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Raising the bar: New bars to check out
FROM SINGAPORE SLINGS to jackfruit and curry negronis, the city’s bar scene has come a long way – in both number and variety of exotic cocktails created by top mixologists. International attention hasn’t been far off either, with 12 Singapore bars on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2018 list, led by the Regent’s Manhattan Bar in first place.
Not bad for an industry which began to really take off less than a decade ago when pioneers Jigger & Pony opened in 2012, followed by the Singapore Cocktail Festival in 2015. But while there’s no denying the exponential growth in the number of bars here, it also means that the pressure to stand out from the crowd is even more intense.
“Having a distinct look or niche is a must” to draw patrons from their regular haunts to try new ones, says Robbie Hoyes-Cock, co-founder of The Monarchy, a lounge inspired by the BBC TV series Peaky Blinders.
As its name suggests, it offers a British-themed cocktail menu, with a late-night music-driven ultra-lounge look.
Basically, bars have just one chance to impress, says Andy Griffiths, head of operations at Idlewild, located in the InterContinental Singapore. “Guests want an experience that feels tailored to them. Whether you’re classic or avantgarde, you have to know your target audience and communicate with them.”
Check out what these five new bars have to offer.
01. MADAME FAN BAR
Phrases like Asian-influenced and East-meets-West barely capture what Davide Boncimino brings to the table. He doesn’t just continue the modern Cantonese theme set by restaurateur Alan Yau; he has created a menu that makes Madame Fan Bar a destination on its own. Boncimino impresses with edible garnishes and liqueur infusions incorporating Asian ingredients. Forget standard orange peel. Kumquats are caramelised and made into a liqueur in his (Not) Classic PBJ ($28). The punchy Yu Cha showcases a Tie Guan Ying liqueur, where a peaty Laphroaig effortlessly draws out the tea’s delicate, earthy tones. For great effect, Boncimino slowly pulls a long, steady stream from a petite teapot, bringing to mind the long spout service commonplace in teahouses.
32 Beach Road. Tel: 6818 1921
02. FUNG KEE HOTDOGS
Leave behind any preconceived notions about cocktail bars when you’re at Fung Kee Hotdogs. There are no velvet chairs here. Just hot dogs, Flæskesvær (pork scratchings) and, possibly, the quickest craft cocktails in town at this neon-lit joint. Owner Knut Randhem doesn’t skimp on quality. The former head bartender of CÉ LA VI offers a succinct menu of just five drinks. He stays close to the classics, adding twists to suit Singapore’s scorching climate. The Gin Tonic ($22) gets a splash of wine cooler, while the cheekily named Red Drink – Not Too Sweet ($22) is a summer staple with his homemade strawberry shrub. Once you’ve gone through the list, switch out the base spirit with an akvavit (additional $3) from Randhem’s collection. Check out Never Never from Sydney’s famed PS40 or the Oloroso sherry cask-aged Linie.
#01-02, 68 Duxton Road. Tel: 6909 6294
Pass the salon-style entrance and you are instantly transported to a bygone era where air travel was first class only. Interiors are reminiscent of nightclubs in the 40’s – resplendent and complete with live jazz performances. The menu is crafted by Andy Griffiths, former head of mixology for Australia’s The Speakeasy Group, and showcases flavours from across the Transatlantic route. The 10 sections, each named after airport acronyms, come with a complementing tapas menu. The rum-based Sugarloaf representing MEX (or Mexico City) is matched with the Le Mexique Choux, while French Cook is a classic Parisian Absinthe with a house-made wormwood jelly, served with Duck Rillette on toasted sourdough. Each cocktail is prepared with homemade cordials or concentrates. Bonus: Ask for off-menu classics for a taste of Griffith’s rarer, artisanal spirits.
Lobby Level, InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road. Tel: 6825 1045
04. RPM BY D.BESPOKE
RPM by D.Bespoke lures guests in with its affable, whimsical vibe; a far cry from its Ginza-style speakeasy D.Bespoke. Walls are dressed in over 4,000 of co-founder Daiki Kanetaka’s vinyls, ranging from Japanese Jazz to Singapore Folk Rock. A turntable at the end of the bar is where Kanetaka selects the nightly playlist, but guests are welcome to sieve through his collection. Rather than stiff suits, Kanetaka and head manager Iwamitsu Shinji are dressed in custom-made graph zero denim to match the casual kissaten (Japanese-style coffee shop) décor. The menu is straightforward and presented with impeccable service. Sochu takes pride of place here as reimagined classics. Highlights include a tangy Ume Gimlet and a martini that’s been aged in kame (earthenware pot).
2 Bukit Pasoh Road. Tel: 8141 5741
05. THE OLD MAN SINGAPORE
If you’ve ever wondered “What would Ernest Hemingway drink?”, then you’ve come to the right place. The Old Man Singapore, like its award-winning sister bar in Hong Kong, celebrates the literary genius and his guilty pleasures. Those who have been to the Hong Kong one will recognise the iconic I-shaped bar, the accompanying drink cooling strip and an abstract Hemingway watching over (approvingly). The menu takes guests on a journey through his novels. Start on the Green Hills Of Africa #1935, for a fragrant whiff of a rosemary-infused pisco, before moving on to Islands In The Stream #1970, an invigorating concoction of grapefruit and salted gin. Classics are also covered, albeit enhanced with the author’s favoured ingredients. Best of all? Drinks are at $17 each. You have to keep an eye out for The Old Man Singapore, however. Hint: Look for the pineapple lamp.
#01-04, 55 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6909 5505