Singapore is the world's newest great cocktail capital

Manhattan at the Regent Singapore is one of the bars in Singapore to visit. Picture: Regent Hotels & Resorts.

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).

The World’s 50 Best Bars is an annual list that celebrates the best of the international drinks industry. They provide an annual ranking of bars as voted for by more than 500 drinks experts from across the globe.

Ranked the highest in Singapore is the opulent hotel bar Manhattan (No. 7 on the list), with what must be the world’s most ambitious barrel-aging system; then there’s Atlas (No. 15), a soaring, art deco-inspired space with exquisite martinis and a 1,000-bottle gin tower. They represent only a sliver of the remarkably diverse cocktail culture that’s sprung up within a three-mile radius in the unlikeliest of places.

A sense of energy and experimentation underpins the whole of Singapore’s drinking scene. At Gibson, perhaps my favorite bar of the Jigger & Pony group, I sipped a gin-honey-lemon concoction I was told would make me feel like a hummingbird-it arrived suspended in a glass bulb with a profusion of flora and an abnormally short straw, such that I had to bury my nose into the drink.  At the recklessly creative Operation Dagger, a rum and salted egg yolk cocktail is smoked in hay; at Native, there’s an unrivaled dedication to Southeast Asian spirits and ingredients, including the aforementioned ants. And these bars are just the beginning.

Here are some bars to visit:

– Jigger & Pony: The pioneer is still a thriving, friendly scene. What to order: Try any of the legendary punch bowls.

– Sugarhall: 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.

– 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.

– Atlas: A breathtaking place to sip a martini, this soaring art deco atrium has unparalleled gin and Champagne lists. What to order: What else? James Bond’s drink of choice.

– 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.)

– Native: 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.

Source: The Washington Post. 

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