Five Cocktail Bars with A Local Twist
by Dannon Har
It is not easy picking only a handful out of the many great cocktail bars sprouting up all over the island, but if you only got a few nights to spare, these five are guaranteed to give you a memorable taste of some uniquely local creations.
Nutmeg & Clove
When it comes to bars with local elements thrown into the mix, this place takes the crown. In fact, western influences take a back seat at this establishment reminiscent of an old Chinese medicinal hall. Once inside, it’s best to grab a seat by the counter. This way, you can always find out more from the mixologist about the thought that went into designing each cocktail. For the adventurous, try the Dirty Chinese Martini ($20), your choice of gin or vodka-based, served with a slice of cured century egg at the side. The seemingly odd combination surprisingly works. If the distinct taste of century eggs aren’t suitable for your palette, order a Golden Dawn ($16) instead. This gin-based drink with ginger wine cordial, Chinese hawthorne and red jujube shrub is proof of Nutmeg & Clove’s attention to mixological harmony, despite the use of atypical ingredients. Oh, and be sure to try the bar snacks, which are no afterthought either.
Nutmeg & Clove, 17 Ann Siang Road. Opens Tue-Sat from 5pm-midnight. Ph. +65 6423 9885.
Bitters & Love (Shoebox Canteen)
Lunch spot Shoebox Canteen by day and cocktail bar Bitters & Love by night, this affordable-for-the-area spot is fancy enough for a pampering experience yet casual enough for a bunch of friends to chill till the wee hours. Although the mixologists prefer for you to order bespoke, no one would have possibly requested for the bar’s now-famous Kaya Toast Cocktail ($19). Served in a kaya jar, with an actual piece of toast, splashed with a dollop of kaya placed on top this creation is surprisingly refreshing and not too quirky. Alternatively try the Mangosteen Gin ($24), a beautiful drink that puts the fleshy fruit’s succulent flavour and texture to good use. Be sure to also order the fan-favourite bar snack, the Wagyu Beef Cubes ($22) for some value-for-money nibbles, to go along with your choice of poison.
Bitters & Love, 36 North Canal Road. Opens Mon-Thu from 6pm-midnight and Fri-Sat from 6pm-2am. Ph. +65 6438 1836.
Tucked away in a corner of The Duxton Hotel’s lobby, this pop-up affair from Mixes from Mars makes it to the list, despite not currently having a permanent space. The adventurous should definitely try the Chilli Crab Cocktail ($22). Probably the most standout creation on the menu, this gin and rum concoction is bold on the senses and speaks volumes of the bar’s daring creativity. If savoury cocktails are too hard to swallow, the Milo from Mars ($20) is a good bet. Inspired by the Milo Dinosaur drink found at local hawker stalls, butterscotch schnapps and applejack brandy is mixed with a swirl of milo, chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream to create a sweet glass of liquid goodness that no child should ever be near. Those in tune with their taste buds should try their bespoke options too, which often surprise and impress. But hurry, they might not be there for much longer!
Mars Bar, 83 Duxton Road. Opens daily from 4pm-1am. Ph. +65 9651 6714.
Jekyll & Hyde
It’s difficult to grasp the reasoning behind having a cocktail bar cum nail salon space, but Jekyll & Hyde is one such place. Don’t be deceived though, Jekyll & Hyde holds its own very well as a bespoke cocktail bar and regulars respect mixologist Jeff Ho’s obvious talent for creative concoctions. Try the Mr. Bean ($23), a vodka-based blend made using local favourite Lao Ban beancurd pudding, kaya and butterscotch. It tastes like a dessert – sweet yet potent. The menu here has recently been revamped to introduce more oriental herbs and natural ingredients but while Ho enjoys experimenting to keep things fresh, lovers of the classics need not worry, those are still his strong suit. So I’d recommend ordering an Old Fashioned ($25), made using Reposado tequila for a smoother, oakier flavour, while enjoying the complimentary bar snacks available.
Jekyll & Hyde, 49 Tras Street. Opens Mon-Thu from 6pm-1am and Fri-Sat from 6pm-2am. Ph. +65 6222 3349. www.49tras.st
A stalwart of the cocktail bar scene, Maison Ikkoku is the place to go to whether you are a artisanal cocktail aficionado or only starting out on your cocktail adventure. Head bartender Ethan Leslie Leong has long proven his chops in the local scene and has trained his fellow mixologists well. Here, under his oversight, bespoke orders are a pleasurable experience sure to delight. If you’re unsure, a menu is also available. The Asian-influenced Liang Teh ($24), which means cooling tea in Hokkien, might actually serve as a tonic, with its mix of white spirits with chrysanthemum, Buddha fruit, prunella plant, red dates and ginseng. Then there’s the popular Dark Chocolate Flambe-tini ($28). Doubling as a sinful dessert, it’s served with a toasted marshmallow sitting atop a martini glass. Recommended!
Maison Ikkoku, 20 Kandahar Street. Opens Sun-Thu from 4pm-1am and Fri-Sat 4pm-2am. Ph. +65 6294 0078.
A Royal Feast by Marc Tan Situated in the old Customs House