It’s that time of year again when the entire bar scene in Asia watches on engrossingly as the annual ranking of Asia’s 50 Best Bars is announced. Though it has gone fully virtual since 2020 due to the pandemic, the hype has not dampened. In fact, the 2021 event sees, for the first time, the reveal of bars ranked 51-100 on the list.
According to organisers, this was done in an effort to better aid bars in the region, giving 50 additional venues the eyeballs and attention they deserve. We think that’s a mighty fine thing to do, and in Singapore, a decent showing of six bars have made it onto the inaugural extended list, with three of them even making their debut on the rankings.
So rather than highlighting those already in the top 50, we think these six Singapore bars should get some love too. If you’re heading over, here’s a little about what you can expect and which tipple you should definitely have in hand.
No stranger to Asia’s 50 Best Bars, this second floor Bukit Pasoh shophouse spot has come in at No.66 on the list this year, dropping from No.25 previously. But that’s no reason not to visit. This cosy cocktail joint from the same guys behind Jigger & Pony (which ranked No.1 in 2020) enjoys putting an Asian spin on classics, resulting in simple but amazing cocktails that make good use of seasonal and regional produce. Currently being featured are gourds (think pumpkins, honeydew and bitter melon), an ingredient not often seen used in cocktails.
Try the eponymous Gibson ($25). This cousin of the ubiquitous Martini offers a heavier hit of umami, and as Gibson’s namesake drink, the bar made sure to really deliver on satisfaction. Not just a common serve of gin, vermouth and pickled onion, theirs is a mix of Roku gin and homemade Ginjo sake-vermouth served with a trio of condiments – homemade nukazuke, pickled onion and smoked quail’s egg.
The local outpost of New York’s famed Employees Only, this vibey No.70 entry on the list not only delivers concoctions that have stood the test of time, but offers top notch hospitality along with it. You can’t go wrong with the Common Sense ($25; Monkey Shoulder whisky, Mancino Bianco, Averna amaro, Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate bitters), a dependable recipe hailing from the parent bar. Or go local with Singapore-only signatures like the EO Botanical Gin Tonic ($24) that’s made using Botanist Gin, a homemade botanical extract and Fever Tree tonic.
Just a spot down at No.71 is this hyperlocal haunt on Haji Lane making its way onto 50 Best (albeit extended list) for the first time. Originally located at Boat Quay, it has only gone from strength to strength with its new iteration, all while offering cocktails packed with interesting local touches. The Pandan Singapore Sling ($18), served from the tap, is a highly aromatic twist on the iconic national drink using fresh pandan leaves. Or get a hit of nostalgia with the Milo Dinosaur ($22), an alcoholic spin on everyone’s childhood favourite using Wild Turkey bourbon, port wine and heaps of milo.
Another entry from the Jigger & Pony family, this fairly new joint just a floor down from Gibson is the place to go if you enjoy your pick of poisons imbued with Japanese sensibilities. The Mizuwari is a three-ingredient cocktail (Nikka Coffey Grain whisky, Nikka Coffey Malt whisky, Hokkaido soft water) that embodies that clean, subtle perfection embodied in Japanese bartending.
But many come for the Vesper (Ki No Bi Sei Gin, Ketel One Vodka, Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero D’Or), another seemingly simple three-ingredient elixir shaken in a way so that ice shards are purposefully left in the mix to keep the drink at the perfect temperature for longer. Live Twice joins the rankings at No.75. All cocktails are $25.
Step into this hidden bar (coming in at No.79) found in a hidden entrance at the lobby of the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel and be whisked away into a plush dark room with a back wall full of homemade infusions the bar team uses to whip up their brand of boozy but balanced cocktails. All the spirits here are cask finished in-house too, resulting in flavours not often found anywhere else. Try the rich, smokey and slightly sweet Of Malt and Man ($25), a potent potion of blended Scotch, bourbon, rum, Angostura bitters, oolong tea, nuts and cigar smoke.
The final Singapore bar in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars extended rankings, many have wondered why a bar with Junior’s fine chops has never been voted in before. Still, finally making it onto the list at No.82 is a good start for this tiny hidden gem on Ann Siang (formerly a hop away in a back alley on Cook St.). It is best known for its ever-changing themes that sees not just the menu, but the entire venue getting a facelift. Currently, a Flavours of Peru theme is running, so expect plenty of Pisco drinks, Peruvian street food and fitting artworks adorning the entire back wall and ceiling. Our favourite item? The Corn Milk Punch, a clarified drink bursting with roasted corn notes. All cocktails are $25.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.