To be a foreigner in the world’s busiest cities is to have your senses assaulted, overwhelmed and delighted by new experiences at each paved junction in these concrete cosmopolitans we create and thrive in. Yet while venturing thousands of miles away to seek exotic thrills, none of us can help but search for fragments of home. It’s this mix of an alien world mesmerizingly fused with our own that enchants us, and nowhere is it best found than in Singapore. This city-state is the home of verdant green corridors and towering super trees, multi-ethnic enclaves, vibrant street markets and hawker centres where delicacies of chilli crab and $5 chicken rice lure in locals and travellers alike.
For a Londoner, that slice of home isn’t found in a dish or even by comparing the Shard to Singapore’s tall buildings, instead it’s found late at night in the city’s incredible cocktail scene. And - just like home, this creative industry has been born from passionate mixologists who have created hospitable environments that serve regionally-sourced cocktails with all the delicacy of that global icon known as the Singapore Sling.
Travelling to London for our city’s celebration of all things shaken and stirred, two of Singapore’s best bartenders from Nutmeg & Clove (ranked in the top 30 of Asia's 50 Best Bars), Colin Chia and Panying Lee, will be present at the Passion Made Possible experience to showcase just how much this former free trading port has grown into a modern metropolis. But they won’t only be showing London the usual classics, instead Nutmeg & Clove are here to launch their new menu and demonstrate the city-state's passion for cocktails – designed to teach us all about the many layers to modern day Singapore.
Singapore Tourism Board's Passion Made Possible experience will be a key highlight at London Cocktail Week’s Cocktail Village, transporting you to Singapore through food, drink and immersive experiences. It's also the location where brand new travel and drinks book ‘Straight Up’ by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley – a formidable and unparalleled guide to global bar culture, telling us all exactly where to go and what to order on each continent – will launch on Tuesday 3rd October from 6.30pm.
And if you’re looking to get to grips with Singapore’s diverse bar scene here’s an extract from Joel and Neil’s book:
28 HONGKONG STREET
The penchant for speakeasy themed bars is a clearly defined trend in Singapore (see Operation Dagger) and one which was definitely bucked by 28 HongKong Street, when it first opened back in 2011. Rather like 69 Colebrooke Row in London (see page 18), taking a seemingly nondescript city location and turning on the liquid wow factor behind its closed doors has paid dividends and 28HKS has gained an international reputation for its mix of both innovative flair and crafted old-time classics. Add in some ridiculously moreish bar snacks and you have a recipe for a true destination bar.
28 Hongkong Street, Singapore 059667 | +65 6533 2001 | 28hks.com
IN THREE WORDS: Looks Can Deceive.
THE DRINK TO TRY: The Whiskey Sour.
THEY SAY: “The best bar bites in Singapore… My favourite is the Mac & Cheese balls!” — KARL TOO, MALAYSIA
THEY SAY: “One of the first bars that opened my eyes to the attention to detail on service.”— YAO LU, CHINA
PRICE RATING: ***
Sometimes the best experiences come in small packages. In the case of Atlas, however, the opposite is entirely true. Arguably the most stunning looking bar in the world, this vast Art Deco palace to all things gin (and Champagne) will leave you utterly speechless when you arrive. The high ceilings and gilded features instantly conjure up images of the beautiful ballrooms of Gatsby-era America. Behind the immaculate bar is a gin tower, rising up like a monolithic tribute to Mother’s Ruin, where you’ll find over 1,000 different gins from all around the world. Ask the bartender nicely and they’ll take you upstairs for a little tour. The drinks are equally impressive: novel twists on the Martini and a vintage “Decades” section of the menu, where you can drink gins dating back to 1910 through to the 1990s. With such an encyclopedic approach to this once humble spirit, Atlas will redefine how you drink gin for ever.
Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188778 | +65 6396 4466 | atlasbar.sg
IN THREE WORDS: World Of Gin.
THE DRINK TO TRY: The house Martini made with a classic London dry gin, ambrato vermouth, orange bitters and Champagne vinegar.
WE SAY: A stunning addition to the already titanic cocktail scene in Singapore.
PRICE RATING: ****
There seems to be a common theme emerging among some of the most progressive drinks joints around the world, and by this we mean…anonymity. Operation Dagger is typical in hiding its very bright, highly innovative light under a bushel, so much so that finding it among the backstreets of Singapore’s Chinatown is pretty tricky indeed. There are no frills at all on display here: a simple concrete grey basement bar, festooned with bare lightbulbs. The back bar has strangely coded bottles and jars – indecipherable to the casual observer. The drinks themselves – listed on the menu as “Dangerous Drinking Water” – are truly inspirational indeed. Owner Luke Whearty has developed some beautifully simple-looking serves, which hide a highly complex blend of ingredients (obscure tinctures, bee pollen, vinegars and herbaceous smoke). In short, anyone else trying to replicate what’s on offer here, but lacking the obvious skill on display, would be attempting a Mission Impossible.
7 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069791 | +65 6438 4057 | operationdagger.com
IN THREE WORDS: A Cut Above.
THE DRINK TO TRY: One of the Omakase pairing flights.
THEY SAY: “The mixology equivalent of a three-star Michelin chef who bought a gastropub. Game changing.” — PHILIP DUFF, USA
THEY SAY: “From the moment I walked into this bar, I knew I would love it.” — MONICA BERG, UK/NORWAY
PRICE RATING: **
Relative newcomers to the Singapore scene, the team behind Native have taken the concept of doing everything as locally as possible, and run a mile with it, to produce some stunning results. With a menu comprising just seven drinks, each one delivers a compelling story, using a curated selection of Asian spirits (think Indian whisky and Thai rum). The serves are as tasty as they are ingenious: ask for an Antz and you’ll get a sweet, creamy delight using coconut yogurt, aged sugarcane and rum, topped with a freeze-dried basil leaf and… yes, some ants, which brilliantly add to the overall genius of the drink. Upstairs you’ll find a small micro distillery, which the team use to create completely unique flavours and combinations. Native seems effortless in its approach, which is a true reflection of the skill and creativity on offer. A genuinely inspiring drinking experience.
52A Amoy Street, Singapore 069878 | +65 8869 6520 | tribenative.com
IN THREE WORDS: Playful, Local, Skilful.
THE DRINK TO TRY: Antz – the only bite you’ll get here is from the delicious Thai rum!
WE SAY: Singapore’s most trailblazing bar and a total must-try when heading down to Amoy Street.
PRICE RATING: ***
So... Raring to book a ticket to Singapore?
It’s worth the distance, but next week, and much closer to home, be sure to beeline to Passion Made Possible at the LCW Cocktail Village where Singapore Tourism Board will be hosting Nutmeg & Clove as they serve up outstanding cocktails with a dessert pairing and one of a kind edible art installation created by Chef Janice Wong, twice named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef. The bar will also be unveiling something very special on October 5th and hosting virtual reality experiences across the week to explore the incredible city and its engaging locals – a place where passion is made possible.
Start packing London – we’re taking you to Sinagpore!