Gutsy little Flow Bar by veteran bartender Ricky Paiva – a collaboration with Michelin-starred restaurant JAG – looks set to make waves in Singapore’s resurgent cocktail scene.
Ricky Paiva, the founder of one of Singapore’s newest cocktail joints Flow Bar, is a seasoned veteran of the scene. The moustachioed Californian native first arrived in Singapore back in 2014 to help start what is now multi-award winning Manhattan in Regent Singapore, and has been a fixture in the local cocktail bar industry ever since. Often animated, sometimes mercurial, Paiva moved on to various gigs, including helping open Sentosa bar restaurant Panamericana and various bars in the now-defunct Sixth Senses Maxwell, as well as serving a stint as a Bacardi trade ambassador.
This year Paiva finally struck out on his own by starting up Flow Bar, a cosy little bar on the second floor of a Duxton Hill shophouse.
But not just any shophouse. Paiva’s new drinking hole occupies the upper floor of Michelin-starred fine-dining modern French restaurant JAG in the Duxton Hill F&B enclave. It takes over from cocktail bar IB HQ, which closed down recently. Prior to IBHQ the space was The Lounge Bar, run directly by JAG.
Flow Bar is an official collaboration between Paiva and JAG, one that was a long time coming. JAG co-owner and managing director Anant Tyagi first met Paiva seven years ago at a now-closed cocktail venue. “He left such a mark on me that day, through his warm hospitality and stellar talent, that I told myself, we shall most certainly work together one day,” Tyagi shared.
Hospitality. “I decided on the name Flow Bar because I wanted to go back what it means to provide hospitality,” Ricky explained. “To go with the flow, to not say no to customers. Why should bartenders tell customers that they should or should not drink in a certain way?”
That sounds like a recipe for trouble – especially with unreasonable customers – but Paiva is adamant. “Two things that won’t exist at my bar are – pretentiousness and the word no,” said. “We’re in the service industry. I always aim to make my guests feel welcome, relaxed and comfortable. If they want their favourite classics, they will get it.”
That said Paiva is hopeful that customers are willing to explore and try his signature drinks, as well as special seasonal cocktails that crop up.
The drinks menu is split into three sections. There’s ‘Living Room’, a section dedicated to familiar classics, and ‘Garden’, where you’ll find seasonal botanical-forward cocktails as inspired by nature. Then there’s ‘Playground’, for cocktails of a more experimental kind; here’s where Paiva would list his competition drinks as well.
I really did like the Darke & Stormie from the ‘Living Room’ section – Paiva’s take of that rum and ginger ale highball which eschews the usual bitters for some PX sherry – which helped wash off the heat of the day. The char from burnt lemon in the Burnt Lemon Whisky Sour – such a simple but amazing tweak! – added a lovely layer of complexity to the drink. And if you love your Espresso Martini, Paiva’s version isn’t ludicrously sweet like most other versions despite the use of dulce de leche.
The highballs from ‘Garden’ are refreshingly simple and straightforward. Citrus combines gin, lemongrass, lime, and seltzer; Basil puts together Hendrick’s Orbium, basil, bitters, seltzer; and Thyme is Smoky Monkey Shoulder whisky with lemon thyme, lime, and selzter.
‘Playground’ is more fun. Cinnamon Girl is apple pie meets whiskey sour. The Manhattan take that is Jesse James exudes roguish charm with a balanced sweetness that cleverly hides its booziness; it’ll rob you of your sobriety as you slowly sip on it.
Don’t forget to peruse the bar food menu. The advantage of being located within Michelin-starred JAG is access to a fully-equipped kitchen and a talented team headed by award-winning Chef Jeremy Gillon who can create bar bites unlike any other. Here I’ll see your truffle fries and raise you a Farçon Savoyard, a bite-sized take on the traditional Savoie specialty of potato, bacon, and cheese. Even more refined is Blue Crab, a creamy crab dip scented with laksa leaves and lemon thyme that you scoop up with toasted bread. Or what about an Artichoke Hummus, a savoury dip made with roasted artichoke, hazelnuts and olives?
In time to come, we’ll also see Flow Bar work even more closely with JAG. “I’m personally excited to use those seasonal herbs that JAG employs in its cuisine in some of my drinks,” Paiva said. “And there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t see folks in the dining room downstairs pair their meal with cocktails from Flow Bar.”
Ricky Paiva may seem more than willing to let his customers state their preferences and dictate how they want themselves to be served. Me, I really rather have Paiva decide on my behalf… and go with the flow.
[Image credits: Flow Bar | JAG]
Address Level 2, 76A Duxton Road, Singapore 089535 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5pm to 10pm Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays