Best bars in Singapore for classic cocktails

Let us school you on seven classic cocktails everyone should know and where to get them. Additional reporting by Rebecca Liew and Michelle Ng
By Nicole-Marie Ng |
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Bars and pubs

Old Fashioned

icon-location-pin Tanjong Pagar
The history

It’s not called an Old Fashioned for no reason. The original recipe was published in 1806 when an American newspaper was asked to define the word ‘cocktail’: a spirit, bitters, water and sugar. Today, however, an Old Fashioned is predominantly made with bourbon or rye and garnished with an orange twist or a maraschino cherry.

The perfect mix

An Old Fashioned is simple yet bold, and driven by a strong whiskey. The bitters and garnish work in tandem, creating a complex flavour profile that’s not too sweet or spicy while still allowing the spirit to shine.

Try it at 

It’s off the menu, but Spiffy Dapper does a mean Old Fashioned ($24). The cocktail is as balanced as it should be: it’s neither too tall nor too short, is only lightly perfumed with citrus, and the slight sweetness doesn’t overwhelm the bitters – or viceversa. Just pick your spirit (we went for a fairly common Kentucky bourbon) and let the bartender do the rest.
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Martini

icon-location-pin Tanjong Pagar
The history

No, a particular super spy’s got nothing to do with this. According to legend, the martini was created in the 1860s when a miner from Martinez, California, asked for a drink that would quench his thirst after a hard day of labour. The bartender made him a cocktail he christened after his town – a boozy blend of vermouth, gin, bitters, sugar syrup and maraschino liqueur. After knocking a couple back, the miner could no longer pronounce the ‘z’ and thus was the martini born.

The perfect mix

A vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, may be James Bond’s beverage of choice, but the quintessential martini is only made with gin and vermouth.  Oh, and appletinis and their ilk don’t deserve to be called martinis, either.

Try it at

With over 100 labels of gin sitting slick behind the counter, Cin Cin lets you have a martini your way. Let the bartender  know your choice of gin and if you prefer a sweet, medium or dry vermouth. The signature Cin Cin Martini ($20) stars a Togarashi-infused Lillet Blanc, which adds a subtle note of heat to the drink.
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Bars and pubs

Mojito

icon-location-pin Outram
The history

The mojito has its roots in Havana, Cuba, though the exact origin of the cocktail is a constant subject of debate. Some say the mojito dates back to 1586 as a medicine for dysentery and scurvy.

The perfect mix

While we might not suffer from scurvy, you can’t go wrong ordering a mojito to treat other ailments like the Monday blues. The ideal drink instantly perks you up with its bright effervescence and punchy, fresh flavours.

Try it at

The Caribbean-inspired Bago’s Marie-Galante Mojito ($22) is a less carbonated version of the classic,  made with elderflower soda water. The drink is wellbalanced: bitter grapefruit juice combines well with  tart lemon juice, while the zing of fresh mint leaves a sweet aftertaste. 

Daiquiri, classic cocktail
Photo: Todd Beltz
Bars and pubs, Pubs

Daiquiri

icon-location-pin Raffles Place
The history

Many have tried to stamp their name on the daiquiri. There’s Jennings Cox, the American mining engineer who claimed to have mixed it during a house party. There are barmen in Cuba who say their establishment first shook it up for Ernest Hemingway. Whatever its origin, the drink most likely existed long before these claims were made as it marries pretty common South American ingredients: rum, sugar and limes.

The perfect mix

It’s not the sugary slush served to you poolside on vacation. A properly made daiquiri is a shaken mix of high-quality white rum, fresh lime juice and a generous dash of sugar or sugarcane juice. It should be light, tart and refreshing, a perfect pick-me-up after a day spent tanning on a Caribbean beach.

Try it at 

Skinny’s Lounge serves this classic with a twist. In addition to the trinity of main ingredients, its El Floridita Daiquiri ($20) sees the addition of maraschino liqueur, which lends a subtle bitter note to the drink. Served with crushed ice and a wedge of lime, the cocktail is perfect for chilling by the River.
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Negroni, classic cocktail
Photo: Martia Punts
Bars and pubs, Izakaya

Negroni

icon-location-pin Rochor
The history

In 1919, the Florentine Count Camillo Negroni requested his bartender Forsco Scarselli shake up a stiffer version of his favourite cocktail, the Americano. Scarselli swapped soda water with gin, and lemon peel for orange garnish – and people from all over Italy were soon flocking to the bar for a ‘Negroni’.

The perfect mix

As a classic apéritif, a good Negroni whets the appetite with its dry yet smooth profile. It should neither be too sweet from the addition of vermouth nor too bitter from too much Campari.

Try it at 

Take your time with Shin Gi Tai’s Negroni ($25) – a silky concoction over which sits a block of clear ice – or you’ll find yourself in a too-sweet spot, since it’s heavy on the vermouth. Still, it’s a clean drink perfumed by citrus and makes for a refreshing palate opener.
Singapore Sling, classic cocktail
Photo: Caroline Pang
Bars and pubs

Singapore Sling

icon-location-pin Tanjong Pagar
The history

Fashioned in 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender at Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar, the Sling is – for better or for worse – Singapore’s national cocktail. Ngiam is said to have made the drink for the distinguished ladies who would visit Long Bar only to order juices or teas due to British social customs of the time. So he created a cocktail for them that could pass off as a juice. Sneaky.

The perfect mix

Primarily composed of pineapple juice and dry gin, a good Sling blends other liquors like Benedictine DOM and Cointreau for depth. The key to the perfect Sling lies in striking a balance – it can easily get too saccharine.

Try it at 

One of the best places for classic cocktails is Jigger and Pony. Put together by Diageo World Class 2016 winner Boo Jing Heng, the bar’s menu is split between classic, vintage and signature cocktails, each priced at $22. Its Singapore Sling is made with pineapple juice squeezed on-site (instead of from the carton) so it’s less sickly sweet compared to other variations.
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Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Pisco sour

icon-location-pin Raffles Place
The history

Peru and Chile have a long standing pissing contest on which country makes the best pisco sour. The Peruvian recipe calls for key lime juice, egg whites and Angostura bitters to be added to Peruvian pisco while the Chilean version leaves out the egg  whites and bitters, and uses Chilean pisco.

The perfect mix

Peruvian and Chilean piscos taste different because of distillation methods and the grape varietals used. Where the former is made by fermenting and distilling grapes, the latter is aged in oak barrels. So while a Peruvian pisco sour is delicate and floral with a touch of creaminess from whipped egg whites, the Chilean counterpart has an earthiness to it thanks to the ageing process.

Try it at

We’re on Team Peru (sorry, Chile) with this one: Vasco’s delicately balanced pisco sour ($20) is the consummate Peruvian classic, finished with a egg white cap that’s foamy, creamy and fragrant with notes of citrus. Or try the full-bodied Santiago Sour ($22), which incorporates Chilean pisco with vino, Chuncho bitters, lemon and egg white.

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Photo: Employees Only Singapore
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