Singapore’s nightlife scene is boiling over with cool new bars, and among them is a handful of blink-and-miss-it speakeasy-style spaces helmed by award-winning bartenders with one thing on their minds: high-quality cocktails. With unmarked doors and need-to-know passwords, going out just got a little more exciting.
Originally a tiny upstairs bar in Boat Quay, Spiffy Dapper has just expanded into a bigger space. It’s still just as hidden, though, thanks to a second-floor location, no signage and blackout curtains all around. The team built almost everything from scratch, including all the furniture and even the hand-beaten copper bar. The same care goes into the bespoke cocktails. “We are very serious about the craft, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says owner George Abhishek Cherian.
Order this: Just sit back and relax—the bartenders will suggest a cocktail based on your favorite spirits (SG$18-24 ($103-138)).
Find it: Look up when you get to the address and climb the stairs. 73 Amoy St., Singapore, (+65) 8233-981
Despite the grungy exterior, venturing down the dark, dilapidated stairs leading into Operation Dagger soon gets very Scandinavian-cool. When you walk in, you’ll immediately notice the huge cloud-like light installation—6,000 light bulbs that were hung by hand. This molecular cocktail bar serves up refined, adventurously technical concoctions, so expect some experimental flavors and funky presentations.
Order this: Sip on a house-made mead or go for a Manhattan-Mexico (SG$23 ($132)), a mix of coffee, cherry and tequila.
Find it: The door’s marked with a rectangle and an upside-down crown. 7 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore, (+65) 9296-4704.
Love at First Sight
A low-key, open-air restaurant by day, Bitters & Love opens via a sliding door to become a hidden bar come nightfall. The bar is all about bespoke cocktails—you tell the server your favorite spirit and flavor profile: bitter, sweet, spicy, savory—and they make you a personalized drink. Our table of six received wildly different cocktails: one came out on a tiered tea tray and another in a smoking glass jar.
Order this: Go bespoke or try the Kaya Toast (SG$19 ($109)): a mix of Earl Grey tea, lemon, honey, kaya and Mount Gay rum.
Find it: 36 North Canal Rd., Singapore, (+65) 6438-1836.
One of the latest to open its classy doors is D.Bespoke, headed by Daiki Kanetaka—who launched Beijing’s beloved Glen and Glen Classic bars. The shop front sells ceramics and hand-cut barware. Once you’re in, it’s total Ginza-style elegance: A long wooden bar, big leather couches and a wall full of esoteric bottles. Every time you get up to do anything the server scurries over with a brand-new warm towel to clean your hands. It’s pure luxury and totally worth the SG$60 ($345) minimum-spend, which buys you about two drinks: Head bartender and owner Daiki Kanetaka will steer you towards something to swoon over.
Order this: The standout of the night was a Hakushu whisky cocktail smoked with Japanese wood chips.
Find it: The shop makes it easy to find, but do come prepared with a reservation. 2 Bukit Pasoh Rd., (+65) 8141-5741.
28 Drinks Later
When 28 Hong Kong Street entered the circuit three years ago, the Singapore cocktail scene was just percolating. “There were only a handful of quality bars here at the time,” says co-founder Spencer Forhart. “Now there are 20, maybe 30. We built 28 Hong Kong Street just to have a great place for our friends and to do something we love. We were in the right place at the right time—it’s like a bubble popped.” Since then, 28 Hong Kong Street has earned street cred around the world thanks to its impeccable cocktails and neighborhood atmosphere.
Order this: Try the Hulk Smash (SG$21 ($121)), a refreshing mix of Old Tom gin and mint served in a smashed tin cup.
Find it: No password needed. Look for an unassuming beige door. 28 Hongkong St., Singapore, (+65) 6533-2001.
Staying true to speakeasy style, The Library’s front has a functioning tailor shop, called Leong T. Approach the staff with a password, which is posted on Facebook every week by sister restaurant The Study. No password? It’s usually not a problem—both times we visited, we simply had to perform some sort of embarrassing act, like dancing or singing. And voila—the door opened to reveal a confusing mirror, beyond which lies a dimly lit industrial-chic bolted copper bar, exposed brick walls and lots of little booths. The crazy drinks here are all about loud presentations—served in a mini tub, the Prohibition-inspired Shrub-a-Dub-Dub (SGD $75 ($432) to share among 4-6 people) is made with Ford’s gin, peach puree, lemon, ginger and Moscato D’Asti for an effervescent finish.
Order this: Our fave was the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (S$23; $132), which was packed with fresh rosemary and pepper for an herby blast. Made special with its lamb fat-washed gin and homemade tomato juice.
Find it: It’s next to The Study Restaurant, inside a bookish space that hosts pop-up stores and exhibitions. Check Facebook (www.facebook.com/thestudy49) for the password. 47 Keong Saik Rd., Singapore. 6221-8338)
Where to Stay
Balance out all those basement bars and hidden gems with a stay at the Parkroyal on Pickering. The hotel’s uniquely wavy exterior is accented by hanging gardens for a jungle effect. Eco-friendly efforts continue inside, where there are planter walls, lots of woodwork, a nature trail, and even a water recycling program. Though the see-through glass bathrooms may nod towards solo business travelers, the hotel is a great location for bar hoppers since it’s just a few minutes’ walk from Chinatown and Club Street.
From SG$300 ($1,700) per night. 3 Upper Pickering St., Singapore, (+65) 6809-8888, www.parkroyalhotels.com.