Best of 2012: New Cocktail Bars in Singapore
The five newcomers on the bar scene who are putting the magic back into the cocktails
Cocktail culture swept into Singapore in a big way in 2012, and though many were mere wave-riders that present more style than substance, these five newcomers have made going out for a drink that much more purposeful. They may not be everyone's cup of tea (...or glass of cocktail), but they've all left an indelible mark on the craft cocktail scene in one way or another whilst others have faded into the background.
28 HongKong Street
Don't be fooled by 28 HongKong Street's shabby exterior -- the New York-inspired cocktail bar has been deemed the "coolest bar in Singapore".
Some deem it the "coolest bar in Singapore", while others find their aversion to publicity (the website has no telephone number, only an email, and the space does not even have so much of a signage on the front door) bordering on the extreme and reeking of pretension. But whether you like 28 HongKong Street or not, there's no denying the frisson of excitement when you discover this innocuous-looking, East Village-esque bar for the very first time, slide into one of the dark booths, and order one of their cheeky-named cocktails (Whore's Bath, anyone?) whipped up by bartender and mastermind Michael Callahan. It's the sort of place you'd go to lengths to make reservations for, if only for the bragging rights.
28 HongKong Street, www.28hks.com
Cufflink Club's signature cocktails are outlandish creations that often reference pop culture.
We heard about Cufflink Club's bartender Joel Fraser long before we even know of the cocktail bar he mans and owns -- "he's so cute!" whispered several of our industry friends. The ex-Tippling Club mixologist had rose to prominence with the launch of his new speakeasy, and though he's certainly easy on the eyes, it's his outlandish, sometimes bawdy -- befitting of its "boys club" vibe --- cocktails that had patrons in a tizzy. The Walking Dead comes garnished with an "eyeball", while For Whom The Bell Tolls is an update on the Hemingway daiquiri, accompanied with a paper airplane folded from a page of the literary classic.
Jigger & Pony
Jigger & Pony comes with a promise of "timeless, classic cocktails", whipped up with Japanese bartending techniques and carefully selected ingredients.
There's absolutely nothing fancy or ostentatious about Jigger & Pony -- the owners made sure of that, opting for a focus on a revival of classic cocktails in a personable environment, rather than attempt to swing for a cooler-than-thou vibe. And so luxurious fittings give way to cheery red and yellow seats, and teak wooden counters, but there are great cocktails, and frighteningly potent ones at that. They are divided into three categories (Classic, Forgotten, Modern Twist) for your cocktail-picking convenience, and head bartender Anthony Zhong's confidently bold Negroni is a true standout. Remember to order sufficient food with your drinks -- we walked out light-headed just after two cocktails even with some bar bites.
Jigger & Pony, 101 Amoy Street, +65 6223 9101/+65 9621 1074, info@JiggerandPony.com, www.JiggerandPony.com, closed on Sundays
Maison Ikkoku Cocktail Bar
The semi-al fresco cocktail bar at Maison Ikkoku offers a cozy hangout spot and a view of the sunset at dusk.
Multi-concept Maison Ikkoku, with all of its hipster-cool sensibilities, might be more well-known for its artisanal cups of joe (the craze of which we're so over), but its real gems lie on the third level of its cozy shophouse space, where director of bar operations Ethan Leslie Leong showcases his 18 years of experience in the industry with delicious cocktail creations. Tipple selection is extensive, but there's no going wrong with signatures like the MI1 White French Maid (coffee liquor, French caramel liquor, vodka, fresh milk and coffee beans, with a lightly flambéed top), and the fruity MI2 Passionate Moment which comes with a stalk of rosemary, set on fire to extract the flavour of the herb into the drink.
Maison Ikkoku Cocktail Bar, 20 Kandahar Street, 3rd Level, +65 6294 0078
Look to the left (in the picture) of Keong Saik Snacks -- therein lies the super-secretive The Library.
Touted by several industry types as "the less-pretentious 28 HongKong Street" -- their words, not ours! -- The Library (or it has been unofficially named thanks to the bookstore whose space it occupies at the back) is the coolest new kid on the block, complete with a hidden entrance and password-only entry (ask for the password from the staff of Keong Saik Snacks or Esquina). But while all these could be easily dismissed as mere gimmicks, The Library's inventive, and playful cocktail inventions, conjured by Canadian bartender Stefan Ravalli (previously from Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social), prove they're more than just a pretty face. We can't resist a miniature bathtub of spiked punch decorated with tiny rubber ducks, and you won't be able to either.
The Library, 47 Keong Saik Road, +65 6221 8338