For a place that’s known to be quite conservative, Singapore offers cocktails that have a tendency to make your heart race.
In just one recent week of drinking across town, I sipped a rum-yogurt cocktail that included two kinds of Southeast Asian ants; ordered off a “menu” that was a bag of gummy bears custom-flavored to mimic each drink; and tasted a flight of “natural wines” fermented from fig and pear, tomato, and cabbage. And that’s not to mention the tall drink with “performance-enhancing drugs,” which turned out to be a rose aperitif with pink dragon fruit, basil seeds and a Malaysian virility bark called tongkat ali.
To call this bar world creative would be a wild understatement. Shaking off its reputation as a staid, workaholic city-state, Singapore has exploded onto the cocktail scene as one of the world’s premiere bar cities. In October it took six spots in this year’s “World’s 50 Best Bars” list, third only to perennial cocktail capitals London (with eight ) and New York (seven).
Guide to the best bars in Singapore:
1. Jigger & Pony
The pioneer is still a thriving, friendly scene.
What to order: Try any of the legendary punch bowls.
This upbeat rum bar is next door to Jigger.
What to order: The Sugarhall Daiquiri, made with 15-year Trinidad rum, is garnished with a caviar-topped banana chip.
3. Manhattan at the Regent Singapore
Sophisticated and innovative, it has a room dedicated to aging drinks that includes more than 100 barrels.
What to order: Do as locals do. Get the Solera-aged Negroni for yourself and a bowl of punch to share.
A breathtaking place to sip a martini, this soaring art deco atrium has an unparalleled gin and Champagne lists.
What to order: What else? James Bond’s drink of choice.
5. Tippling Club
One of the oldest yet most experimental bars on the Singapore scene, it currently has a gummy bear menu.
What to order: Success is made with red wine, amaro, Cognac, and whiskey. (Now you know.)
6. Operation Dagger
Through a barely marked door and down an industrial staircase, you’ll find a wildly experimental cocktail den with boundless creative energy.
What to order: The Egg is a profoundly rich rum-salted egg yolk concoction, or try one of their house-fermented “natural wines.”
An effortlessly classy establishment, it has charismatic bartenders to boot.
What to order: The Botanic Gardens will legitimately make you feel like a hummingbird.
A stripped-down modern wine bar, it features a wall display of wines rather than a more traditional list.
What to oder: Ask anyone on staff for an offbeat recommendation.
This bar is deeply devoted to sustainability and Southeast Asian ingredients.
What to order: The Antz is both the must-order novelty and a beautifully composed cocktail.
10. Employees Only
Features pulled from the New York original include charming bartenders, expertly made cocktails, and chicken soup served at last call.
What to order: The Ready, Fire, Aim-it’s mezcal-based.
The all-day cafe-bar-restaurant is remarkably friendly and affordable.
What to order: The Ballgame is inspired by American baseball and tastes like bourbon and caramel corn, with a little beer back.
This 10-seat bar behind Crackerjack carries a phenomenal tequila and mezcal selection.
What to order: Try whatever the bartenders offer you.
13. Skinny’s Lounge
The charmingly dive-y bar on Boat Quay is best avoided if you have morning plans.
What to order: Go for anything but the Shitty American Beer, unless that’s your thing.