Our November Drinkspotting 2020 edition looks at some of the refreshed cocktail menus at some of our favourite cocktail bars.
There is plenty to think about as we come into November, and foremost on our minds is that we’re almost coming to the end of the year. This means that many of our favourite drinking holes are prepping themselves for the holiday season, arming themselves with new cocktail offerings to attract revellers in the coming weeks.
From spacious award-winning hotel cocktail bar Manhattan to cosily intimate hole-in-the-wall Junior The Pocket Bar, here are four refreshed cocktail menus we insist you check out in this month of November.
Glamorous nultiple award-winning hotel cocktail bar Manhattan in Regent Singapore first opened its doors in 2014, but you may be surprised to learn they’ve ever only had two major menu concept refreshes since then. Its first menu revamp brought revellers the different districts of New York City; a cocktail journey through Harlem in 2016 for example, followed by another seasonal jaunt inspired by New York’s sprawling 843-acre Central Park. Then from 2017 it unveiled a menu that took diners through the different time periods of New York City’s iconic Manhattan district.
This new major menu refresh shines the spotlight on a select number of prominent people who either was born in New York City or now call the metropolis their home. “New York Personified” looks at the lives of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, fashion designer Vera Wang, punk rock band The Ramones, actor Robert Downey Jr., and music icon Ella Fitzgerald, and reinterprets significant events in their lives as cocktails.
For example, the After Hours under Bourdain’s section is a take on the white Negroni; the Never Never Triple Juniper Gin, Cocchi Americano and Saler’s Gentian concoction draws inspiration from a cheese-loaded truffle foccacia, one of Bourdain’s favourite after-shift supper eats. Then there’s Eleanor Roosevelt’s Milkorno, a twist on the classic Milk Punch using Del Maguey Vida Mezcal and Michter’s Straight Bourbon whiskey.
Our favourite cocktail of the new lot though has to be 3000, which – as you can probably guess – comes from the iconic line from Robert Downey Jr’s character Tony Stark’s iconic line in Avengers: End Game. Comprising of Flor de Cana 12 Year rum, chocolate, vanilla cream and strawberry dust, this tastes wholly like a cocktail version of Neapolitan ice cream and is perfect to end a boozy night.
Ballroom at Barbary Coast.
Dual cocktail bar concept Barbary Coast – home to rough-and-tumble Deadfall on the first floor, and the opulent yet cosy Ballroom on an upper one – first opened its doors at the start of this year just a couple of months before COVID-19 shut it (and all other bars) down. But it has since reopened since the circuit breaker period, and with their newly revamped cocktail menus both Deadfall and Ballroom have been packing in revellers thirsting for a good time.
The elegantly kitted Barbary Coast Ballroom’s new menu, in particular, combines a number of favourites from its menu from launch along with a few new ones developed during the enforced shutdown. While best-selling favourites Tommy Tomate and Buttered Paloma have been retained in the new menu, revellers can expect fresh new creations from Barbary Coast co-founders Michael Callahan and Celia Schoonrad.
New highlights include Stay Puft, a liberal bourbon twist on the French 95 named after the Marshmallow Man in the movie Ghostbusters using a blend of Michter’s and Buffalo Trace bourbons, lemon, and a touch of champagne. Then there’s the cheekily-named Pea-Ness, a concoction of Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, Beefeater Lacto-fermented apple, pea water, and lemon that’s strangely refreshing yet potent.
We’re also big fans of the No Sleep Coast, a Mezcal twist on the Negroni named as a tribute to rising star cocktail bar No Sleep Club that’s spirit forward yet incredibly well-balanced. Also worth an order is ‘A ‘A Waiu, a clarified milk punch, or the ridiculously boozy Earl of Montrose, a Scotch version of the Manhattan that blends four different whiskies.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t advise you to also order Lobster for eats. This decadent mac and cheese comes as creamed Späetzle topped with smoked Gruyere and butter-poached lobster, which should sufficiently line your tummy for the duration you’re at Ballroom.
Barbary Coast | 16 North Canal Road, Singapore 048828 (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 10.30pm on Mondays; 6pm to 10.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 6pm to 10.30pm on Thursdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays | 8869 4798
The Elephant Room.
The Elephant Room opened up in the Keong Saik nightlife enclave in September 2019, introducing a bar concept that spotlighted the culture and heritage of Singapore’s iconic Little India district. It was to introduce a revamped cocktail menu earlier this year, COVID-19 put paid to any such plans.
But bartender-owner Yugnes Susela and his team took the opportunity during Singapore’s circuit breaker to conceptualise new cocktails and rework existing ones. We liked the idea of Indian A.F, a rum twist on the clarified milk punch that’s based on kulfi with its flavours of yogurt, pistachio, and saffron. Banana King sees gin that’s been infused with roasted banana combined with sandalwood liqueur for an intoxicating aroma. It’s also an exercise in sustainability, the tipple employing almost every part of the banana – skin, flesh, leaves, and all – in its making.
There’s also the cheeky Karmasutra, a new potent, spirit-imbued creation made with rum redistilled with spices known for their aphrodisiacal qualities. It’s mixed with garlic wine for a potent number, and even comes with a side of blue pills (made from white chocolate) to ensure you stay and last the night. We’re real glad to see our favourite gin and tonic twist Buffalo Road retained on the menu, but this time with a fancy pink guava jelly garnish.
For bites make sure you order the Gunpowder Calamari – which fuses classic Italian calarami fritti with Indian “gunpowder” spice – that will set your tongue alight but in a good way.
Junior The Pocket Bar.
With Junior The Pocket Bar it’s not quite so much a new menu as a new location. Originally located along Tanjong Pagar Road, tiny little speakeasy Junior has moved over to slightly larger new digs over on Ann Siang Hill.
It’s also carried over its current modern Japanese-inflected pop-up cocktail concept “Washi” – launched barely weeks before the circuit breaker shutdown – over to the new 25-seater location. Inspired by Tokyo’s Golden Gai district in Shinjuku, “Washi” is the bar’s fifth instalment – following cocktail conceptualisations such as Mezcal-focused Norma at launch, Tiki-inspired Pacifica, and the New Orleans-influenced Magnolia, among others. What we really like about the new space is that Junior has partnered Pernod Ricard-led The Jigger Collective and a bunch of local designers to add their creative touch, from the mural on the back wall by Melvin Ong of Desinere or the bespoke staff jackets created exclusively by fashion designer Josiah Chua.
Cocktails are as delicious as they’re fun-sounding. Crane is a refreshing concoction made with kyoho grape, sakura infused vermouth, cognac and lemon, while Dragonfly combines Lillet Blanc, orange yuzu, brown butter and junmai sake for a complex, umami bomb. Be sure to try Unicorn, the Monkey 47 gin-based clarified milk punch possessing more layers of flavour than an origami bird has folds.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention its new bar grub. Somehow Junior manages to conjure in its incredulously tiny kitchen some of the tastiest eats this side of Ann Siang Hill. The Mala Hot Chicken somehow infuses a Southern fried chicken sandwich with Szechuan mala spice, just as it merges a American beef dip with the Vietnamese bahn mi for its French Dip Bành Mí. Neither sandwich is Japanese in any way, but who cares when they’re both so delicious?
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