Singapore's best nightlife, drinks culture coming back fast due to Formula One and crypto conference

Updated on Sep 16, 2022 07:46 PM IST

Formula One, with an extra-special night race, is coming to Singapore in late September and early October. Tickets have been selling out minutes after they become available, conferences are being planned around the event and the city-state is in peak anticipation mode.

Singapore's best nightlife, drinks culture coming back fast due to Formula One and crypto conference(Unsplash)
Singapore's best nightlife, drinks culture coming back fast due to Formula One and crypto conference(Unsplash)
Bloomberg | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz

Singapore is truly emerging from pandemic times now. Tourism is roaring back, and in late August, the city-state pulled back on mask mandates as it seeks to position itself as Asia’s leisure and business destination, with a slew of high-profile events lined up for the coming months.

Formula One, with an extra-special night race, is coming in late September and early October. It’s the first Singapore Grand Prix since 2019, and it promises to be huge. Tickets have been selling out minutes after they become available, conferences are being planned around the event, and the city-state is in peak anticipation mode. Raffles Hotel Singapore is fully booked during the F1 period with suite rates from $2,399 ++ per night.

Well-represented on best-bar and best-restaurant lists both in Asia and globally, local hotspots will be even more packed. Here are the 14 best bars in Singapore, picked by Bloomberg and presented in no particular order, for indulging in your new—or old—favorite drink.

Appetite

This bar, just upstairs from chef-owner Ivan Brehm’s Michelin-starred restaurant Nouri, feeds multiple senses at the same time. Not only does it offer cocktails with spirits from unique places such as Goriška Brda, Slovenia, and Jalisco, Mexico, it has art exhibitions that lend energy and excitement to the space and a listening room with hundreds of records mostly from the 1970s and ’80s. “The next few months will see Appetite grow its music program, with a residency platform aimed at lovers of all styles of music,” says Brehm. The bar even did an offsite crypto exhibition last year with displays of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and other digital artwork.

What to order: A plum Negroni riffs on its traditional counterpart by using a plum kernel-based distillate, for S$26 ($18.51), while the Not a Bloody Mary upends the classic restorative with Widges gin, bittersweet tamarillo, and spicy yuzu kosho for S$28.

MO Bar

The Mandarin Oriental’s MO got a huge upgrade on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for 2022, winning the Highest Climber award for its surge from No. 45 to No. 8—and it’s deserved. Service is warm and impeccable. Bar manager Adrian Besa and crew make you feel at home right from the start, and the drink choices have only gotten better. The goal: Have guests “experience the rich culture and history of the Southeast Asia region through cocktails,” says Besa. The menu’s inspirations include the Pacific Ocean, Asia’s ports, and travelers moving around the region, making for a fun story as well as variety in the cocktail choices.

What to order: The Full Moon (S$26) is a crowd-pleaser featuring three-year aged rum, wheatgrass juice, and pear—and a “full moon” with a rabbit design (evocative of the moon rabbit of some cultural myths) floating on top, with multicolored hues made from edible ink around the rim. It’s a trip. For S$25, gin lovers should try the Daintree, with lemon myrtle and “paint” (a by-product of the redistillation of absinthe using MO’s Rotavap), or the Annona, with soursop and pandan.

Writers Bar

As tourists return, so are the lines at the renovated Raffles Hotel’s iconic Long Bar, home of the Singapore Sling. But if you’re in the mood for something less busy, head to the Writers Bar instead: Its classic, intimate feel is a perfect way to finish off an evening. “Guests can expect to be welcomed with luxurious appointed furnishings, lovingly curated mementos, and books, referencing the literary legacy of Raffles,” says Nicholas Alexander, the beverage manager. A large part of the menu was inspired by The Raffles Affair, a crime novel set inside the hotel, from author Vicki Virtue of the Raffles Writers Residency Programme.

What to order: The Million Dollar Cocktail—with Raffles 1915 gin, pineapple, and sweet vermouth—is thankfully only S$30. (The 1915 gin was created for the 100th anniversary of the Sling.) There’s also the Femme Fatale, with Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV Champagne, edible flowers, apple brandy, and Cocchi Rosa, and or the Cold Case, with Chalong Bay Sweet Basil Rum, apricot, orgeat, and coconut, each S$28.

Smoke & Mirrors

It’s hard to beat the view from Smoke & Mirrors, which is housed in Singapore’s National Gallery. The bar looks out on Marina Bay Sands in the distance, and with the historic Padang field in the foreground, it’s a great place to watch the MBS light show that takes place twice a night Sunday through Thursday and three times on Friday and Saturday; it’s also a prime spot for fireworks at festive events. The bar menu is a riot, unfolding like an accordion in a continuous loop from cover to cover. “It’s always fun to see our guests engage with the menu for the first time,” says assistant bar manager Mel John Chavez. The drinks themselves include interactive and theatrical elements, too.

What to order: The Monochrome (S$25), with Naked Malt whisky, Amaro Montenegro, burnt bread cream, and egg. The Man From Manila cocktail (S$27), with Michter’s bourbon, pineapple rum, yam liqueur, jackfruit, and Lillet Blanc, is poured from a container with an image of a painting of bar supervisor Eduardo Zamora. The Magic Queen, which is served with a theatrical magic-trick performance, combines Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Campari, Martini Vermouth Rosso, pandan, coconut oil, and saline, for S$29.

Tippling Club

New head bartender Arathorn Grey has taken over from Andrew Loudon and hasn’t missed a step. Try a spot outside on busy Tanjong Pagar Road for some top-tier people watching or sit inside to take in the edgy art and hip vibe that keeps Tippling Club a perennial favorite on regional and worldwide best-bar lists. “Genuine hospitality, very funny jokes, and of course incredible cocktails and bites,” chef-owner Ryan Clift says of the appeal. “It’s hard to not have a good time with us.”

What to order: Drinks from Tippling often come with some sort of unique garnish or scent. Try the Cracked Cardinal with sage, cognac, palo santo, citrus, white peach, and vetiver for S$25; a Poker Game, with ingredients including frankincense, hay, bourbon and beeswax, costs S$26. A flight of five versions of the vieux carré goes for S$50.

Jigger & Pony

Currently No. 2 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Jigger & Pony keeps up its reputation for great service—gracious hellos and generally prompt attention from the staff—and a fun variety of cocktails that include many of the classics, with elevated twists. “You can always count on a friendly, lively, and sociable experience,” says Giovanni Graziadei, the bar’s operations manager.

What to order: S$28 can get you a sakura martini with Japanese Roku gin, sake, vermouth, sakura (cherry tree) leaf essence, and Merlet crème de peche; a Korean boilermaker with Glenlivet 15-year-old, Lee Gang Ju soju, hops, and passionfruit; or a carbonated Supermojito with Veritas rum, lime, and mint. For bigger parties, there are punch bowls with 15 to 20 servings, like the Chatham Artillery with yuzu-infused Maker’s Mark bourbon, Mount Gay Eclipse rum, Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, sparkling green tea, lemon, and Louis Roederer Champagne for S$330.

Manhattan

With its New York theme and intimate, romantic feel, Manhattan remains on top-bar lists for its consistent approach to the classics, like solera-aged negronis and, of course, manhattans. “In a time where cocktail culture is booming and there is a new drink or venue to try every week,” says Rusty Cerven, the bar manager, Manhattan is “a home to come back to, for that familiarity and reliability.” But it gets even more interesting as an increasing portion of the clientele—a consistent 25% at its adults-only Sunday brunch, according to Cerven—is now opting for a nonalcoholic beverage program done in partnership with the Lyre’s brand of zero-proof spirits.

What to order: Beyond the classics, the Silver Factory is an homage to Andy Warhol, with hay-infused Altos blanco tequila, Muyu chinotto nero, fresh lemon juice, and caraway syrup for S$25; or the Irving Berlin-inspired F-sharp, with Michter’s straight rye whiskey, Laird’s applejack, dry curacao, Havdalah spices, lemon, egg white and angostura bitters, for S$27. Nonalcoholic standouts include the Cherry Street in the Irving Berlin section of the menu, which has Lyre’s zero-proof absinthe, pineapple, lime, and agave for S$16.

Maison Ikkoku

For a more traditional Japanese bar experience, there’s always the excellent D Bespoke on Bukit Pasoh Road. But if you’re going for trendy, head to the second floor of a Kandahar Street building and look for the different cryptocurrency signs that dot the door; owner Ethan Leslie Leong accepts the likes of Bitcoin, Ether, Binance coin, and Tether to pay for drinks (though he recently said not many people take him up on it). As Singapore comes out of the pandemic and the crypto industry’s appetite to gather increases, Maison Ikkoku has been playing host to parties affiliated with some of Asia’s biggest crypto conferences and has become a clubhouse of sorts for the industry. The outlet also has an NFT wall.

What to order: Try the yuzu champagne, with fresh yuzu juice in a bubbly champagne cocktail, for S$28. There’s also the Unicorn—passionfruit, yuzu, blue Curaçao, and red wine—for S$38.

Flows of the Indus

Go into the Adelphi Mall, known now for its record stores and formerly for sketchy karaoke outlets, and head to the basement and around a corner—that might not sound promising, but eventually you’ll come to a place that turns out to be an underground gem. At Flows of the Indus you’ll find all manner of liquids from India—wines, liquors, beer, teas, and coffees—“an expression of the richest of India’s beverages,” says Yadhaven Santheran, a brand consultant who’s working with the bar.

What to order: Gin & Tea with cucumber and mint, or a Highlands with whisky, toasted curry leaves, strawberry, and peppercorns, each S$25. A bottle of Neidhal Indian Single Malt will set you back S$445, while one of Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin goes for S$240. A Bira 91 Summer lager is S$15. There’s also Arya Spring 2022 Mayukh Darjeeling or Araku Grand Reserve coffee, both S$33.

Bob’s Bar

There’s a whole slew of beach resorts along the western side of Sentosa Island, Singapore’s tropical resort playground. Lo & Behold Group’s Tanjong Beach Club may be notable for family fun by day and the party crowd by night, but if you’re simply looking for great cocktails—and perhaps even a cigar or two—there’s no place better than Bob’s Bar at the Capella Hotel. According to Executive Assistant Manager Linda Hemels, the sights, sounds, and colors of the tropical forest inform the menu, as does a pledge to sustainability. “Ingredients grown locally are the major showcase, alongside some of the world’s leading craft spirits,” she says.

What to order: Try the Keppel Cobbler, with Tried & True vodka, Chartreuse, lemon, jasmine, and cucumber, for S$22; or the S$26 Palawan Fizz with Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva and coconut rums, lime, coconut water, soda, pandan, and saline.

Republic

Inside the Ritz-Carlton on Raffles Avenue, Republic celebrates the 1960s and four cultural epicenters of importance—Singapore, Italy, the UK, and the US—in its decor, food and drink menus, and music playlist. (Those interested in politics and history may enjoy its positioning across the hotel floor from the Colony restaurant.) “All our signature cocktails tell a story from that era, in a glass,” says head bartender Martin Villareal. “We want our guests to feel welcomed like VIPs to a distinguished house party.” The bar holds a Punch Brunch every Sunday with signature drinks served from a punch-bowl trolley.

What to order: For S$25, one could try a Singapore offering of the Mythical Beast, which contains Brass Lion dry gin, dry sherry, and Orleans bitters; or the Valentino Red from the Italian section, which includes Monkey 47 gin, lychee oolong, and watermelon riesling. There are also premium cocktails from each location—the US one is a manhattan with 1960s-vintage ingredients (Early Times 4 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Cinzano sweet red vermouth), which, given the relative rarity of the contents, will set you back S$148.

Fat Prince

The menu at the Middle Eastern bar-restaurant Fat Prince declares it’s “committed to a better drinking culture” by offering not only your typical full-proof cocktails and no-alcohol options, but also “Half Proof” selections (as compared to a typical drink). “We make our own zero-proof spirits in-house, specifically gin, tequila, and whiskey,” says Rie Watanabe, head of marketing and communications at Dandy Partnership, which owns and operates the bar. The aim is to replicate alcohol’s complex flavors in the cocktails “so that they are just as interesting as their full proof counterparts.”

What to order: The Fez Finds a New Butler is a half-proof negroni that goes for S$18, while the Tale of the Tamarind Pineapple is an enticing nonalcoholic cocktail with zero-proof blackstrap rum, cinnamon anise tamarind stock, and pineapple juice, for S$12. Liquor lovers should try the Bright “Ping” That Balances the Earth (Hendrick’s Orbium gin, lemongrass cordial, lemon juice, Turkish bitters) for S$24.

Kaarla/1-Arden

Singapore’s new CapitaSpring skyscraper on Market Street has eateries throughout, but it’s the 51st-floor rooftop that’s particularly special. In addition to the 1-Arden “food forest,” where contributions to the evening’s meals are grown, there’s Australian restaurant Kaarla. In the bar area, patrons can nibble on snacks like salt-cured kangaroo (S$32) or the Taramasalata with crudités and toasted sourdough (S$22) to go with their cocktails. Coming soon: a new outdoor rooftop bar, which will allow patrons to look down on the iconic Marina Bay Sands building—and just about everything else in Singapore.

What to order: For S$20, order a Pear of the Orient with cucumber- and shisho-infused vodka, Japanese pear sake, ginger liqueur, homemade myrtle cordial, fresh lemon, and egg white, or the Tears of a Geisha with rum, yuzu sake, jasmine, fresh lime, and cold-brew kiwi and green tea soda.

Section D

By no means a typical establishment, Section D is basically like having cocktails at your friend’s house if they also took reservations, a great idea from chief mixologist Dannon Har and host Jamie Chua. The intimate apartment is in something of a “bar desert” in Singapore’s Sengkang area. There’s even an outside or inside option. “We are true to ourselves, keeping Section D a real home bar,” say Har and Chua. “We keep experiences authentic and we have Southeast Asia influences in our cocktails.”

What to order: Choices include the S$22 Sake Blush with gin, sake, vermouth, shrub, coconut water, and bitters; or the Proposal for S$20 with bourbon, peat, orange, tonic, and brown sugar.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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