We look at some recently refreshed cocktail menus with a whimsical touch from eight different bars across town that may just entice you into drinking a little bit more than you’d expect.
Let’s be totally honest – as a country with a thriving cocktail scene we’re absolutely spoilt when it comes to choice. Home to a whopping six entries on the recently announced World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list – and many others that are just as deserving – Singapore is absolutely the jewel in Asia’s crown when it comes to picking a spot for cocktails.
It’s also why our bars are regularly refreshing their menus to remain visible in this very competitive landscape; we look at eight cocktail bars that have recently made over their cocktail menus to entice the country’s finicky cocktail hounds.
Gibson acquires a Japanese touch with its new cocktail menu.
Fancy cocktail bar Gibson tends to be overshadowed by its more illustrious elder sibling Jigger & Pony – the latter of which not only recently debuted at the No.29 spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list, but also landed the “Bar of the Year” accolade at The Bar Awards Singapore 2019 – but it’s also cutting-edge in its own right. Sure, one of its previous cocktail menus – composed of collaborative tie-ups with bars from around the region – wasn’t the best we’ve encountered from the team, but the newest may just be the most interesting yet.
Principal bartender Gento Torigata, with input from bar programme director Aki Eguchi, has put together a refreshed cocktail menu that pays tribute to their Japanese roots. We’re particularly tickled by the Don Don Old Fashioned, which bizarrely combines Bulleit bourbon with baked sweet potato, fig and cinnamon bitters into the classic cocktail, as inspired by the massively popular baked sweet potatoes at Japanese chain Don Don Donki. Or how about its signature eponymous The Gibson, its take on the classic Gibson blending Roku gin with a homemade ginjo sake-vermouth that comes with its iconic trio of edible garnishes including a pickled onion?
Alternatively the Mango PX is a good choice as a simple yet delicious concoction of house-made mango wine, Nikka Coffey Malt whisky and sugar. For something less strong, the Guava Highball – put together with Altos reposado tequila, guava, ulam raga and salt, is refreshing and hits all the right spots.
Gibson | 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, 2nd floor, Singapore 089834 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 1am Mondays to Thursdays; 6pm to 2am Fridays and Saturdays; closed on Sundays | 9114 8385
“Interbellum” at ATLAS explores the decade between two World Wars.
The period of time between World War I and World War II was known as the interbellum; while the world was recovering from the devastating effects from the Great War the interbellum was also a renaissance of sorts. Not only were there major advancements in technology, it also spawned the Roaring Twenties, a period of economic prosperity coupled with social, cultural and artistic dynamism. We owe, for example, suffrage and Art Deco to that era.
More importantly, at least for us, it was also the time that cocktail culture first started to really take off in Europe. ATLAS head bartender Jesse Vida, with his new cocktail menu “Interbellum” – his first-ever for the grand lobby bar, which took the 8th spot in the recent World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 – draws inspiration from that period. We utterly loved his ATLAS French 75, a twist on the classic French 75 using peach liqueur to add a sweet fruity element that’s balanced by a touch of citric salt on the rim.
If you love your whisky sour, Mr. Schultze’s Sour – named after the person responsible for the beverage programme on the doomed Hindenburg – is a more herbal take with a touch of absinthe and Four Pillars Shiraz gin. Then there’s The Boy King, named for the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun whose tomb was discovered in 1922; this is a bone-dry, wine-based highball comprising of Champagne, Oloroso sherry, and sweet vermouth, balanced with some bitterness from Aperol and black lemon bitters.
One can now say ATLAS has finally found a cocktail theme to match its Art Deco grandeur.
IB HQ continues to blend seemingly bizarre flavours.
First opened in September 2018 by cocktail veteran Kamil Foltan – he used to be head bartender at Tippling Club and group beverage manager for the Potato Head Group – IB HQ was the very antithesis of a cocktail bar; located in a shophouse in Kampong Glam it was more concerned with the marrying of flavours that you don’t think would go together than making a business out of it.
We’re glad they’ve been able to continue that flavour exploration with their new cocktail offerings. Think of the new menu as an evolution of the previous one; the IB Colada, for example, borrows the same spirit – a pineapple and parsnip distillation – from its popular Pi Pa cocktail and blends it with coconut and sesame for a totally different drink, or the Diamond Musa, which elevates the previous Musa Old Fashioned variation with cocoa and coconut. We’re also big fans of the Pandan Sazerac, which combines pandan-infused whisky, fig-infused VSOP cognac, yellow Chartreuse and bitters for a punchy tipple.
IB HQ also offers a special Bartender’s Table – think of it as a kind of cocktail omakase that features a single ingredient. The current one explores Japanese tea culture using teas such as genmaicha and gyokuro for making a slew of very interesting cocktails.
IB HQ | 774A North Bridge Road, Singapore 198742 (Google Maps link) | 5pm to 12mn Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays | 9152 4550
Tippling Club’s “A Guide To Modern Drinking” shows you how to drink what you eat.
Award-winning restaurant bar Tippling Club has experimented with many a playful theme over the years – a collaboration with New York-based fragrance makers International Flavors & Fragrances led to its Sensorium menu, for example, where patrons picked their cocktail based off a preferred fragrance, and another where you chose your tipple by the taste of the gummy bear you like.
Its latest cocktail menu by head bartender Andrew Loudon and chef-owner Ryan Clift, “A Guide To Modern Drinking”, is a cocktail exploration inspired by the classic French dishes as outlined in Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 culinary tome “Le Guide Culinaire”. Those who enjoy their spirited drinks the Titanic – Escoffier did design the grand food menus on the ship’s ill-fated voyage – is a powerful concoction put together with marsala wine, Scotch whisky, white port and vermouth (essentially spirits and liqueurs one could have sourced on an ocean voyage from Britain down the Atlantic Ocean right into the Mediterranean, of course). Then there’s the rather gin-based Veloute – modelled after the vegetable-based French sauce – that’s botanical and savoury.
As you can probably imagine the greatest inspiration rightfully came from the book’s dessert section – we’re big fans of the Peaches Cardinale, a twist on the Negroni that really exhibits the stone fruit characters you’d expect in the dessert, as well as the Poire Helene, another spirit-forward cocktail that – as with either a good digestif or sweet repast – we recommend you end the evening with.
The Monarchy explores movie themes with “Folklore & Fiction”.
The Monarchy opened last year with a drinks menu that celebrated Cool Britannia – a movement in the ’90s dedicated to fostering pride in all things British – and cocktails cheekily named after famous songs by British musicians throughout the decades. For their latest cocktail menu “Folklore & Fiction” talented young lead bartender Benjamin Poh and his team has put together a rather smashing cocktail menu that follows a similar vein, but instead of music it drew inspiration from British movies over the decades.
Perhaps you may like the refreshing cuteness of Paddington Bear, a gin and tonic made with Monkey 47 gin and tinged with some marmalade and rosemary syrup. Or be enchanted by the Harry Potter, an alcoholic twist to butter beer using butter fat-washed Copper Dog whisky and salted caramel topped with ice cream soda.
Then there’s Mary Poppins, an intoxicating tipple made with Punt e Mes, dry vermouth, Cinzano bitters, Montenegro and Fernet Branca that makes you want to break out in song. For those who have a sweet tooth will definitely enjoy the rich and creamy rum-based drink Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.
But for us the top-rated cocktail has got to be Sherlock Holmes, the twist on the Old Fashioned sees Remy Martin VSOP, Talisker 10 and even smoked oak combined that must give you a whiff of what the legendary pipe-smoking detective could have smelled like. The Benedict Cumberbatch version too, no less.
The Monarchy | 56 Tras Street, Singapore 078995 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 3am Tuesdays to Fridays; 6pm to 4am on Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays | 8268 5001
Junior The Pocket Bar’s “Petite Chalet” reimagines drinking in
When our favourite hidden pint-sized speakeasy bar Junior The Pocket Bar first launched in 2017 it kicked off with “NORMA”, a pop-up concept that explored agave-based spirits and cocktails. Following that the teeny, weeny little space then morphed into an iteration celebrating New Orleans’ influence on the cocktail world and then again into another that paid homage to Tiki culture.
For the rotating concept bar’s latest incarnation though, bartender-owner Joe Alessandroni has introduced “Petite Chalet”, inspired by the 1970s ski scene. That is, if Alpine ski lodges had access to a wide range of excellent spirits and liqueurs plus a really talented bartender. We’re not sure what skiers of that era imbibed of in the evenings after shredding the ski slopes, but we reckon they weren’t the good stuff Alessandroni is shaking up at Junior.
You’re looking at 20 different cocktails spread across four seasons. For spring try Killer Queen, a botanical highball made with Citadelle Original gin, lemon, blueberry, rhubarb and elderflower for a refreshing tipple, while the Garden Gnome from the summer section – put together with tequila, absinthe, and gentian, along with some cucumber and lime – may sound and taste innocent but is strong enough to knock you out unawares.
It’s the spirit-forward drinks here that will truly please, if anything to fortify you against the cold in Junior (the air-conditioning’s been pushed to max to simulate Alpine weather). We love Sweater Weather – a cognac-based cocktail combining Pierre Ferrand 1840, dark rum, spiced pear, bianco vermouth and honey – from autumn, and likewise Cuckoo Clock, made with brown butter-washed rye whisky, apple brandy, Benedictine DOM, green walnut liqueur and Italian vermouth.
As a theme “Petite Chalet” may be campy – and almost tacky – but it’s certainly fun; more importantly the cocktails are great.
Junior The Pocket Bar | 43 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088464 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 12mn Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays | 8121 1462
The Lounge Bar relooks at incorporating Savoie herbs into its cocktails.
Modern European establishment Restaurant JAG must be riding high upon landing a star at this year’s Michelin Singapore 2019 announcement, but the restaurant isn’t resting on its laurels and neither is its upstairs bar. Just as the restaurant explores the use of herbs from the French region of Savoie in its cuisine, The Lounge Bar explores the very same herbs in its cocktails. But with the changing of the seasons gives the perfect excuse for the bar to tweak its offerings, and that’s exactly what it did.
You may remember the Agastache from the previous cocktail menu; bartenders Neo Yong Siang and Iain Goh has tweaked the Pisco Sour somewhat, putting together agastache-infused pisco with Allain Milliat Merlot juice for a fruitier flavour. But if you’re looking for something totally new, Sage will appeal to tequila fans; you’re looking at a cocktail composed of tequila that’s been infused with French sage, and then mixed with bitter Averna, Cointreau and lime for a herbaceous hit.
Also new is Tilleul, now our favourite cocktail at The Lounge Bar. This arrestingly-strong drink is inspired by the Old Fashioned and uses Bulleit Rye whisky with Angostura bitters, Chartreuse and then smoked with dried Tilleul herbs for amazing aromatics. What’s particularly unusual is also the addition of a house-made Tilleul vinegar, its tangy flavour bringing proffering an unique touch especially for an Old Fashioned.
By the way, we recommend you drop in on its newly-introduced dedicated cocktail evenings – Martini Tuesdays, Gin & Tonic Wednesdays and Thirsty Thursdays – for special deals on drinks. If you’re visiting on Martini Tuesdays, try the Watini – this is about the filthiest dirty Martini you can get this side of town.
The Lounge Bar | 76A Duxton Road, Level 2, Singapore 089535 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 12mn Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays | 9686 5440
Mona Lounge gains inspiration from Cantonese and local flavours for its new cocktails.
Mona Lounge, ensconced on one of the shophouse floors at Sum Yi Tai, is a hidden speakeasy cocktail bar that’s a hat-tip to ’80s Hong Kong. But unlike the more rambunctious Sum Yi Tai downstairs, this cocktail hideout – dedicated to a fictitious triad leader’s wife – is far cosier and quieter… and perfectly suited for a gang meeting.
We jest. Unlike most other cocktail bars in Singapore Mona Lounge is a lot more Eastern in its approach; between the decor and the nostalgic Cantonese tunes there’s also a cocktail menu that’s inspired by Cantonese and Singapore cuisine. Consider the Longevity Spritzer, a take on the highball with chrysanthemum-infused gin, Suze and tonic for a soul-cleansing tipple. Otherwise there’s the Yuen Yeung, a variation of the classic White Russian derived from oolong tea-infused rum, Kahlua and milk foam to simulate the favourite tea and coffee combination in Hong Kong’s cha chaan tengs.
But if you’re really looking to challenge your palate, try My Favourite Roast, a cocktail interpretation of char siew rice made with Remy Martin VSOP, Singleton whisky, homemade char siu syrup, calamansi, cucumber and chilli padi. Just as bizarre would be Supper Sipper, this rye whiskey-based hot toddy is based on Bak Kut Teh, and even comes with some you tiao (dough fritters) for you to dip into your drink.
Mona Lounge | 25B Boon Tat Street, Level 2, Singapore 069622 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 1am Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays | 6221 3665