I’ve been to Singapore a handful of times, but it’s never been for more than 12 hours.
Don’t ask me why, but apparently half the flights through Asia seemingly have a layover in Singapore, and you always get in at some super weird time that forces a very long layover.
It’s given me three opportunities to get a Singapore Sling at the Raffles, visit Gardens by the Bay, and gawk at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
But it wasn’t until this past November that I actually got a chance to spend an extended period of time in country…wait, city? State? Whatever it is.
The purpose of the trip? To visit the mecca of drinking that is Singapore.
In my quest to visit the best bars in the world, Singapore has always been on the radar, as next to London and New York City, it has more top 100 bars than any other place in the world.
And so it was decided.
In part because I needed a long Delta flight to retain my status, and another part because rooms at the St. Regis were remarkably cheap, we booked 4 days in Singapore and tacked on an additional two in Tokyo for good measure…I mean, why wouldn’t we do that?
Over the course of our 4 days, we ended up visiting 11 different bars:
- The Other Room
- Jigger & Pony
- Tippling Club
- 28 Hong Kong St.
- Operation Dagger
And there was probably one or two others in there, but who could remember…
What’s great about doing a trip like this, is everything is back to back to back to back to back to back…and so on, you get a chance to experience different versions of outposts deemed by many to be world class.
And they better be, otherwise why fly the 25 hours just to visit them?!
But being able to experience different permutations of greatness, and begin to form your own opinions of what is good, bad, memorable, overrated and so forth is a pretty cool experience to have.
So in this post I’m going to detail my personal favorites when it comes to the best bars in Singapore.
It’s also worth noting, we didn’t go to a single bad bar on the trip. They were all very good. But obviously someone has to do the hard work of ranking them, so here we are!
Best Singapore Bars: So Many Good Cocktail Bars…
The biggest surprise of the entire trip, was the fact that my favorite bar, was the one we hadn’t even heard about until we arrived in Singapore.
There were no more than a dozen seats. The entire bar transformed every 6 months.
Totally different decor.
The theme was New Orleans while we were there, and it was phenomenal.
It’s already on to the next iteration, but I’m willing to bet, wherever they are at while you’re there – it’s worth visiting.
2) Atlas Bar
The only way to properly describe Atlas is to call it “grand”.
It’s huge with what had to be 40 foot ceilings, and the art deco motif and theming is absolutely beautiful.
Oh and did I mention the Martini might be the very best in the world? Connaught might have something to say about that, but either way, it’s good.
3) 28 Hong Kong St.
For some reason I wasn’t expecting a ton from 28. The decor felt a little bit sterile and dated, and without knowing about a true theme or concept to the bar to wrap my head around, I really didn’t know what to expect.
But the drinks we had were the most consistently good across the board.
4) Operation Dagger
Inventive. Different. Cool. Unique.
Those are the ways I’d describe Operation Dagger.
And the Hot & Cold cocktail? Truly world class.
5) Origin Bar
Our experience at Origin was brief. It was the last stop of our second night, which was a long night of drinking, but this relatively new haunt in the Shangri-La hotel, was clearly something special.
Focusing their menu on the “origins” of Singapore, both the drinks we tried were inventive and delicious. If there’s one bar in Singapore we visited that isn’t on the Top 100, and I expect to be? This is probably it.
6) The Other Room
The Other Room was the first bar we visited on the trip, and the whole experience was great.
I found their drinks to hit the right note for my personal preferences. Whether it was the smoky Sir Winston Churchill, or their signature “reverse gin and tonic”.
The bar had the right blend of personality, mystique, flair, and tasty drinks that make it a worthy addition to the top 100 list.
Manhattan was the highest rated bar we visited on this trip, at #3 in the world.
And don’t get me wrong, it is very good. The bartenders are clear pros, and the drinks were good.
However, if you look at the things I think make a good bar, I found the drinks we had to be no better than dozens of other places I’ve visited over the years, and there was a certain robotic-ness to the service that felt less welcoming than most of the other places we visited.
8) Jigger & Pony
Jigger and Pony is a bar that was on the list in 2017, but fell off last year’s list. That said it not only received a full makeover, but it’s in an entirely new space.
They had some inventive offerings, like the excellent Madame President – a combination of monkey 47 gin, dry vermouth, and bittermelon liquor – topped off with a Campari lollipop.
But the star of the show? What might have been the best Jungle Bird I’ve ever had.
9) Tippling Club
Tippling Club easily takes the cake for the best menu of the Singapore trip.
And I’m not talking the drinks, I’m talking presentation.
Drinks were named after moods or feelings with offerings like “holiday”, “baby”, and “revenge.”
And they featured images of gummy bears.
Along with that you got a bag of, you guessed it, gummy bears.
That taste like the drink you’re ordering.
The drinks themselves? Good, not great.
But the menu? Very memorable.
Andrew Loudon of Satan’s Whiskers in London took over right before we showed up and is preparing the first menu of his creation. He’s one of the more impressive bartenders I’ve seen, so I’m curious to see what he comes up with.
Another example of one of the most highly rated bars not necessarily being our favorite. Sure the drinks were unique and inventive, and were really riding the trend of local ingredients, but the simple fact of the matter is, I didn’t think they tasted as good as many of the other bars out there.
Pushing the limits and creating something unique is great and all, but in the end, the whole point of a cocktail is to create something that tastes good. Right?
I think Gibson mostly just suffers from really poor timing here. We were the only ones in the bar when we visited, so the whole experience felt a bit off.
There were some unique drinks for sure, but I’d probably head to their sister bar Jigger and Pony over this one, as I have a feeling it’s really going to hit it’s stride as it eases into the newer space.
A Few More Singapore Cocktail Awards
What else is there to say about Singapore Bars? Well, we could go on like this for days, so let’s throw out a few more “awards”.
If you could only go to one: Atlas Bar
Atlas is quite simply the most impressive bar of the bunch, and one of the most impressive in the world.
Combine a spectacular setting, phenomenal drinks, and that ridiculous gin collection? It’s the one you’ve gotta go to.
Best Drinks in Singapore? 28 Hong Kong St.
While I could take or leave the atmosphere, and the bar staff wasn’t overly friendly when we were there – of every place we went it consistently had the best drinks. All 4 that we tried were world class.
Best Welcome? The Other Room
The Other Room would be the first bar we visited on the trip, as along with Manhattan, they were the only two open on Sundays (convenient, they were the two within walking distance of each other on Orchard Road.
So to walk into the bar and see this? Pretty cool.
Biggest Surprise? Junior
I’m curious to see how long this lasts as a “concept test kitchen” of sorts. But you can bet it’ll be one of my first stops every time I’m in the city (country?) City/Country/Island.
You know what I mean.
Would Have Liked to Visit? Nutmeg and Clove
We always try and anticipate the bars that may show up on a top list down the line. Well, we missed the mark on this one.
As the 2019 World’s Best 51-100 list is live, Nutmeg and Clove is the one Singapore bar on there we didn’t visit.
Most Overrated? Manhattan Bar
Don’t get me wrong. Manhattan is a good bar. Our drinks were solid. The entrance to the bar feels very grand. But at the time of this writing, does it really live up to expectations as the third best in the world?
I wouldn’t even say it’s the third best in Singapore. But I also very much recognize that 1) It depends on what you like. And 2) What your experience was on the evening you were there.
Coolest Menu – Tippling Club
While the menu has changed over by now, the gummy bear menu at Tippling Club is one that I still talk about.
It’s a cool concept, executed brilliantly. I just wish the drinks were a little bit better to match the cool concept.
Favorite Drinks in Singapore
Hot and Cold – Operation Dagger
From our Operation Dagger Review:
“The rich mixture of white chocolate, pineapple, coconut, and lavender of all things is both decadent and approachable at the same time.
But part of what makes it so memorable is the experience of drinking it.
The drink itself which uses a base of pineapple infused tequila, is cold.
Yet, there’s a frothy layer of hot white chocolate that covers the top half of the glass. So when you sip, you’re truly getting a blend of hot and cold, that takes a very good drink from enjoyable, to truly memorable.”
Atlas Martini – Atlas Bar
I continue to make the Atlas Martini at home more than any other drink I’ve had at a bar in our travels.
It’s so simple, yet so complex, and is the ultimate starter martini for people who are intimidated by such a spirit forward drink.
The champagne vinegar is the secret weapon of the drink, and with expressed lemon over the top – it’s truly a unique take on a classic.
Cashew Everything Around Me – 28 Hong Kong St.
The perfect combination of nuttiness, sweetness, creaminess, booziness. It tasted like the cocktail version of a peanut butter milkshake in the absolute best way possible.
Jungle Bird – Jigger and Pony
The Jungle Bird is one of my favorite tiki cocktails, and Jigger and Pony might have had one of the best takes I’ve had on the drink.
Of course it was at the end of a long night and apparently I didn’t grab a photo of it 🙂
Final Thoughts on the Best Bars in Singapore?
Overall, the Singapore trip was great, yet exhausting.
Every time we tried to make it out to see something during the day, we got poured on – and between fighting jet lag and a hangover each day – it’s pretty safe to say we were worn out by the end of the trip.
That said, what I love about Singapore is you’re able to experience a great variety of world class places all within about 15 minutes of each other.
No place was overly difficult to get to, and regardless of where you are in the city you should be able to get to any of these bars.
I don’t think that as a whole they were as varied as what you might find in London or New York, but there are certainly some memorable highlights that make visiting more than worthwhile.
So where do these stack up in my personal list of favorite bars? See my 50 best bars in the world.