Singapore may be known for its workaholic culture and perceived conservatism—the keyword is perceived—but did you know that Singapore’s cocktail culture is one of the best in the world? Singapore exploded onto the cocktail scene in the last few years as one of the world’s premier bar cities, and holds the title ‘cocktail capital of Asia’. For World’s 50 Best Bars 2019, Singapore had six entrants on the list, tying with New York and second only to perennial cocktail capital, London.
Long gone are the days where Singapore’s cocktail culture consisted of only the iconic Singapore Sling; invented a little too long ago, in 1915 at Long Bar in the legendary Raffles Hotel. The cocktail scene here is growing at unparalleled speeds, with experimentation leading the way — think Southeast Asian ants in a rum-yogurt cocktail or a menu in the form of cocktail-infused gummy bears.
Unlike places like New York where there are expectations for what a cocktail bar is, Singapore is an empty canvas. The fact that there was nothing before played a big part in the city-state’s rise as a cocktail capital. Today, she boasts a plethora of the best bars, from secret speakeasies to classy Art Deco lobby lounges.
For your next bar-hopping night out, here are seven of the most unique themed bars in Singapore that run the gamut, not only offering good drinks but most definitely #instaworthy as well.
1. Holey Moley
Hailing from the Land Down Under, Holey Moley puts live DJs, crazy cocktails and a twist on the traditional putt putt all under one roof, in a two-storey mini golf cocktail bar at Clarke Quay. With 27 unique (and highly instagrammable) holes, boredom is the last thing you have to worry about.
Instead of the usual windmills and castles, the holes at Holey Moley are full of quirky puns and pop culture references. 742 Evergreen Terrace straight out of The Simpsons, a Game of Thrones-inspired 9 Iron Throne made from golf clubs, and an upside-down hawker centre complete with tissue packets chope-ing seats; just to name a few.
Location: 3B River Valley Rd, Singapore 179024
Inspired by John F. Kennedy Airport’s original name, Idlewild is the epitome of air travel’s golden age. Step into the interior of a vintage aircraft, surrounded by mahogany and brass touches. With vintage plush booth seats, gilded cabinets and a four-piece live music band (paused for now due to COVID-19) that adds to the ambience with their jazzy tunes, be immersed in mid-century luxury and glamour.
Curated by award-winning bartender Andy Griffiths and his team, Idlewild brings you on a flight along the popular Transatlantic Route, with cocktails built around 10 cities — Dublin, Rome, Lima, Lisbon, New York, Casablanca, London, Paris, Mexico City and Havana. Cocktails like The French Cook takes you back to bohemian 19th century Paris while the citrusy flavour of The Berber Smash transports you to the city of Morocco.
Location: InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Rd, Singapore 188966
3. Jigger & Pony
Crowned the Best Bar in Asia, Jigger & Pony is known for its Asian-inspired concoctions, from Yuzu Whiskey Sour to Journey of the West — an Old Fashioned-style cocktail ‘aged’ with wood chips carved from French oak spirals and American oak barrels, previously used to age Japanese whisky.
This nine-year-old bar has a Prohibition era-like feel, complete with a 54-paged menu-zine that looks like one of those propaganda posters from the 20s.
(Their menu-zine, which can be found on their website, is worth quite the read. A vintage-styled publication full of interesting articles about the Asian cocktail scene.)
Location: Amara Singapore, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088539
Travel back to the era of neon lights and 8-bit bytes at NINETEEN80, a retro-themed bar paying homage to all things 80s. Sip on nostalgic cocktails as you bop to throwback tunes and all-time favourites, curated by their resident DJs.
Be greeted by 8-bit murals (including a pixelated Bruce Lee) and a row of arcade machines when you enter the bar. By the way, arcade machine tokens are complimentary. Yess! Try your hand at classic arcade games like Street Fighter and Space Invaders, take a picture against a backdrop of cassette tapes you haven’t seen in ages and party like it’s the 80s.
Side note: Their website is a gem on its own. Staying true to the retro theme, their website is built just like an arcade game! (P.s it works better on desktop!)
Location: 21 Tanjong Pagar Road, #01-05, Singapore 088444
5. Level Up
Although having a similar aesthetic to NINETEEN80, Level Up differs as a bistro bar that not only has arcade machines, but also foosball tables, billiard tables, glow-in-the-dark air hockey tables, claw machines and many other arcade drinking games. Game tokens come with every drink ordered so bring as many friends as you can and challenge them to a game or two! I mean, the loser buys the next round of drinks, right?
If you are not up for games, there are plenty of graffiti-covered walls and photo spots in this arcade bar! Plus, they have daily promotions and 3-hour free-flow alcohol and unlimited games on Sundays.
Location: 3A River Valley Road, #02-04, Singapore 179020
6. Oriental Elixir
Hidden on the second floor of an old shophouse along Haji Lane, this old-school speakeasy is full of wonders. The nonconformist watering hole is filled to the brim with vintage curiosities, antiques and jars of Gin infused with odd ingredients.
They pride themselves in offering bespoke cocktails with an Asian twist, along the lines of Shrimp, Goreng Pisang or Laksa Leaf Infused Gin and Bak Kut Teh or Tteokbokki flavoured syrup. Pretty cool, I would say.
Location: 10A Haji Lane, Singapore 189203
7. The Dragon Chamber
Hidden behind an unassuming fridge door in a kopitiam at Clarke Quay is an elusive speakeasy, reminiscent of the Chinese secret society dens of old Hong Kong. The wooden interior and chinoiserie, with a sign that reads ‘Dragon Hall’ all the more adds to the dark, underground mafia vibes of the place.
Not only does the speakeasy-style restaurant and bar serve an array of alcoholic beverages and cocktails with an Asian twist, its dining menu can be pretty wild as well. The Dragon Chamber serves age-old unconventional Chinese dishes like its signature Dragon Claw—crocodile foot braised in herbal sauce—to create a truly unforgettable dining experience.
Location: 2 Circular Road, Singapore 049358
Intrigued by these unique bars but feel like an amateur when it comes to alcohol? Fret not, we’re here to help! With Culturally, learn about the local bar scene and how to appreciate whisky from professional bartenders, or try your hand at mixing your own cocktail so that you know what to order the next time you go bar-hopping!
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At Culturally, we offer customised hands-on cultural experiences for you and your loved ones to enjoy and have fun whilst learning about other cultures!