At the end of a long work week, there’s nothing like going out on the town with your friends or coworkers for a tipple or two. Knocking back a few drinks as a pre-party aperitif or settling down in a hideaway bar for a long evening of conversation can be made even more appealing when the cocktails are particularly elegant, coloruful, or flavorsome.
Singapore is one of the cocktail capitals of the world, and is home to plenty of bars that fulfil at least one (if not all three) of the above criteria. This wasn’t always the case; look back even 10 years ago, and the island didn’t possess much spirit when it came to spirits. Thanks to the inexorable passage of time, though, there’s now a booming scene across the country.
From hole-in-the-wall taverns to lavish reading rooms, the best cocktail bars here consistently sling only the most ambrosial of liquids to their thirsty customers. Singapore also plays host to eight spots on the highly coveted 2019 list of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Of course, there are still plenty of watering holes around Singapore that aren’t open yet, due to ongoing Phase 2 restrictions. Hopefully, though, this roundup can be the beginnings of an urbane Singaporean barfly’s bucket list for when more establishments reopen their doors. For now, if you possess a taste for champagne or a budget for beer, simply take note—or be prepared to drain the dregs of your final cocktail by 10:30pm.
1 / 9
Inspired by the bloody, bawdy, sometimes villainous San Francisco district from the 19th century, Barbary Coast is a chic establishment with grandmillennial aesthetics and reasonably priced drinks. A two-floor concept, the plush Barbary Coast Ballroom sitting on top of the more rough-and-ready Deadfall, visitors can expect to see owners Michael Callahan and Celia Schoonraad (the veterans behind famed Singaporean bar 28 HongKong Street) holding court on any given night, easily chatting with regulars and thanking newcomers for supporting the business. Barbary Coast is open for business through Phase 2, complete with a new food menu in order to comply with government regulations. Despite having made such a major adjustment over the summer, the food selection is surprisingly vast (and tasty), with a particular standout being the cheese and charcuterie boards. Order one of the candy-coloured drinks on the ground floor and settle into the friendly, jovial surroundings, or head upstairs for a more nuanced creation like the “One Inch Punch” or the “Tea with Raspberries and Cream.” Either way, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
2 / 9
Jigger & Pony
One of the standouts on the scene since 2012, this classy and classic speakeasy not only won the distinction of the Highest Climber Award on the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bars list, moving up 33 places, but was also crowned the best bar in Asia in May. Located in the Amara Hotel, their menu now features 24 tantalising cocktails. The smartly-dressed hospitality staff are more like family than coworkers, as the bar’s founders have been working steadily for years to build a nurturing environment that sees a much lower turnover rate than most local F&B businesses. That comforting sense of support translates into a warm, convivial atmosphere for guests, so good it has to be seen to be believed. However, if you’re still reticent to see and be seen in a crowded place, Jigger & Pony has you covered; their ready-to-drink cocktails (artfully packaged, with garnishes wrapped up alongside them) can be delivered right to your doorstep, and—even better—can be ordered in bulk.
3 / 9
The Elephant Room
Inspired by the sights and sounds of Little India, slipping into this Tanjong Pagar watering hole often feels more like visiting a culture-forward bar in Bombay. The experience at The Elephant Room kicks off with the signature spice plate, which allows guests to inhale deeply all the spices that are on offer that night. Take a seat at a Jaali-patterned table top and pull up a lungi-embroidered coaster, because these South Asian spices are then combined into complex cocktails that are each a little heaven in a glass. The “Banana King” (Himalayan gin, sandalwood, and the fermented fruit) and “Jothi’s Flower Shop” (jasmine gin, lime, and honey) are our personal favourites. Every bold cocktail on the menu has a layered story, and owner-bartender Yugnes Susela is more than happy to regale you with the breakdown behind your choice. Perched atop the Michelin-starred Burnt Ends, The Elephant Room is Susela’s passion project, based on his heritage and childhood.
4 / 9
Tipple and Dram
Billing itself as Singapore’s “finest wine and whisky bar,” Tipple and Dram is a relative newcomer to the scene, having only been founded in mid-2018. That said, its subsequent rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Featuring a menu replete with rare single malts and cigars, its two levels (the titular “Tipple” and “Dram” occupying the first and second floors, respectively), it wouldn’t be especially surprising to walk in one evening and find a character from Mad Men sitting at the bar. An old-world style is fleshed out by more than 100 unique bottlings that sit comfortably behind the bar, just waiting to be indulged in.
5 / 9
One of the Jigger & Pony Group’s concept cocktail joints, Live Twice is a mid-century warren of classic cocktails and bar signatures (divided into two on the menu, emblematic of its Nancy Sinatra-inspired name). An elevated and cosy izakaya, it feels more like your most sophisticated friend’s living room than a drinking establishment. It’s almost a hidden bar in its sleek aesthetics and presentation, and wouldn’t be out of place as a setting in a Kurosawa flick. Try the Pear Alexander if you’re a fan of chocolate notes, or the Mizuwari if you’d rather indulge in a finely mellowed grain whisky. Also of distinction are the “Spring Riot”, with its grated daikon over rogu gin, and the “Snow Flurries”, with Empirical Spirits’ Fallen Pony blend (a vacuum-distilled koji, for the uninitiated) and oolong tea. The katsu sandos—take your pick of beef, pork, or ebi and corn—are addictive, and not to be missed.
6 / 9
The Regent Singapore’s signature cocktail bar, Manhattan has all the glamour and refinement of the city that never sleeps itself, and then some. Since opening in 2014, the bar has quickly accumulated a wide circle of dedicated customers and seems to have found a forever home on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Oozing luxe and finesse, the menu explores an endless array of old New York’s iterations, from the 1520s to the 1990s. Choosing just one or two tipples from the list of classic and forgotten cocktails is nearly impossible, but guests can rest easy knowing that, no matter what they settle on, it will be meticulously crafted in the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse, a whisky-aging mini-warehouse. Its Sunday cocktail brunches—the first in Singapore—are also notoriously equal parts elegant and indulgent. Even better, the bar is known for its environmental consciousness, taking excess ingredients like spent coffee grounds, excess cream, and strawberry tops, and infusing them into their spirits to give them a new lease on life.
7 / 9
The Old Man
Another Keong Saik charmer, The Old Man wears its heart on its sleeve. Said heart belongs only to Ernest Hemingway, whose likeness can be spotted all around the room. Not only that, but every drink on the menu is inspired by Papa’s novels and mythology. Even the strangest-looking drink on the menu, arguably the frothy, electric green, yoghurt-infused “Death in the Afternoon,” plays on the senses as delightfully as Hemingway’s prose. The bar itself modelled after the prolific author’s Havana estate, lined with books and shaped like a runway, with a built-in cooling strip running down the middle that keeps your drink perpetually chilled. Beware, however, the lack of signposting outside the bar, which can make locating it an interesting challenge. Keep an eye out for the lone pineapple lamp lighting the entranceway, or follow a waiter carrying in a slice of creamy cheesecake from the kitchen next door, and you’ll be golden.
8 / 9
Focused on regional ingredients and locally sourced produce like curry leaves and starfruit flowers, Native’s innovative mixology makes not only for a fun evening, but also a great story. Cosied in to a quieter corner of bustling Amoy Street, this bar is another local establishment with a carefully-curated hidden speakeasy vibe, complete with exposed brick and hanging lamps. Sharp-eyed local art connoisseurs might recognise the graffiti on the wall as the handiwork of Rajesh Kumar, or the ceramics on the shelf as sporting Ummuramics’ signature curvy style. Owner Vijay Mudalier sings the praises of the commercial foraging movement, and it’s easy to see why. You may have never considered Thai rum with crunchy ants (also locally foraged, naturally) and pink jasmine blossoms as a viable cocktail combination, but the minds behind the bar at this Ann Siang Hill joint certainly have, to wonderful effect. Its marvellous, slightly grainy texture makes for an exciting, luscious drink that you’ll be bragging about to all of your friends for days afterwards.
9 / 9
One of Singapore’s grandest bars, Atlas welcomes all-day drinking and dining deep into the night. Holding the coveted #8 place on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, Atlas has long been a fixture on the local cocktail scene, and is certainly one of its more sweeping contenders. Known for its iconic gin tower, the bar holds over 1,000 varieties of the spirit, some dating as far back as 1910. The 7,400 sq ft establishment is consistently compared to a setpiece from the The Great Gatsby. With drinks on the menu like the caramel-infused Transatlantic and Mr. Schulze’s Sour, named in tribute to the man behind the beverage programme on the Hindenburg, we’ll let thirsty guests decide for themselves.