Singapore

Like a Local: Singapore’s 10 Best Cocktail Bars

by Christopher Kompanek  |  Published April 24, 2017

The tropical metropolis of Singapore in Southeast Asia is known for having some of the strictest drug laws on the planet, so it’s not too surprising that speakeasy-style bars have become a trend. It’s no secret, though, that the city-state has developed quite a robust cocktail bar scene.

The crowd at Tippling Club (Photo: Charles Haynes via Flickr)

The crowd at Tippling Club (Photo: Charles Haynes via Flickr)

Tucked away in discreet basement spaces and in former shophouses, stylish cocktail dens serve a diverse array of finely constructed drinks, all waiting to be quaffed if you know where to look. Here are ten of the best.

Tippling Club

By many accounts, Ryan Clift’s bar is the place that started it all for Singapore’s mixology scene. Many of the owners of the bars listed below cut their teeth working under Clift. The bar is also known as a mecca for fine molecular dining, so it’s not uncommon to be served drinks overflowing with dry ice. With a goal to unearth patrons’ childhood memories with each sip, the drink names are often as mysterious as their lofty ambitions: classics like the Negroni share space on the menu with head-scratchers like Leather, Grass and Rain.

38 Tanjong Pagar Rd.

Employees Only

Inside the cozy swank digs of Employees Only (Photo: Employees Only)

Inside the cozy swank digs of Employees Only (Photo: Employees Only)

A haven for expats, this offshoot of a popular New York spot exudes an approachable warmth, with wood-paneled walls and cozy tables in the back. The drinks are well-made, and their Manhattan with Bulleit rye is hard to beat. More inventive concoctions include the rum-based Hi-Octane–rinsed with Laphroaig 10 Year Old single malt whiskey–and the Geoff Belle, made with white whiskey and pureed red bell peppers. Founding partner Igor Hadzismajlovic heads the day-to-day operations, giving patrons a transformative experience–melding dive bar conviviality with the exacting standards of a mixologist–that’s especially welcome for homesick New Yorkers.

112 Amoy St.

Operation Dagger

Mixologists in action at Operation Dagger (Photo: Christopher Kompanek)

Mixologists in action at Operation Dagger (Photo: Christopher Kompanek)

There are few bars more clandestinely positioned than Operation Dagger. Tucked into the basement space of a nondescript office building and named after a failed weapons mission in Iraq, the tiny spot is only for those in the know. Inside, the cloud of mostly burnt-out light bulbs that hangs overhead, along with contemporary art references, like Basquiat’s Crowns, scrawled on surfaces throughout, lend the feeling of having crept into a secret society. This sense is further heightened by the rotating drink selection’s descriptions, relayed in terms of flavors instead of liquors. The bottles at the bar are coded, so you never can be quite sure what spirit you’re drinking during this boozy mystery ride.

7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01

Manhattan

Dubbed the “sleekest bar on the planet” by the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2016, the Regent Four Seasons hotel bar features its own barrel-aging room. The extensive menu changes every six months and is divided into categories named after neighborhoods in New York. Drinks include the Flatiron–made with Lagavulin 16 year, Drambouie and chocolate bitters–and the more quaffable Gin and Juice–made with Tanqueray, pink grapefruit, egg white and champagne.

1 Cuscaden Rd., Second Floor

Crackerjack

A peer at into the sparse, clean style of Crackerjack (Photo: Weiwei Lee)

A peer at into the sparse, clean style of Crackerjack (Photo: Weiwei Lee)

This recently opened spot on a bustling corner in Chinatown has an appealing casual vibe. Charmingly minimalist, with not-so-dim lighting and concrete floors, Crackerjack runs as a coffee shop by day and bar by night. Sidle up at one of the long communal tables to enjoy inventive drinks, like the Psycho Tropics, Hibiscus Pisco and Absinthe Swizzle. If your spirit of choice is not on the current menu, the bartenders are happy to mix up whatever you crave.

43 Tanjong Pagar Rd.

Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall

This quiet second-floor spot in the bustling bar nabe of Boat Quay is decorated with objects found in flea markets around town. The drinks range from simple, classic cocktails to shots of tequila, poured from colorful, skull-shaped KAH Tequila Añejo bottles. Want to know just what you’re getting into before you take your first sip? Check the menu, where cocktails are conveniently rated for their bitterness and potency.

60A Boat Quay

The Library

The clandestine digs of The Library (Photo: The Library)

The clandestine digs of The Library (Photo: The Library)

This speakeasy style watering hole is so hidden that they don’t publish an address and the rotating password has to be obtained from locals. (Tip: try your hotel concierge) Inside, an array of contemporary art pop-ups creates a stylish and shifting décor. The red hued lighting pays homage to the former red light district of Keong Saik Road. Drinks are flavored with offbeat ingredients, like wheatgrass and wasabi, along with traditional Chinese herbs.

47 – 49 Keong Saik Road

Potato Head Folk

Located on top of the Jakarta-founded burger joint Three Buns, this lavishly decorated space feels like a tricked-out safari tent, with a rooftop tiki bar adding to the appeal. Drinks include the Saik Daiquiri, made with a blend of rums and yuzu, and the Absinthe-doused Zombie, which is rumored to be limited to two per person because of its potency.

36 Keong Saik Rd.

28 HongKong Street

The dimly lit bar of 28 HongKong St (Photo: 28 HongKong St)

The dimly lit bar of 28 HongKong Street (Photo: 28 HongKong Street)

Though this cocktail bar is tucked inside an unassuming shophouse that dates back to the 1960s (before Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965), don’t call it a speakeasy. With its address doubling as its name, 28 HongKong Street is not terribly hard to find, even though there is no signage. They have a strict no photos policy to encourage patrons to live in the moment as they explore the wide-ranging menu. Highlights include their riff on a frozen daiquiri, called the Five Foot Assassin. Other drinks include the Joey Coco, made with Leblon Cachaça and beetroot shrub, and the World’s Fair, made with Popcorn Cordial and Lustau Fino Sherry.

28 Hongkong St.

Jigger and Pony

Since this classic spot’s name is as a tribute to 19th century customs, when cocktails were measured out in “jiggers” and “ponies,” it’s not surprising that the bartenders wear vests and ties. The expensive menu offers a flight of gins served with tonic water that could be thought of as gin and tonic three ways. Cocktails are divided into classic, vintage and signature. Adventurous drinkers might want to try the Yuzu Whiskey Sour or the Donkey Kong, made with banana-infused Monkey Shoulder whiskey.

101 Amoy St.