We look at some recently refreshed cocktail menus from bars around town in time for your consideration to celebrate the festive season.
We’re pretty much reached the end of the year, and this means two things – hopefully we’ve all got some moolah in the pocket to spend on year-end partying, but also that we’re running out of time to drink as many cocktails as we can this year. Since we consider spending hard-earned money on bad cocktails a heinous crime, we’ve scoured through bars that have recently refreshed their cocktail menus – or those with limited-time ones due to change soon – to give you some suggestions on where to party this final week of 2018.
So here you go, eight cocktail bars for you party hounds to visit (or revisit).
Nutmeg & Clove.
It seemed just yesterday that Nutmeg & Clove introduced a cocktail menu which tapped the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings for inspiration; barely a year on our favourite avant-garde Singapore-themed cocktail bar has refreshed its offerings albeit still based on that theme. Its “Flavours and Memories” collection continues to draw ideas using herbs, fruits, spices and flowers indigenous in this region.
For example, whisky-based Scotch & Chips ($22++) is a new addition to the menu featuring the humble sweet potato that sees the tuber turned into a house-made milk and then integrated into Glenfiddich 12YO, frangelico, coconut water and pineapple juice for a delicious tipple; also new is Buttered Corn ($22++), based on a favourite Singapore snack one finds in our night markets. Here clarified corn milk, honey vermouth and butter-washed Mount Gay Black Barrel rum is put together for familiar, yet intriguing, flavour.
Far more bizarre is This is Crab! ($22++), a take on the Bloody Mary that attempts to capture the flavours – and popularity – of the famous Singapore dish of chili crab. We’re not too sure about the combination of tomato consomme, vermouth, and crab stock, but you may like it.
We’re just incredibly grateful that Nutmeg & Clove has kept Oh My Jasmine! ($22++) on the menu; we hear this version of the whisky sour – made with Bruichladdich’s Classic Laddie unpeated whisky, jasmine syrup and green tea liqueur – is massively popular here, and that bartenders at Nutmeg & Clove have been threatened with bodily harm if the cocktail was ever removed from the menu.
Tippling Club changed their menu earlier this year about the same time as Nutmeg & Clove; the award-winning progressive cocktail bar and restaurant then introduced a surprisingly novel cocktail menu in collaboration with New York-based fragrance makers International Flavors & Fragrances based on the taste of gummy bears you like. But when Tippling Club head bartender Joe Schofield returned to the UK for good some months back, it opened the doors to new head bartender Andrew Loudon to stamp his own mark on the bar restaurant’s offerings.
This led to the third-ever collaboration with IFF, a seasonal cocktail menu called “Perfume: The Story of a Cocktail” with twelve different drinks to celebrate Tippling Club’s 10th anniversary. It’s inspired by a book – and later a movie of the same name – about a perfumer-turned murderer obsessed with the scent of women. Macabre story aside, we love the rum-based Dash of Spicy ($24++) for its citrusy and spicy notes, as well as the Bloody Cologne ($24++), a thoroughly refreshing and uplifting aperitif made with tequila and Campari. Those who like their drinks strong would enjoy Osmanthus Blossom ($24++), Andy’s version of the Parisian using vodka, distilled wine, osmanthus and creme de cassis.
Here’s also a good reason to visit Tippling Club soonest; this seasonal menu runs only from now till end March, and the bar is giving away an exclusive miniature bottle of a natural luxury fragrance created by IFF based on the first cocktail from this menu you order, while stocks last.
We’ll be honest and say that we’ve only ever been drinking Champagne and gin-based cocktails at grand lobby bar ATLAS, and for good reason too – after all it’s home to one of the most massive gin and Champagne collections this part of the world. Earlier this year Sim Sze Wei rose to helm the bar when head bartender Roman Foltan left; Sim was instrumental in putting together a new menu before he too left ATLAS last month.
We’ll definitely still continue to drink the signature ATLAS G&T ($19++) especially during warm afternoons, but the Sloe & Tonic ($22++) is a zestier and sweeter version using sloe gin that’s also pretty good later in the evenings. Also new is the Knickerbocker Martini ($25++), a more herbal version put together with gin, Italian vermouth, and complemented by the botanical notes from thyme. If you rather a cocktail that’s not gin based, the Palace of Nations ($25++) is a powerful concoction of single malt whisky, cognac, banana liqueur and absinthe that’s strong enough to bring the roof down.
Expect this cocktail menu to be rather short-lived though; new head bartender Jesse Vida is already working on a totally different menu to be made available from the second quarter of next year.
Now that the long-awaited restoration to one of Singapore’s most iconic bars – the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel – is finally complete, it’s perhaps appropriate that the signature Singapore Sling cocktail itself gets a revamp. And it has: the Singapore Sling, first created here by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon and offered since 1915, may retain its century-old recipe, but the new and revamped version employs updated craft ingredients in its making.
The new Singapore Sling ($34++) uses the traditional London Dry style Widges Gin concocted by respected bartender and gin expert Jason Williams from Proof & Company, and produced at Langley’s Distillery in England, for example. It now eschews Cherry Heering and goes for Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco instead, paired with Ferrand Dry Curaçao, and Scrappy’s ‘Spice Plantation’ Bitters specially created by the Seattle, Washington-based company for the Long Bar for use in the Singapore Sling. Then there’s the Crawley’s ‘Singapore Sling’ Grenadine also exclusively made for Raffles Hotel that gives the cocktail its signature pink hue. Even the cherries used for garnish has gotten an upgrade.
This refresh is also in more ways than one; the sweetness in the new Singapore Sling is thankfully dialled down, allowing more balance and the gin to shine through.
But if you really don’t like that classic Singapore cocktail, there are others you can partake in. We like the Gin Pahit ($26++), a Malaysian-style gin and tonic that sees London Dry Gin, tonic and angostura bitters combine for a more robust version of the tall drink. For those who like their drinks punchy, The Duke ($26++) – named after late American actor John Wayne – may threaten to knock you out or shoot you down with its potent mix of rye whisky, mezcal, amaro, and vermouth.
First opened mid-2017 as a stylish throwback to the drinking holes of New York in the 1960s, LuLu’s Lounge in Pan Pacific Singapore panders to the older, if more flamboyant, crowd that wants to party late into the night. Its beverage program then was suitably inspired as well.
Last month LuLu’s Lounge took on two new bartenders in Julyan Phillips and Tertius Wharton to helm its bar, and the two have combined their extensive international bartending expertise to reinvigorate the beverage programme here. As can be expected of the campy, raunchy vibe here, expect cocktails with names like Slip of the Nipple ($25++), a Cognac-laced take on the Pornstar Martini that comes with a nipple tassle just for laughs, or the similarly fruitily-sweet Cherry Red Lace ($25++) in a glass ringed with a black lace garter. Far less sweet is Loosen Mai Tai ($25++), which puts together both Diplomatico and Bacardi rums with orgeat syrup and has citrusy yuzu sake to help balance the flavours.
But if like us you’re generally averse to holding brightly-hued tall drinks with tacky, feminist-unfriendly names in a bar, we highly recommend the My Own Private Negroni ($26++), which sticks to the tried-and-true classic gin, Campari and vermouth formula for familiarity and decorum.
LuLu’s Lounge | 7 Raffles Boulevard, Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore 039595 (Google Maps link) | 7pm to 3am on Wednesdays; 9pm to 3am on Thursdays; 9pm to 6am Fridays and Saturdays; closed Sundays to Tuesdays | 9829 1922.
If you don’t already know, modern contemporary Chinese restaurant Mitzo in Grand Park Orchard actually contains a pretty decent cocktail bar that when first opened had a strong focus on incorporating traditional Chinese medicine elements into its drinks. But we’re rather thankful that head bartender Azlam Kadir – who took over the helm at the bar earlier this year – dialled back on that TCM emphasis because we, after all, drink cocktails for far less noble purposes than health.
Mitzo’s refreshed cocktail menu still leverages on Chinese ingredients, but in far more subtle, classy ways. The Floraison Spritz ($21++) has been a hit since its introduction, and we can see why – made with apple brandy, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit juice, hibiscus water, and chrysanthemum syrup and topped off with prosecco for a most refreshing aperitif. We like the Oriental Julep ($21++) too for its fruit-forward twist to the classic using fresh blackberry, with Chinese herbal tea for that Eastern touch.
If you’re a fan of the Mojito, try She-So-Fine ($21++), which uses spiced rum that’s infused with osmanthus with shiso liqueur and fresh shiso for a different floral take.
Flying Monkey in Singapore’s Kampong Glam district is better known for its delicious Pan-Indian grub since opening in the middle of last year, but the gastrobar was also one of the first to have a cocktail menu inspired by Indian influences and ingredients. Yes we’re talking about using the likes of jaggery, spices and even yogurt in the making of alcoholic tipples.
It’s recently unveiled a new cocktail menu inspired by Indian pop culture, created by recently-joined head bartender Ruban. It may be a little tough to understand the pop culture references, but the drinks do speak for themselves – there’s Baby Doll ($18++), a saffron-laced vodka-based sour referencing famous India-born porn star Sunny Leone, for example. Then there’s the yummy Quick Gun Murugun ($19++), a spicy take on the Margarita with tequila and mezcal but rimmed with “gunpowder”, a savoury and zesty South Indian spice mix; the name comes from a Tamil Western flick that was a massive hit in late 2000.
Likewise, The Japanese Wife ($18++) is inspired by an Indian-Japanese romantic drama of the same name; like the protagonists in the movie the drink comprises of two parts that actually never meet – a cup of sake served atop an Old Monk Rum-based drink.
Modern fusion izakaya bar Neon Pigeon saw some upheaval recently when it lost popular group bar manager Symphony Loo who went to join Campari as a brand ambassador, as well as bartender Kai Ng to another F&B outfit. But bartender Corbin Tay has gainly stepped up to bat, and he’s hit a few out of the park with the Japanese-inspired cocktail menu refresh he’s overseen.
We’re big fans of the delicate Geisha ($20++), which puts together apricot brandy, sherry, umeshu, and kombu and shiitake-infused sake for a lighter, fruitier yet savoury take on the classic martini. Wasabi Drop ($19++), with its combination of vodka, granola-infused sake, and wasabi, sounds bizarre but is actually rather tasty.
For something rather different, try Not Classic ($19++), a low-ABV digestif made with sake, umeshu, cold brew coffee, coffee liqueur and chocolate bitters for a robust, yet elegant drink.
Do note though that this is also a seasonal menu, which means Corbin is already working the next iteration.
Neon Pigeon | 1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089109 | 6pm to 12mn Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays | 6222 3623.