On the day our trip to Singapore was made official I hopped in my car and headed down to The Venue in Hagåtña, where I knew bartender Jun Piolo would have the inside scoop on all things food and drink.
Piolo did not disappoint, alerting me to an annual list known as “The World’s 50 Best Bars.”
Bars are ranked through votes from The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy, comprised of 600 industry professionals. In addition to ranking the best bars in the world, the organization also ranks bars within each region.
Armed with these lists and a few additional recommendations from Piolo, I made our reservations and waited anxiously to cross their thresholds.
In the days leading up to our trip, I daydreamed more about the treasures these bars would offer than I did of hawker centers, temples or museums combined.
In truth, Singapore is home to many remarkable cocktail bars, and these are but a small sample size. Each was an adventure and a testament to the mastery and creativity of the professionals behind them.
Even if you only have the time (or the budget!) for one of your trips, I promise they’re worth a visit.
No Sleep Club
#15 Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022
We made a same-day, weeknight reservation for 6 p.m. at No Sleep Club in Chinatown, where we were warmly greeted by the staff. Having arrived just as they opened we were the only people in the bar for about half an hour, giving us full access to our friendly bartender Josh, who was happy to discuss everything from the drinks to global politics to millennial life in Singapore.
The bar is small, cozy, and riddled with punk rock touches. When I tried to take a photo of our cocktails, Josh cheekily slammed a bottle of simple syrup with some not-fit-to-print labeling into the center of the photo.
They’re also not shy about their political opinions — a wine bottle on a shelf features a silhouette of Donald Trump’s profile with the phrase “(Expletive) Him.”
Though certain elements might feel a bit rough-around-the-edges, the staff could not be kinder. It’s kid friendly, too! A couple with a toddler sat right behind us and that kid was the apple of the host’s eye. The vibe is welcoming, irreverent, and seriously fun.
As cocktails go, the NSC Gin & Tonic and Hay & Apples are sure to please cocktail fanatics and newbies alike. Easy sipping, but undeniably complex thanks to ingredients like lacto-fermented black plums and fresh and fermented apples, respectively.
#14 Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021 and #18 World’s Best Bars 2020
For our one Saturday night of the trip, I committed us to three of the illustrious bars on these lists. Piolo’s highest recommendation, however, had been Native — leading me to include it on our itinerary even though it was left off of 2022’s Asia’s 50 Best list.
If you go to only one bar during your time in Singapore, Piolo was right. This should be it.
Native’s focus is on all things, well, native — flavors, yes, but also ingredients, furniture and literally everything in their bar. All their liquor, furniture, uniforms, glassware, etc. are sourced from either Singapore or elsewhere in the region.
They are also deeply committed to sustainability. Cloth napkins, lotus leaf coasters, no straws, and recycled and reused liquor bottles made my little low-waste heart soar.
Meanwhile, the cocktails themselves were playful, surprising, and delicious. One even listed “ants distillate” as an ingredient! The food, all of which was vegetarian or vegan and leaned mostly toward Indian cuisine, was also fantastic.
The Oolong Highball, inspired by Japanese “salarymen,” is a twist on the famed Japanese highball. Garnished with a nori cracker and served on a bento plate with two types of pickled ginger and a pickled plum, it puckers and cools in equal measure — the perfect drink to wake up your palate.
The Peranakan, however, was my favorite. The name pays homage to the descendants of Chinese traders who blended with Malaysians and Indonesians over hundreds of years, creating a unique culture still present in contemporary Singapore. Jackfruit, palm sugar, goat’s milk and laksa leaves meld into a creamy, refreshing drink garnished with agar-agar-esque jellies flavored with pandan and coconut.
Jigger & Pony,
#9 World’s Best Bars 2021, #2 Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022
Okay, if you have time for a second bar, this is the one! Though it was difficult to leave my seat at Native, I’m so glad I did. Jigger & Pony’s lively atmosphere makes it feel like the greatest bar on earth from the moment you walk inside.
The menu is in the form of a glossy, luxury magazine — each cocktail is afforded its own page complete with striking photography and an evocative description.
I began with the Black Pepper Sazerac, which celebrates the many layers of flavor within a common peppercorn alongside bourbon and a pine-forward gin. I fell in love with it immediately.
Next up was the Jasmine & Rice, a fizzy champagne cocktail laced with rum, jasmine, and rice. The description in the menu read, “Think delicate jasmine flowers and other botanicals blooming beside towering skyscrapers.”
Tasting the energetic, buzzing champagne alongside rich, creamy jasmine rice and notes of coconut, I felt I knew exactly what they meant.
The drinks were so good here we broke our two-drink rule. I finished with a member of the Jigger & Pony Hall of Fame, the Madame President. The classic negroni gets a Singaporean twist with orchid and bitter melon liqueur, topped with a completely delightful Campari lollipop.
It was once again tough to move on, but the next bar has a little something we simply couldn’t miss.
#16 World’s 50 Best Bars 2021, #23 Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022
Friends, Atlas is home to both a gin and a champagne tower.
And tower they do. Backlit bottles glistening high into the vaulted ceiling which features sweeping art deco frescoes, metal work and lighting. The towers are but the crown jewels of an already awe-inspiring, enormous space.
At this point we were exhausted, but the grandeur of the space was too much to resist. As Atlas is known for their gin it felt right to begin with a Bartenders Choice G&T, which landed me with a drink starring sloe gin — a sweet, plummy highball to sip while I stared slack jawed at the rich decor around me.
Leaning into the decadence of it all, I finished the night with the Parish Room cocktail. Sipping through its velvet blend of rum, almond, amaro and cream while taking in the splendor, it was easy to believe for a moment that we were somewhere in 1920s Europe, soaking up elegance and finely crafted drinks.
How delightful that in fact we were in Singapore — a place with room for both the fantasy of Atlas and the reality of Native, the rebels of No Sleep Club and the polished ways of Jigger & Pony.
As ever, Singapore is triumphant.