that shake and/or stir premium spirits with house-made aromatic bitters and liqueurs, then muddle them with his pick of their home-grown herbs and flowers. The other half of his power duo is head chef Tryson Quek, who has managed to create a tapas menu that’s just as tempting as the drinks list. Favourites to munch alongside your drink include the Hokkaido scallop tartare and 65-degree chargrilled sous vide short rib.
Address: Fairmont Singapore, First Floor, 80 Bras Basah Rd, 189560
Drink and dine at Anti:Dote with 35% off thanks to ChopeDeals!
2. Spiffy Dapper
Source: Spiffy Dapper
Spiffy Dapper is all about laid-back cool and speakeasy style. Now housed on the spacious second-storey of an Amoy St shophouse, it started life as a barely-there hole in the wall in Boat Quay, but as the six years and an address changed have gone by, it’s evolved into a super popular bar built on its owner George Cherian Abhishek’s no-nonsense, don’t-give-a-sip attitude. There’s no pretentious vibes or dress code here; the only thing they take seriously is the cocktails. Sure, you can browse their short menu of the less-classic-than-you’d-expect classics (of which we can recommend their twist on the Bloody Mary – the Mrs Grundy – that comes with added zing thanks to the addition of Colombian habanero mustard), but if you’re prepared to place your taste buds in the bartender’s hands, go bespoke and allow them to get creative in mixing one just for you.
They’ve recently upped the ante on the food menu too so for those who fancy a nibble with their tipples, we suggest making haste toward the baked avocado and Spiffy Dapper Burger that comes smothered in a tangy sauce inspired by an Old Fashioned. Oh, and in case you find yourself wandering around Amoy St unable to spot it, Spiffy Dapper is hidden away; just look for the sign that says Dapper Coffee.
Address: 73 Amoy St, Second Floor, Singapore, 069892
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday: 6pm-1am
Dive into a cocktail Spiffy Dapper style and reserve your spot here!
Alive with old New York glamour, Manhattan – the grand cocktail bar of the Regent Singapore – has been named among the best three bars in the world. And while that might seem like a tall order, one glance at the cocktail artistry that goes on behind the bar and you’ll understand how they won such a moniker. The classy 1920s-inspired décor is a little like being in The Great Gatsby, but it works, as does the long list of curated concoctions that explores every era of New York-based cocktail culture. Each page of the menu reveals a titbit about what was going on at the time, with cocktails to match. The 1860s page, for example, tells of the Italians, Germans and Irish flocking into New York with their sights set on the American Dream. This melting pot of cultures spawned the city’s Golden Age of cocktails, which here at Manhattan, is honoured in drinks like the Coal, a richly flavoured mix of Mozart dark chocolate, dry curacao and 12-year-aged whisky.
The menu progresses into the World War II, swing-music-led years with creations like the Kryptonite (a jazzed-up version of a G&T featuring vermouth and clarified watermelon) and finally arrives in the millennium. At this point, go straight for the Tiki Apostle: a tropical cocktail with a sophisticated edge thanks to its melding of premium champagne, Flor de Cana rum, hazelnut liqueur, pineapple and lime-mint syrup. Expect to see a few familiar names on the menu – hello Harvey Wallbanger – but most are sure to pique your curiosity. Carefully curated and mixed with flair, they’re the perfect excuse to while away an evening in eras gone by.
Address: Regent Singapore, Level 2, 1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore, 249715
Flapper dresses at the ready; reserve your table for cocktail hour at the Manhattan.
4. Employees Only
Employees Only is easy to spot on Amoy St come 6pm, as it’s steadfastly buzzing with people spilling out onto the street. This raucous drinking hole is casual with a notably hipster vibe but as the crowd of regular patrons will tell you, a relaxed and lively atmosphere is guaranteed, and they know how to mix a mean cocktail. It’s the first Asian outpost of the much-loved NYC bar, with a similar menu of EO Classics like the Ready Fire Aim (mezcal, Hellfire Bitters and lime juice infused with house-made honey-pineapple syrup). They have an entire section dedicated to aperitifs too, all of which are defined by EO as coming strong and boozy. And their description is spot on. The French Kiss, for example, packs a flavour and alcoholic punch with its straight-up delivery of vodka, Widges Gin, cherry blossoms and Mancino Secco vermouth. An absolute must when you come here, however, comes from the tropical section of the menu: the Bahama Mama. A long cocktail served on crushed ice, it will transport you to the beach and back with its shaken-up blend of house-made coconut fat-washed rum, hibiscus cordial, fresh lime, pineapple and orange juice all finished off with a dash of chocolate bitters and ten-year-old port. And yes, it tastes as good as it sounds.
Address: 112 Amoy St, Singapore, 069932
Join the buzz and book your seat at Employees Only.
Everyone has their go-to place to enjoy Singapore’s breakfast staple of Kaya Toast, as well as their own way of ordering and eating it. Whether you dip or slurp those half-boiled eggs alongside crispy or steamed toast and a cup of kopi C or kopi peng, one thing we can all agree on is that a cocktail take on this morning meal can only be a good idea. One example that perfectly melds the sweet and savoury gloriousness of Kaya Toast is Native’s Sarapan cocktail. Named for the Malay word for ‘breakfast’, this shaken libation is made up of cold-brewed coffee, coconut distillate and locally-made soy molasses. And like any good mixologist will tell you, a cocktail is nothing without a garnish, so be sure to take note of this one. The bread offcuts from which this garnish is made go through quite the journey, after all: first sourced from a local bakery, then fermented with jackfruit yeast, cooked in a pandan kaya reduction and finally twizzled into one ultra-tasty, crispy bite.
In short, Native has turned this humble Asian breakfast into something fancy, but this cocktail isn’t the exception. It’s a prime example, in fact, of the effort the brains behind Native go to on each and every sip on their list. Celebrating local flavours and locally-foraged ingredients in a creative but delicious way is their thing. But don’t take our word for it. This Telok Ayer haunt is ranked number eight on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars Awards 2018 and is on many a must-visit list for the cocktail-inclined.
Address: 52a Amoy Street, Outram, Singapore, 69878, Singapore
Head to Amoy St to get your evening kaya fix at Native.
When a bar refers to its boozy stocks as the ‘cabinet of curiosities’, it would be a fairly safe bet to assume that the cocktails come crafted with imagination. And Idlewild doesn’t disappoint. The theme here is the golden age of travel, and it’s visible everywhere you look. Plush sofas, dark wood and warm hues give a nod to the Prohibition era, while the plethora of trinkets and alcoholic paraphernalia from the team’s wanderings around the world decorate the shelves, dotted between the 50 exotic and artisanal bottles of spirit.
As for the cocktails, the passport-style menu is extensive; designed to take the drinker on a journey along the Transatlantic Route. The Big Smoke, for example, is an ode to the British capital but with unexpected twists like fig syrup, lemon zest, dehydrated curry leaves and black chai tea. Its combination of Plantation Jamaican Rum and Pedro Ximenez sherry give it just the right amount of kick, while leaving it soft enough that you still can detect each of the flavours with which it’s been so lovingly infused. Other signature cocktails on the list are named for cities like New York, Mexico City, Rome, Lisbon and Dublin, and are best enjoyed with a small plate or two that are – of course – internationally inspired. Our top picks are the Moroccan baked filo lamb kofta and the Parisian duck rillette with pickled vegetable batons.
Address: InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Rd, Singapore, 188966
Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday: 5pm-1am
Traverse the globe with every sip from the comfort of this Bugis-based bar, Idlewild.
7. Old Man
Take no notice of the name; Old Man is anything but past-it. This award-winning cocktail bar takes its title from Hemingway’s novel ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and is an ode to the famously cocktail-loving author himself. If you’re a fan of Hemingway, you might recall seeing photos of the acclaimed writer lounging in his Havana estate with bottles of liquor all around. Well, that’s what they’re trying to recreate here. The walls are lined with bookshelves, the décor has a distinctly Cuban aesthetic and many of the cocktails are themselves named for the author’s works. The punchy and boldly named Death In The Afternoon, for example, is a hard-hitting creamy cocktail made with absinthe (that gives the drink its vibrant green hue), coconut and pandan yoghurt and nutmeg topped with sparkling wine. Along with its literary theme, the bar is fast becoming known for their use of sous vide ingredients that appear in cocktails like the Papa Doble. It’s a spicy choice featuring pineapple sous-vide rum, lime and clarified pink grapefruit. The hero of this hot-headed cocktail however is the maraschino sous-vide jalapenos, making it a sure-fire winner with any spice fan. Oh, and if there was ever something that you didn’t know all cocktail bars needed, look out for the built-in cooling strip on the bar that keeps your drink chilled from first to last sip.
Address: 55 Keong Saik Rd, #01-04, Singapore, 089158
Headed to Old Man? A glowing pineapple lamp will signal you’re in the right place.
8. The Gibson
Source: The Gibson
Go for the food, stay for the cocktails. That’s our motto when it comes to relaxed yet ultra-chic bar, The Gibson. The seafood here in particular comes highly acclaimed (don’t miss the Maine Lobster Roll), but it’s their mixology magic that has won them more than one or two accolades and has people clamouring to return. Flavours from across Southeast Asia and Japan are the focus of their 17-strong cocktail menu. Their namesake cocktail, The Gibson, for example, is made from Roku gin and a homemade Japanese vermouth, with a trio of enhancements from homemade nukazuke (preserved Japanese vegetables), pickled onions and a smoked quail’s egg. Sound intriguing? It is. The flavours just keep on coming, and even more so when you order it alongside a plate of freshly shucked oysters. Another popular choice to help you shake off that long working week is the strong and zesty City of Stars (star fruit, gin, Don Julio Anejo tequila and Tio Pepe Fino Sherry).
As for what to expect from the bar itself, it’s vintage in style with a warm and welcoming ambiance. Like so many great cocktail bars, however, they’ve embraced speakeasy tradition and are intentionally challenging to locate. Look out for a discretely labelled entrance on the Gan Clan heritage building which will guide you into a dimly lit staircase and up to the second floor.
Address: 20 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Level 2, Singapore, 089834
Book a table in advance to sample the creative concoctions at The Gibson.
Planning for a chill night out?
Browse through our extensive bar guide that might come in handy! If you’re looking for spots that serve up tasty bites alongside great tipples, here are 8 bars with great happy hour deals that may be right up your alley.