Top 5 bars in… SingaporeBy Annie Hayes
One of the most mind-bendingly futuristic cities in the world, Singapore never stands still – and its cocktail scene is no exception, writes Nick Sutton.
Change happens fast in Singapore. Whether it’s towering additions to the city’s iconic skyline or new metro stations popping up in record time, progress happens in front of your eyes. It’s easy to forget that this Asian powerhouse only celebrated its 50th birthday in August this year.
The city’s cocktail scene is also relatively young but growing up fast. A flurry of new openings and an influx of world-class talent have many talking it up as the mixology capital of South East Asia.
While it’s hard to pinpoint the moment Singapore truly began to blossom into a cocktail powerhouse, it’s hard to dismiss the opening of Klee – Singapore’s first bespoke cocktail bar – in 2008 as a watershed.
In a city best known for pubs, and where cocktails were primarily the domain of its many five-star hotel bars, this was arguably the start of the bespoke cocktail scene here.
Fast forward to 2016 and Singapore’s bar industry is thriving, with a new opening seemingly every few months and a number of venues and mixologists gaining recognition on the international scene.
Most recently, Peter Chua of 28 Hong Kong Street emerged as one of the world’s top six bartenders at the Diageo Reserve World Class Global Finals.
Several trends epitomise Singapore’s cocktail scene – personalisation being front and centre at several of the city’s most popular spots. Maison Ikkoku and Bar Stories are just two of the menu-less outfits where cocktails are created off the cuff based on guidance from customers on preferred spirits and flavour profiles.
Given Singapore’s status as one of the world’s iconic food destinations, it’s no surprise that local gastronomic influences – from chilli crab to laksa and chicken rice – are finding their way onto cocktail menus.
Bars such as Bitters & Love and Jekyll & Hyde are creating interpretations of these local delights, and customers are flocking.
Success hasn’t been without its challenges – the problem of over-saturation has reared its head, perhaps inevitably when one considers the relatively small size of central Singapore.
For Joel Fraser, of Cufflink Club and Latin American bar Vasco, this is a positive sign: “We started to see a few bars closing down, but these were me-too acts jumping on the bandwagon and not bringing anything new to consumers.
“What I think has set the successful bars apart here is innovation and a bit of maverick spirit.”
Click through the next few pages to discover our pick of the top 5 best bars in Singapore.
47 Keong Saik Road, facebook.com/thestudy49
Hidden (quite literally) next to Jason Atherton’s The Study is this password-only bar (Hint: You can find the password on its Facebook page). Should you get past the somewhat unusual door policy you’ll find drinks as creative as the decor.
28 Hong Kong Street
29 Hong Kong Street, 28hks.com
An icon of Singapore’s cocktail scene, 28HKS was able to attract Michael Callahan – a star among San Francisco’s mixologists. The focus is on American cocktails and it clearly does them well – it made 2015’s 50 World’s Best Bars list.
7 Ann Siang Hill, facebook.com/operationdagger
Tucked underneath an apparently abandoned building and signposted only by an obscure symbol, Operation Dagger offers wild and wonderful cocktails from executive bartender Luke Whearty. Think cocktails that combine acorn-fed Spanish ham, rock melon and red wine vinegar.
Jigger & Pony
101 Amoy Street, jiggerandpony.com
A hugely popular bespoke cocktail bar on busy Amoy Street, manager Aki Eguchi has brought a touch of Japanese flair and technique to Singapore. It is well-known for its punchbowls, which can serve about 10 people (or fewer very thirsty drinkers).
Level 1, 2 Stamford Road, fairmont.com/singapore/dining/antidote
Part of a new wave of cool hotel bars, Anti:dote shipped in uber-talented Tom Hogan to create a cocktail menu on a par with any of Singapore’s standalone, boutique cocktail bars. Stylish and progressive.