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Photograph: Lauryn Ishak

The best secret bars in Singapore

Hop around the city's top speakeasies, hidden cocktail bars and secret drinking dens

Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
,
Nicole-Marie Ng
&
Fabian Loo
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Hidden away from view, these speakeasies are a private oasis only for those in the know. Cosy up with your Tinder date away from prying eyes or avoid bumping into an old match you ghosted at one of your regular haunts. 

We've got underground drinking dens like Operation Dagger and Catchfly, bars hiding in plain sight like The Other Room and Employees Only. Here are the secret cocktail bars are where you can unwind and disappear from the world.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Rochor

To get to this secret speakeasy, look out for a mama shop or old-school provision store. The entrance to Mama Diam comes hidden behind a shelf lined with vintage knick-knacks; pull aside rows of magazines and CDs reminiscent of the yesteryears, and step into a retro-inspired drinking hole. The menu is a celebration of familiar flavours: sip on smoked halia ($16), a spiked ginger tea with honey and citrus; Mamarita ($16) made with tequila and kaffir leaf; Sng Mei Potion ($16) mixed with whisky and sour plum; and more.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Raffles Place

Hidden behind Miss Fitz Kitchen and Bar is a tiny portal to 1970 New York City. To get to Roxy requires heading to the back of the restaurant, and venturing through an unmarked walkway. But those who make the journey will be treated to a blast from the past; a 20-seater speakeasy bar inspired by the rock ’n’ roll era. Vintage posters and motifs line the wall of the cosy space, and the red-hued lighting makes for a sultry, intimate setting.

 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Outram

Climb up to the second floor of this 80-year-old heritage shophouse and enter Emerald Cty. The gorgeous green marble long bar is lit by the glow radiating through the stained glass. Behind it, bartenders dressed in bow ties and bermuda shorts are shaking up classic cocktails crafted with Asian ingredients. The bar's namesake, The Gibson ($23), is always a safe bet. Made with Roku gin and Ginjo sake-vermouth, the boozy drink pays homage to Japan in its elegant simplicity.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Outram

You might get distracted on your way to Gibson with a swanky Japanese mid-century modern bar. Live Twice beckons with an alluring amber glow and luxurious furniture, and of course, spectacular rinks by Leow Yingying, a Diageo World Class winner. The Geisha-inspired drink names help embody the elegant charm of the cocktails; try Little Blossom, which brings to mind the tranquil setting of a Japanese zen garden with its sweet floral notes, balanced with a touch of smoke from the alluring edible perfume made with bergamot and Palo Santo essence.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Raffles Place

Hidden in plain sight, The Secret Mermaid is the alter ego of Shinkansen, a design-your-own salad bar in the CBD. The shared space, outfitted with black grilles and brass piping, morphs into a hole-in-the-wall cocktail bar after five in the evening. Bottles of gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whisky occupy every nook and cranny in this minuscule hideout, and the bar also has one of the largest collections of American craft spirits.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

This tiny 10-seater bar first started in the hidden alleys of Tanjong Pagar, making a name for itself with its experimental ideas and ever-changing cocktail menu. It has now expanded to a bigger 25-seater, tucked behind Maxi Coffee Bar. Enter through a side door, and be greeted by the same intimate vibes that most know the bar for. The ever-changing menu keeps things fresh and exciting; the current theme spotlights Khipu, a take on Peruvian street food and cocktails.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Raffles Place

Following the directions on Google Maps alone won’t get you to The Dragon Chamber; you’ll need to sleuth around to find this elusive restaurant. From the outside, you’re first greeted by a clean-looking kopitiam serving wonton noodles and roast meats. But have a look around for a fridge door – for that’s where the real entrance of The Dragon Chamber is. Step inside, and you’ll be transported to a darker, more mysterious location – with old posters and chinoiserie that lend a grungy, underground vibe reminiscent of gang dens of old Hong Kong. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Raffles Place

Remember the cool kid at school who was indifferent to instruction but kept scoring top marks? That’s 28 HongKong Street. Calling the ground floor of an old shophouse home, it opened without any fanfare in 2011. The bar keeps a shroud of secrecy: it doesn’t have fancy signboards to make its presence. Still, it has since become one of the forerunners of the local cocktail scene – for those who know where they are located.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Outram

Continuing Singapore’s ardour for made-in-Japan brands and talent, bartender Daiki Kanetaka pens a love letter to tipple sippers here with his handsome Ginza-style bar that delivers a rarified cocktail experience to swoon over. Enter the 28-seater shophouse speakeasy from a lifestyle retail front selling some of the bar’s glassware, leather products and, oddly, a fixie. Inside, Kanetaka replicates the wood-clad long bars of his other establishments, with 14 bar-side bearish leather armchairs and seats for another 14 on plump chesterfield loungers.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown

Beyond a pink neon sign that flickers ‘Psychic’, you’ll find a bar that will take you back to the Prohibition days of the US. Choose to have your fortune read or squeeze through the mingling crowd to the back of Employee’s Only for a table – like the original New York cocktail institution of the same name, this local off-shoot is a favourite among F&B folks to gather and unwind.

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