Whether you’re looking for a taste of the familiar or in the mood to try something new, these are our favourite new places to go for a tipple.
Bet you didn’t know there’s a secret cocktail bar at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza hotel.
To access it, walk into the main lobby, knock on the plain black door (there’s no signage on it), and wait for someone to usher you in. But of course, you can also get assistance from the hotel reception.
Helming the bar is Dario Knox, who has already proven to be a formidable cocktail master from his days at the now-defunct Catalunya, and FOC ─ The Other Room’s sister concept.
The cocktail menu here also bears Dario’s signature style of giving comprehensive information to the customers. Apart from the list of ingredients, each cocktail (from $19) on the page is also accompanied by icons that indicate everything from the type of glassware, how strong the drinks are, right down to how intently sweet/sour/smoky/refreshing it is.
There’s even a bit of a history lesson thrown in, with snippets on the origins of each cocktail and which pre/during/post Prohibition era it hails from. There are aged cocktails to try too. And of course, you can also order a classic or go the bespoke route.
There’s no denying that your cocktails here will be on point. That’s almost expected, when a bar has Dario’s name atttached to it. But what makes The Other Room particularly compelling is its collection of over 150 spirits that have been either cask or spice finished in-house.
It may be a thinly veiled excuse for Dario and his team to geek out, but it’s also an eye-opener for us in appreciating how a single variable such as the type of cask or spice can really affect a spirit.
The best way to try it is to order a tasting flight. Instead of trying three different labels of the same type of liquor, order a flight of the same liquor done three different ways: in its original form, and in two different cask finishes. Prices for a flight of three start from $23 for Zacapa 23 rum, and go up to $58 for Springbank 18 whisky, comprising three 15ml pours.
But that’s not it. The Other Room offers another unexpected twist in the form a of dark, glass vial of… distilled water. The brief is simple, but strict: Try each pour neat ─ without any water breaks in between ─ then try them again with a single drop of water. Then again with five drops of water. Keep on experimenting.
It sounded incredulous, but we were amazed to discover that even a single drop of water was sufficient to illicit profound differences in taste. And the effect also varies depending on the spirit.
Case in point: For our Paul John whisky flight, the original, rum cask, and grenache cask versions tasted similar at the beginning but became more and more different with each additional drop of water. Yet when we tried the Ledaig 10 whisky, what started as three disparate profiles started to converge and tasted more and more similar after adding water. Mindblown.
The Other Room, lobby level, Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road, tel: 8300-6085. Open Mon-Thu, 6pm-3am; Fri-Sun, 6pm-4am. fb.com/TheOtherRoomSG
Gin is in, and the Conrad Centennial is embracing it fully with a specialised gin menu that’s aptly named The Gin Experience.
There are two ways to get your gin on.
You can mix and match your own G&T from their list of twelve gins, seven craft tonics and sodas from East Imperial Tonic Waters, eight bitters, and three garnishes.
Or you can leave it to the experts. There’s a suggested flavour combination for each of the twelve gins, and based on what we’ve tried, you’re in good hands.
The concoctions are generally on the fruity side, such as Beefeater 24 with the Burma Tonic, strawberries, and mint; Ransom Old Tom Gin with the Yuzu Tonic, rhubarb bitters, cloves and dates; and Plymouth Original with ginger ale, lemon, and coriander seeds.
The cocktails are priced at $22, or $12 during their Gin-o’clock that runs between 5-7pm daily. But you can easily extend that happy hour price by posting a photo (selfies, wefies, cocktail pictures, anything) on social media with the hashtag, #GetGinspired.
The Lobby Lounge, Conrad Centennial Singapore, Two Temasek Boulevard, tel: 6432-7483. fb.com/conradsingapore
This one is as much as for beer lovers, as it is for people who’ve never understood the appeal of beer. Sounds contradictory? Here’s how the South Beach’s hip new watering hole bridges the dichotomy.
There are eight locally made craft beers on tap ─ the bar is opened by the same owners behind Little Island Brewing Co at Changi Village, so it’s all their own brews ─ as well as another eight, swanky glass-and-steel towers that house beers and ciders that have been infused with fruits, herbs and spices.
The pricing system is pretty simple: anything from the tap is $12 a glass during their happy hour (noon to 7pm), and $15 afterwards. But the difference is that ordering the “regular” beers get you 470ml pours, whereas the infused stuff come in 330ml serves. Better yet, grab another two friends because a set of three drinks is just $30 during happy hour and $38 after.
For beers, the list is comprehensive, with everything from lagers to stouts. Names like “whenever” (pale lager) and “a whiter shade of pale” (you guessed it ─ it’s a pale ale) provide chuckles after a long day too.
But back to the non-beer crowd. Most complaints about beer are about hoppiness or astringent tastes, but the infused taps mitigate that with cocktail-like friendliness.
Among our favourites from the infused list were 50 Shades of Pink, and Obama. The former is a real fruity number ─ it’s cider infused with pink guava, zesty with a refreshing sweetness. The Obama is so-named because Irish stout forms the base, with vanilla pods, mint leaves and toasted marshmallows thrown into the fray. The combination sounds bizarre, but it tastes very dessert-like, almost like a sweet black coffee with a hint of mint.
The drinks on tap do change every couple of days, which makes it perfect as a regular hangout ─ there’ll always be a handful of familiar items, but there’s also always something new to try.
Don’t pass over the food menu either. The bar bites here make this spot a worthy gastropub. Think soft-shell tacos loaded with juicy, smoked wagyu brisket; duck fat chips served with lemon aioli; and wickedly addictive Thai-style chicken wings that’s simultaneously sticky sweet and limey.
Alchemist Beer Lab, #B1-16 South Beach Avenue, 26 Beach Road, tel: 6386-4365. Open Mon-Thu, noon-midnight; Fri, noon-2am; Sat, noon-midnight. fb.com/AlchemistBeerLab
“Cin cin” refers to that happy clink of glasses toasting, and CBD folks, there’s plenty to toast to at this gin-centric bar at the new Oasia Hotel Downtown at Tanjong Pagar.
It’s a shrine to gin, with 84 different gin labels (and counting!) from all over the world. Some of these were painstaking tracked down by the head barman, Fadly Sujebto,. And some of these were a result of sheer serendipity ─ such as the elusive Napue Gin from Finland’s Kyro Distillery that Fadly near gave up trying to bring in, until the brewer himself suddenly walked into Cin Cin one day!
The double-page cocktails menu is a good way to start.
The Earlgroni ($18) ─ an Earl Grey-infused Bull Dog gin laced with campari, citrus-and-spice bitters, and dried orange slices ─ had the promised fragrance of bergamot, trailed by a mellow, sweet finish. The eponymous Cin Cin ($20) takes on a quirky, Asian-inspired slant, pairing the Bulldog gin with Lillet (a French aromatic aperitif) that’s been infused with threads of togarashi (Japanese chillies) for a grapefruit-scented drink that slowly develops a pleasant heat at the back of the throat.
We also recommend you keep your eyes peeled for their monthly specials, especially if barrel-aged cocktails are your thing.
But of course, you can go the bespoke route and order a G&T or martini to your personal preference. Last we checked, there were 13 tonics, 11 vermouths and shrubs, and 14 bitters to go with their extensive list of gins. Prices are fairly reasonable; DIY martinis are either $24 or $26m, whereas G&Ts largely hover between $16 and $22.
The obligatory Happy Hour is pretty legit too, with 1-for-1 deals on the Cin Cin martini, house-pour beers and wines everyday, 5pm to 8pm.
#01-02 Oasia Hotel Downtown, 100 Peck Seah Street, tel: 6385-2604. Open Sun-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri & Sat, 5pm-1am. fb,com/cincinsg
It may be positioned as a laidback, neighbourhood dive bar where anyone can have a casual drink without fuss, but mind you, the drinks here are nothing to snub your noses at.
Surprise fact: This affable “little bro” to its more famous cocktail bar siblings ─ Jigger & Pony, Sugarhall, Gibson ─ actually houses the largest range of whiskies in the family, with over 200 labels.
Here, the vibe is chill, down-to-earth. The food and drinks menu is a succinct two-pager. The regulars comprise 16 cocktails ($20 to $22), two punch bowls, four beers and two wines; and there’s the other “Whiskies We Love” page that changes monthly to spotlight two tasting flights and six small-batch gems. For instance, the focus for the month of November is on rarefied whiskies: a pair of first releases, another set of limited edition bottles, and two cult favourites from defunct distilleries.
(We’re told there’s also a tome-like version if you really fancy thumbing through never-ending menu pages.)
We’re extremely partial to a good ole, erm, Old Fashioned, so Flagship immediately piqued our interest when it declared itself as “Home of the Old Fashioned”. Like everything else about the place, the selection of Old Fashioned cocktails is concise, with one classic, and three tea-infused variations.
Go try them all, but especially Journey of the West ($22), which is a collab between the principal barman, Jerrold Khoo, and cocktail maestro Yao Lu from Shanghai’s award-winning Union Trading Company. It’s an East-meets-West concept put together with hojicha-infused Bulleit bourbon, house-made Guinness reduction, cherry, vanilla, and whisky barrel-aged bitters. Although the hojicha aspect is only vaguely discernible, the combination of cherry and Guinness syrup lent a soft sweetness that gave the drink a rounded mouthfeel.
Plus, it’s served in a very collectible hip flask-like bottle. They’ve roped in tattoo artist Feroze Mcleod from Hounds of the Baskervilles for the label design, and even thrown in a wood chip (chopped up from oak barrels that were used to finish Japanese whiskys) into each bottle for good measure ─ every bottle will be different, they say, with the wood chip adding tannins as it ages.
The Matcha Alexander Fizz ($20) sounded way out of the park ─ gin, cognac, green tea, almond milk and cacao ─ but it proved to be a fine example of Jerrold’s mastery with his tipples. There was the telltale bittersweetness of matcha, fullness from the almond milk, and a palate-cleansing quality from the soda finish; all of them unlikely bedfellows yet somehow, Jerrold negotiated a harmonious counterbalance between them. Oh and did we mention that it’s also topped with a crazy good, buttery wafer?
There are satisfying morsels to be had too, from sticky sweet Pok Pok Chicken Wings (created from memory after a trip to Portland’s famous Pok Pok eatery) and citrusy, fork-tender Pork Ribs ($23), to the immensely crunchy and tender Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($15).
We’ve saved the best news for last. Flagship has what we consider the best happy hour deal in town, because it’s 1-for-1, every single night from 6pm to 8pm, for the classic Old Fashioned. You know where to find us.
Flagship, 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel: 6750-4461. Open Mon-Thu, 6pm-1am; Fri & Sat, 6pm-2am. fb.com/theflagshipsg/
KTV meets cocktails. About time, we say.
If Flagship is the bar for a stiff pick-me-up after a long day, Skinny’s is where you head to afterwards to croon away all your work stress.
It’s so grungy you’ll never mistake it for a hipster joint. Bartender-owner Nick Haas’s irreverent side is evident from his deliberate decision to retain the Boat Quay KTV-style decor, complete with grafitti, gaudy lights and pool tables.
But luckily, the drinks here are solid ─ none of haphazard nonsense that the bulk of its riverside neighbours pass off as “cocktails”.
The menu is straightforward and affordably placed, with most cocktails in the $15 to $18 range. Get a classic Caipiroska ($18) if you want a refreshing opener, or go Scotch with the Penicillin ($18) for a smoky nightcap.
The KTV room is generally a communal space for customers to share, but you can also reserve it for private use with a minimum spend of $200 per hour, or $500 for three hours. That’s easily achievable if you get a round of the Pimm’s Cup cocktail tower ($200) to share ─ it’s good for 12, but this summery punch also very doable when if you’re just a quartet.
Skinny’s happy hour promotions are quite a hoot too. Tinder Tuesdays are for couples who’ve met on the dating app ─ you get free drinks upon show your matches; and Wednesdays are Ladies Disco nights with retro beats and a free bottle of sparkling rose for every group of four women ─ heck, the men also qualify as long as they come dressed in their drag queen best!
Skinny’s Lounge, 82 Boat Quay, tel: 9653-8886. Open Mon-Fri, 5pm-3am, Sat, 7pm-4am. fb.com/drinkskinnys
Tippling Club is one of the most avant-garde restaurants in town, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they’ve partnered with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (IFF, a multi-national consultancy firm for all things to do with fragrances) to unveil its latest cocktail “menu” ─ Sensorium.
First sign of unusual tidings: instead of a conventional printed menu, customers will be presented with a bar strainer “tray” of fragrance strips. Each labelled strip has been anointed with the olfactory essence of the cocktail it represents. The twelve cocktails are all priced uniformly at $22, so that your choice is wholly guided by the fragrance that takes your fancy.
And that’s the magic of the whole experience. The Sensorium Menu plays on the way our taste perceptions are influenced by what we smell, and the way our scent memories evoke favourable or hostile attitudes to what we taste.
Take, for instance, Campfire, where scent, presentation and taste work together to surface cosy memories of school campfires and barbecues through a careful composition of gin, burnt syrup, ash, marshmallow milk and blow-torched marshmallow on a twig. Or Leather, served in a leather-encased metal tumbler and smells uncannily of new leather; a little raw, a little smoky, a little luxurious, teased from a savvy alchemy of pedro ximenz, whisky, orange and vanilla. And the Negroni here is really an ultra Negroni, emphasised with an an “orange” slice that’s actually negroni-flavoured gelatin artfully moulded onto orange peel.
It’s wildly creative and no easy feast. The process starts with a scent concept ─ a discussion among IFF, the new head bartender Joe Schofield, and chef-owner Ryan Clift ─ that’s followed up by fervent R&D by the Tippling Club team to conjure up ingenious new ways of extracting flavours and designing garnishes. Each and every component has a purpose in telling a cohesive olfactory story. There are lots of mad scientist experimentation too, such as using ultrasonic soundwaves to rapidly induce barrel-aged flavour for Negroni.
The only disappointment we have, is that IFF is not making any of the cocktail fragrances available for retail, otherwise, that really would have been the next best thing to actually imbibing a cocktail. IFF is just not in that business. But who knows, maybe if we all band up to request at every visit, they’ll consider our pleas.
Tippling Club, 38 Tanjong Pagar Road, tel: 6475-2217. Open Mon-Sat, noon-midnight. fb.com/tipplingclub/