Fancy a drink? Cocktail culture hits creative new heights in Singapore
In Singapore, mixologists have become the city's new rock stars.
But with cocktail bars popping up around the island faster than Champagne corks at a hen party, the real question is: which cocktail, and where?
Here are 10 of Singapore's hottest cocktail bars, along with some of their signature drinks that will have you slurring your speech in no time.
A cocktail with a name like “HELP!! Save the Bees” (S$26) is not exactly what you’d expect to find on the menu in upscale CUT, but Wes Guild, assistant general manager at this popular Singapore restaurant bar explained they merely wanted to raise awareness of the declining bee population throughout the world.
While most restaurant bars tend to serve up the predictable standards, the bartending team at CUT works closely with their culinary counterparts to create “perfect balance of flavors and ingredients.”
This means they try to incorporate ingredients for food into cocktails, blurring the boundaries.
The result for this innovation: a summery mix of Citron vodka, lavender thyme honey syrup, limoncello and lemon bitters, served in a cocktail glass in the shape of a bee hive.
B1-71 (next to the theater), Galleria Level, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. +65 6688 8517
La Maison du Whisky
France’s most established whisky distributors set up shop in Singapore more than three years ago but it wasn't until they decided to install a bar -- and a mixologist –-- earlier this year that the artisanal spirits amongst their collection received due limelight.
We recommend the Passiflora (S$18), a cocktail that La Maison says is a hit with the ladies, thanks to the intensely aromatic notes from the Gabriel Boudier saffron gin.
The gin comes the French producer's specially designed artisanal label, tailored for mixologists. Mixed with fresh passion fruit, lemon and sugar, the Passiflora is served with three-centimeter ice cubes that are frozen in-house, a trademark at La Maison du Whisky..
Pro tip: Smaller ice cubes melt faster, leaving your drink watered down if you don't knock it back quick enough.
The Pier @ Robertson Quay, 80 Mohamed Sultan Road, #01-10. +65 6733 0059
There is much energy pulsating at 83, with urban art curated by the Kult team that changes every six to eight weeks and progressive sounds, complemented by an inventive cocktail list and French-inspired dishes.
At the bar, the hot favorite right now is the Raspberry Rush ($18), a combination of vodka, Chambord, Cointreau, soda and lime cordial, carefully layered and not stirred.
According to in-house mixologist KC, it’s set up like this so guests will be taken through the different spectrum of flavors in a progressive manner: First comes the raspberry, then sweet orange (from Cointreau), before the soda and lime cordial refreshes and finally cleanses the palate.
83 Club St. +65 6220 4083
If you are into old-school classics, try the newly opened B28, helmed by Aubrey Sim, Singapore 2009 Diageo World Champion.
This place takes traditional cocktails for a refined spin. Take for example, the Old Fashioned -- a cocktail of bourbon whiskey, sugar, and bitters -- muddled and stirred over ice and zested with an orange peel.
At B28, the guest has a choice of bourbon, Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare Bourbon (S$26) or for a higher league, Booker's or Woodford Reserve.
For drinkers looking for a twist, try asking for non-whiskey versions of the cocktail, such as those with Ron Zacapa, the Guatemalan rum, brandy, rye whiskey and even smokey Islay Scotch whiskies.
B28, B/F The Club, 28 Ann Siang Road. +65 9026 3466
Perfume and cocktails really do mix when in the hands of the geniuses behind Tippling Club.
The Juniper Sling ($23) recipe is trademarked by luxury perfumier Penhaligon’s, which explains why the mixologists at Tippling Club, who designed the drink based on the fragrance’s actual flavor chart, is the only bar in the world allowed to make it.
The recipe is, to a certain extent, guarded closely. This much we know; Juniper Sling is made with Monkey 47 gin as the base, it also has house-made cherry liqueur (which takes a rather complicated process to distill), leather, oris wood, angelica, green cardamom and three other base ingredients.
Served in a Penhaligon bottle placed in a Penhaligon gift box, we dare say for any cocktail buff, this is better than perfume.
8D Dempsey Road. +65 6475 2217
Any self-respecting mixologist knows that the buzzword of the moment is “freshness,” which means plenty of freshly squeezed fruit juices.
So when the Néktar team put a Bellini on its list, it was not just a simple combination of sparkling wine and Sunfresh orange juice included in the ingredient list.
The classic cocktail, invented in 1934 in Venice, Italy, was given a makeover with caramelized seasonal peaches crushed with a dash of peach schnapps and vodka, before it gets a royal topping of brut Champagne.
31 Scotts Road. +65 6836 9185
Richard Gillam, Swissotel’s cocktail architect, builds drinks with creative intent.
The cocktail within his ever-increasing repertoire he’s fondest of is the Bubble Tea ($22), based on the same recipe for “T in a Cup” -- the cocktail that nailed him the top prize at the Diageo World Class Singapore 2010.
A mix of Sakura! Sakura! Tea infused Tanqueray Gin with fresh grapefruit juice, cranberry and home-made pomegranate grenadine, it’s kept bubbling cold.
“The drink uses dry ice to keep the drink very cold in the special glass as you can't use ice in a martini glass. It also creates the bubbling effect,” says Gillam.
Served in a curious-looking delicate English tea cup with a long stem -- the William Yeoward T Cup -- it pairs well with the impressive city-scape best admired from the bar.
City Space, 70/F Swissôtel The Stamford, 2 Stamford Road. +65 6837 3322
Jeff, the mixologist at the little nook on Haji Lane known as Bar Stories, says there's a reason why the frangelico sour ($20-25) has been such a hit.
"Fresh strawberries and fresh lemon juice," he explains, is the secret. Mixed with frangelico liqueur and served with crushed ice, it's a refreshing drink that he and his team seem to get right each time.
"Plus, it's a drink that's good for any time of the day.”
2/F, 55-57 Haji Lane. +65 6298 0838
There's something bloody good at Drink Culture. That’s right, the Bloody Mary.
It's an old classic, admits Leonard, the owner of the four-months-old bar, but his team has tweaked the recipe over time, refining it in the process.
The first rule at the bar: only fresh cherry tomatoes are muddled and used -- as it gives the right concentration of flavors and sweetness.
There's also that dash of citrus and homemade cucumber-infused vodka, as well as celery bitters.
That’s not the complete recipe as "the rest is secret,” which of course gives you all the more reason to visit.
50/51 Kreta Ayer Road. +65 6557 0538
28 Hong Kong Street
Ask around the bartending circuit and the consensus is that Michael Callaghan at 28 Hong Kong Street is the man to look out for.
It's hard to miss out and not place an order for a cocktail with a name like Whore's Bath ($22)-- a concoction of 42 Below Manuka Honey vodka, Ume shu plum wine, fresh lemon and pear liquor – Callaghan’s signature drink since he was bartending in San Francisco.
Don't be fooled by the fruity, sweet tones of the cocktail: feminine it may be, but it's one potent drink.
28 Hong Kong St., Singapore. +65 6533 2001