When it comes to setting an atmosphere of mystery, Operation Dagger scores full marks. Near to the action but not quite, the basement bar is hidden along a back alley at the junction of Club Street and Ann Siang Hill. The entrance – unwashed floor, plain glass door, illegible scribbling on the top – is so nondescript that even the building it’s in doesn’t have a name. It opens to a dingy staircase that leads further down, but it’s the smell that hits you first: an acrid smokiness of burnt herbs.
Headed by Luke Whearty and Aki Nishikura, the bar lies under a cloud of light bulbs and against a backdrop of shelves, on which stand rows of tinted bottles labelled with a grid of faded drawings. (One of the indifferent bartenders explains that they’re a code for each liquid.) In 2015 alone, Operation Dagger was voted Best New Bar at the Singapore Bar Awards and came in the top ten for Best New International Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail. Proof is in the pudding or, in this case, every one of the duo’s multi-sensory concoctions.