Of all the best Singapore bars (and there are a lot of them), Operation Dagger was the first one that was really on my radar.
For one, when perusing the list of best bars in the world, the name is one that naturally sticks out at you.
Operation Dagger. Now that’s memorable.
But to heighten my excitement to visit it even more, during our last trip to Shanghai we were on our second visit of the trip to SpeakLow, where Nico de Soto of Mace was doing a guest shift.
As the only person I know of who has actually been to all the top 50 bars in the world, I asked him what his favorite was.
Can you guess where this is going?
Yep, Operation Dagger.
It would be another year before we’d be able to visit it ourselves, but on our last night in Singapore, we showed up, and what an experience it was.
Operation Dagger Aesthetic
If you’re not sure where you’re going, trying to find your way to the entrance of Operation Dagger can be a bit of a challenge. We walked in circles for 5 minutes while trying to get Google Maps to actually show where the bar was.
But we finally found it, and were greeted by a nondescript sign on the door:
Walking down to the basement bar, you’re treated to a bar with an industrial vibe, with a few touches I’d never seen before.
Most notably is in fact, what you don’t see.
The typical wall of spirits, liqueurs, and amaros were no where to be found.
Instead, there was a wall of identical bottles. Or at least they were identical to the casual observer.
But in fact, all of the bottles of labels on them that more like BINGO boards than anything else, and if you look closely different boxes are circled.
That’s where all the ingredients are hiding…
I can’t imagine how long it takes new bartenders to memorize where everything is!
Hundreds of lightbulbs also make a statement piece hanging from the ceiling, and add a cool look to the place.
Operation Dagger Cocktails
While owner, Luke Whearty was down in Melbourne preparing to open a new bar (I can’t imagine he’s bartending himself here much these days), the team he has left it to is very capable, and were incredible to talk to.
This is lead by Bar Manager, Sasha Wijidessa, who is at the forefront of the new wave of world class female bartenders.
But in all honesty, the female descriptor is completely irrelevant, as she’s one of the most knowledgeable mixologists I’ve ever seen.
The passion for the craft, and her knowledge of the science behind the drinks is second to none.
As is usually the case on trips like this, we got there early to ensure we’d be able to snag a spot at the bar, and fortunately it wasn’t very crowded for the 90 minutes we were there, so we really got to dig in and learn more about each drink and the stories behind them each.
In particular, if you’re ever there ask her about the original name for their Poison Oasis 1981 cocktail, talk about a good story 🙂
Hands down the best drink at Operation Dagger was one of their signatures, and is a must order: the Hot & Cold.
This was not only one of the best drinks we had in Singapore, it was one of the best we’ve had on the quest.
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.
To heighten the experience even more, like fellow top 100 bar, Tippling Club, they don’t list the spirits on the menu – just the flavors you can expect to taste.
It’s a unique way of approaching cocktails that I truly enjoy, because it enables you to branch out into drinks you might not try otherwise.
The Gomashio, for instance is in stark contrast to the Hot & Cold, and features an Asian flavor profile with citrus, cucumber, and ginger – it was delicious, but to be honest, I’m still unsure of what the base spirit is.
Often you go to a cocktail bar and you stick with the flavors and spirits you know, and end up with cocktails that are fairly similar to each other.
I’m not sure that’s possible at Operation Dagger.
To illustrate this, my next drink was called Pork Soda.
I mean, you see that on the menu and you’ve gotta try it.
Owner Luke Whearty talks a little bit about the creation of the drink in this interview.
While it’s not something I’d typically be drawn to, I am drawn to unique drinks that I can’t get anywhere else, and that I’d have a tough time making at home.
And this 20 step recipe fits that bill perfectly.
They also have a selection of natural wines, each of which are delicious, and made through fermenting various types of fruits, as opposed to grapes. To this day, it’s the only time I’ve experienced wine like that.
Final Thoughts on Operation Dagger
We went to a lot of bars over the course of our 4 days in Singapore, and each one brought something unique to the table.
But while bars like Atlas really shined with their precision and martini, and Tippling Club had an inventive themed menu, what separated Operation Dagger was the fact that it seemed to do a little bit of everything in a way that is entirely their own.
The decor with their blank bottles is a little bit different.
The fact they don’t tell you the spirits is a little bit different.
The fact they teetered on the molecular, experiential cocktails with offerings like the Hot & Cold is a little bit different.
And by doing a lot of things just a little bit different than most other bars in the world, it has established itself as one of those places where you feel truly glad you traveled all the way around the world to visit.