The new Barbary Coast in Boat Quay is actually two bars in one multi-level shophouse space – there’s the more rough-and-tumble Deadfall on the first floor, and the opulent Ballroom on an upper one.
One of the latest bars to open up in Singapore’s increasingly crowded cocktail scene is actually two concept bars in a single space. Barbary Coast, which officially opened its doors in early January this year on North Canal Road in the Boat Quay entertainment and nightlife enclave, actually harbours both Deadfall and Ballroom.
Those familiar with the history of the California Gold Rush that took place from the mid-1800s may have heard of Barbary Coast, the red light district – complete with dance halls, bars and brothels – that sprung up in San Francisco to service the burgeoning population. There were the deadfalls, the pop-up bars of their era that catered to the aspiring gold miner and the downtrodden; then there were the ballrooms, the far more elegant drinking holes that catered to a better-heeled crowd (basically those who struck gold).
And that, essentially, is the inspiration behind Barbary Coast here in Singapore. Deadfall, on the first floor, is a hipster take on the dive bar. Upstairs is Ballroom, an opulent wall-papered cocktail bar with a madame’s touch.
“We first fell in love with the era and the concept for Barbary Coast,” says co-founder and industry veteran Michael Callahan, “but as we dug deeper into the history, we realised we had an opportunity to recreate something that also could have once been here, in what would one day become Singapore.” Callahan was, of course, referring to Boat Quay’s rough-and-tumble history in Singapore’s earliest days, where opium dens and brothels were rife along the riverfront.
The colourful characters of Deadfall.
Unlike its namesakes Deadfall thankfully doesn’t serve up drinks that could make you go blind. It does, however, have really affordable cocktails, and at S$14++ per pop are some of the best-priced along that stretch. Here you order them by colour; Pink, for example is a vodka strawberry lime soda concoction that’s refreshing without being overly sweet. There’s Red, which is essentially an Old Fashioned topped with beer. On the other hand, rum-based Yellow is a tepache on steroids.
Despite their simple names, there’s plenty of mixologist wizardry that goes into those cocktails; co-founder Celia Schoonraad uses the likes of the rotary evaporator to infuse flavours to different spirits to use in them. For example, their take on the gin and tonic Clear, sees the use of a distillate infused with juniper and lime oil combined with house made tonic and Beefeater Gin.
There’s some good bar grub here too, but we’d advise dining somewhere first if you want something substantial. Be sure though to order the TTW Sando ($15++), which is essentially a tater tot waffle sandwich with enough calories to neutralise the amount of alcohol you’re sure to imbibe here.
Or the House Nachos ($12/18++) which even comes with unlimited melted cheese, because who doesn’t want unlimited cheese?
The fancy Ballroom of Barbary Coast.
Then there’s Ballroom. And it’s a vastly different concept to Deadfall; an opulent yet cosy space that dispenses cocktails far fancier than those downstairs. Or champagne if you so choose, at just $100 per bottle of Billecart-Salmon (which you can order at just a press of a button if you’re seated in one of the VIP booths).
But we’re really here for the cocktails.
If you like your tipples strong and punchy, the Sazerac-like One Inch Punch ($24++) is your thing, but the mezcal-based Tommy Tomate (S$22++) is what you want if you like something savoury and smoky.
For fans of the Manhattan, Ballroom’s version the Earl of Montrose ($24++) is a heady concoction made from a blend of three different whiskies – including a couple of Islay ones – with a smoky hit. Then there’s The Cobbler ($24++), a heady mixture of sherries – fino, amontillado, oloroso, and pedro ximenez – with a touch of berries and citrus.
Our vote though goes to Tea with Raspberries and Cream ($21++), a clarified milk punch that’s altogether seductive as it is powerful, much like the madames who ran those Barbary Coast ballrooms of old.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the elaborate cheeseboards here – from Petite (S$50++) to the La Grande Dame ($145++) – comprising of many housemade charcuterie and dips that make up the fanciest bar bites ever.
We think Barbary Coast is that perfect spot to hold a pre-wedding party, where you can have the stag’s night and hen’s night at the same time. That’s right, Barbary Coast Ballroom for the bride-to-be and friends to bond over fancy cocktails and charcuterie, and rustic and more casual Deadfall for them rowdy boys.
Now we’re not familiar with the Barbary Coast of old, and honestly we’re not sure if we’re really interested to relive that era. All we know that this Barbary Coast is a most lively addition to Singapore’s cocktail scene, and we’d happily return for those colourful cocktails.
Address 16 North Canal Road, Singapore 048828 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm to 1am on Mondays; 6pm to 2am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 6pm to 3am on Thursdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Tel (65) 8869 4798