It’s hard to have a favourite bar in the cocktail wonderland that is Singapore.
Home to some of the best bars in the world – there’s a whopping 12 Singapore bars in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Bars, with Tippling Club, Atlas, Operation Dagger, 28 HongKong Street and Manhattan Bar getting into the World’s 50 Best Bars list too – and new venues opening up every month, we’re really quite spoilt for choice.
It’s also why our bars are regularly refreshing their menus to remain visible in this very competitive landscape; we look at four cocktail bars that have recently made over their cocktail menus to entice the country’s finicky cocktail drinkers.
We’ll have to admit that we haven’t been back to Fairmont cocktail bar restaurant Anti:dote much ever since award-winning bartender Tom Hogan left its fold two years back. But now there is – Hogan’s protege Bannie Kang took over as head bartender earlier this year after her predecessor Gina Kent left.
And about time too. Those in the cocktail scene would know that Kang is supremely talented in her own right; she regularly does well at cocktail competitions, even winning the country finals of the Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition to represent Singapore in the grand finals in San Francisco two years ago.
Kang puts her unique, mod-feminine stamp on Anti:dote’s new whimsical cocktail menu. The Atlantis Lea ($23++), for example, is a palate-cleansing elixir of Milagro tequila, lime juice, dill and cucumber, while the Rabbit Hole ($23++) is floral concoction using Hendrick’s Gin, white vermouth, and carrot juice that sends you chasing down an oddly-shaped drinking receptacle stuffed with edible vegetation. Her Taproot Sangaree ($23++) is a curious creation of Mezcal, Cynar, house-made beetroot wine and spiced orange; an alcoholic’s juice cleanse, if you will.
If you like your drinks a lot more spirit-forward, Philoso’Me ($23++) ‘s Diplomatico Mantuano rum, Mezcal, Palo Cortado sherry, and Campari-base will send you reeling back in delight, otherwise the Su Jung Gwa ($23++, top left) taps on her Korean roots and turns the popular traditional New Year dessert drink into a punchy version strengthened with Remy Martin VSOP and absinthe.
Kang’s competition cocktail for Bacardi Legacy gets resurrected into a massive punch bowl here; the Hwachae Signature Punch ($105++) clearly exhibits why she’s finally where she belongs – at the top spot here behind the bar at Anti:dote.
Be sure to order some eats here too; Anti:dote’s head chef Tryson Quek – and also Kang’s husband – has worked tirelessly with Kang to put together some of the more creative bites you’ll find in any bar menu. More importantly they work well with her cocktails; his Beetroot | Edamame | Burrata | Manuka Honey ($16++) pairs fabulously with her Taproot Sangaree.
Anti:dote | Level 1, 2 Stamford Road, Fairmont Singapore, Singapore 178882 (link) | Open 7.30am to 1am daily | Tel: 6431 5315.
Junior the Pocket Bar.
We were extremely distraught when we heard of Crackerjack’s closure at the start of the year; the cafe by day and cocktail bar by night hybrid was a favourite place for coffee but more importantly we loved Junior, its tiny speakeasy hidden at the back. Thankfully Proof & Co decided to retain the pocket bar, which helps somewhat soothe the pain of losing Crackerjack.
Junior’s previous cocktail menu was “Norma”, a one-year pop-up exploration of all things agave. This time round though, Junior looks to recreate an entire New Orleans experience with its new pop-up theme “Magnolia”. The Big Easy, of course, is the birthplace to some of the world’s greatest iconic cocktails such as the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz and Brandy Milk Punch. You’ll get all of that here at Junior, and more.
We’re big fans of the Michter’s-based Milk Punch ($25++), which combines the bourbon with gingerbread spiced tea and clarified milk for very Christmassy flavours, as well as their rather delightful Ramos Gin Fizz ($25++) that’s refreshing yet incredibly complex and aromatic from the use of Citadelle gin and orange flower water. For something incredibly spirit-forward, the rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth and Benedictine DOM-based Vieux Carré ($25++, pictured above) – which originated from New Orleans’ French Quarter, if you need to know – will hit you like a truck, and you’ll love it all the more for that.
Oh yes, and don’t forget the eats. Make sure you hit the Jambalaya ($12++, pictured above) or the Po’ Boy ($12++), to help you line the tummy for all the alcohol you’re sure to imbibe here.
Junior the Pocket Bar | 43 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088464 (link) | Open 6pm to 12am Mondays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays | Tel 8121 1462.
We’ll be honest and say that Gibson‘s previous menu, the one they launched end December 2016 to celebrate their first year anniversary, wasn’t one of our favourites. Because the cocktails were collaborations with bartenders across the world, the menu wasn’t quite as cohesive as it should have been.
Gibson’s latest cocktail menu though, which quietly made its debut amid the hustle and bustle that was Singapore Cocktail Festival 2018, brings it back to its roots of making technically-sound cocktails with a modern, innovative twist. It comprising of 17 cocktails split across three different sections, exploring classics and pushing boundaries all at once.
For example the Gibson Whiskey Sour ($23++) is a simple and effective take on the classic; the use of Granny Smith apples gives a refreshing piquancy that helps lift the Bulleit Rye-based cocktail. Its namesake Gibson ($23++) cocktail too has seen a slight makeover; while the reimagined martini still uses the Ginjo sake-vermouth specially commissioned from Nara-based Umenoyado Brewery, the gin used is now Suntory’s Roku gin instead of the Tanqueray Ten. Order this also for its delicious trio of condiments – marinated wasabi leaves, pickled onion and a smoked quail’s egg.
For something that will boggle your palate, the Mango PX ($23++) tastes totally like a mango accented Pedro Ximenez sherry; the sweet oxidative notes of a house-made mango wine combines beautifully with Mount Gay Black Barrel rum for an intoxicative tipple. But we’re even bigger fans of the Sake-tini ($23++), a fruity yet spirit-forward concoction that employs Calvados as a base, pear syrup and fuji apple for flavour, and sakekasu (sake lees) and mascarpone for texture.
Gibson Bar | 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, 2nd Floor, Singapore 089834 (link) | 6pm to 1am Mondays to Thursdays, 6am to 2am Fridays and Saturdays, closed Sundays | Tel: 9114 8385.
NATIVE, which has won an entire slew of awards for its focus on cocktails made from artisanal Asian spirits and foraged ingredients, had stuck to its original launch menu when it opened up in end 2016 until rather recently. Owner and head bartender Vijay Mudaliar admitted it’s been a challenge putting a new one together especially with his busy schedule; the Singapore Tourism Board darling has been flying around the world representing Singapore in various cocktail engagements, including an interesting collaboration with the Margaret River Gourmet Escape last year.
Mudaliar’s finally decided his new menu offerings are ready for prime time. The menu has seen a total overhaul, with only the Pineapple Arrack from the original menu surviving the cut. We recommend the Oolong Highball ($23++) to start your evening; the drink which is inspired by the Japanese salaryman takes a blend of Japanese sochu and yuzu peel and tops that up with a kombucha made from Oolong tea for a light but flavourful tipple. It even comes with a frozen napkin so you can refresh yourself.
Definitely worth trying too is the Arak Bali ($23++), a floral concoction made with Balinese arak (a spirit made with coconut sap or rice). This complex, layered cocktail is aromatic and sensual like a Balinese massage, and comes with tarragon and blue pea flowers – and even a piece of tempeh (fermented soybean cake) – for additional flavour. If you like nibbling on your cocktail, the locally-inspired Peranakan ($23++) comes complete with a Kueh Salat agar agar jelly and sees jackfruit-infused rum combined with gula melaka, laksa leaves, goat’s milk and topped with shavings of candlenut that will confuse and delight at the same time.
NATIVE | 52A Amoy Street, Singapore 069878 (link) | 6pm to 12am Mondays to Saturdays, closed Sundays | Tel: 8869 6520.