There are bars, and then there are bars that hit the spot like the ding of the pinball on target, for the derring-do of its drinks, the sheer rightness of the atmosphere. Here are three to check out now.
01: Genuine Caper –
The Other Room
These days, the Prohibition era doesn’t quite call to mind the dark, crime-filled years of a dry 1920s America. Instead, it’s often linked with glamorous hidden bars, with unfathomable menus you need a tiny lamp to peruse.
Superficially, The Other Room is yet another one of such bars. But go through the concealed (of course) door and you’ll see that Dario Knox’s hideout embraces the one bright spark of Prohibition – creativity – in ways that pretenders won’t be bothered with.
Knox, who had hung out at the bar 28 Hongkong Street and restaurant FOC, is like a mad scientist experimenting with flavours. There are over 150 spirits at The Other Room and all of them, stripped of their original bottles and labels and placed in identical vessels, are either cask- or spice-finished for a different take on the familiar. Here, a Diplomatico rum can have additional raisin notes, while a Sipsmith gin surprises with lavender and white pepper. Order some flights to really taste the difference.
The cocktail menu is just as thrilling. Over 30 recipes have been divided into no fewer than eight categories. And the menu is as eager to educate as the loquacious Knox, with each drink accompanied by a short history of the classic that inspired it, alcoholic strength, ingredients and even glass shape. It’s a little overwhelming, so we’ll suggest starting with the 1928. All we’ll say is that it’s a gin-based cocktail.
If you’re tired of the libations in your cabinet and want to experience new tastes in a sophisticated, intimate setting, step into The Other Room. Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Open from 6pm. Closed on Mondays.
02: The Hop Stops Here –
Employees Only has a lot going for it. It’s a legacy bar, child of legendary Employees Only in Manhattan; it’s secured a lot in Amoy Street where its neighbours include Jigger & Pony, The Spiffy Dapper, Sugarhall and Ding Dong; it has a veritable laundry list of fun extras but, crucially, the core team from the original bar has relocated to Singapore to make sure things are run right.
The Employees Only experience includes rotating entertainers (it was a tarot card reader when we dropped by), a buzzing international crowd, and complimentary chicken soup for those who stay till closing time. What the bar lacks in impressive interiors, it makes up for in atmosphere.
The menu remains the same at the Singapore outlet – the bar’s only other branch in the world – so some of you may recognise the signature EO Gimlet. It’s remarkably complex for a cocktail that traditionally uses just two ingredients, as the homemade lime cordial adds flavour layers to the Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin. Another one not to miss is the Ready Fire Aim (mezcal, lime juice, housemade honey-pineapple syrup, bitters), which may as well be the cocktail equivalent of sticky smoked ribs and just as moreish.
(RELATED: The Secret to Running Top NYC Bar Employees Only.)
Employees Only is the kind of bar at which you can begin and end a night. The restaurant will feed you and the bar will sate you – all the way till the doors close. 112 Amoy Street. Open from 5pm daily.
03: For Closet Rebels –
Whisky bars are often dressed to look like gentlemen’s clubs; a refined man cave with weathered chesterfields and lighting that’s as brown as the spirit everyone is sipping. Posh to be sure, but predictable after a time. For executives who have entertained at such joints so often as to feel the opposite of relaxed in such an environment, The Flagship will be your haven.
Bricks line one wall and a mural of Gene Simmons and a pin-up model covers another. There’s even a professional-grade beer pong table across from the coffee table seating. And yet The Flagship manages to retain a sense of sophistication, despite its deliberately irreverent decor.
The music may be loud but the suited guests are not. The whisky and bourbon menu is constantly being updated with new hand-scribbled items, but the alphabetical, 100-strong list has obviously been put together by someone who cares.
And it’s not just any old “someone”. The Flagship comes with nightlife pedigree, opened by Indra Kantono and Gan Guoyi of Jigger & Pony and Sugarhall fame. So you can expect the cocktails here to be flawless.
But if you’re going to have only one, make it the Smoke on the Water (Don Julio Reposado, mezcal, black cardamom, bitters), a sweet, smoky delight.
If it wasn’t already clear, this is a bar that loves its rock. No hollow pop music or jazz albums on repeat, just the hard stuff you miss from the ’90s, a time when the drinks were strong and true, and the men drinking them were rock stars. 20 Bukit Pasoh Road. Open from 5pm. Closed on Sundays.