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Manhattan at Regent Singapore
Photograph: Tom White

The best specialist bars in Singapore

Pick your poison of choice, any day of the week. Additional reporting by Sihan Lee

Written by
Iliyas Ong
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If you’re one to choose your bars based on your poison of choice, rejoice at these joints dedicated to fulfilling your one-track minded fantasies regarding a dedicated spirit. From American whiskey to Korean makgeolli, there's a place in town for whatever you feel like downing. 

RECOMMENDED: The 50 best bars in Singapore and the best natural wine bars in Singapore

American whiskey

Manhattan
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Orchard

This number one bar in Singapore does not mess around when it comes to its collection of whiskies. Launching its exclusive American Whiskey Club in 2017, the bar now possesses a collection of over 150 bottles of whiskies, from the unicorn species of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Years ($290 per shot) to the herbaceous and spiced-infused Pow-wow Rye Whiskey ($45 per shot). If you’re a novice, kick off your journey with some sound advice from the ground crew while warming up to sips of The New Colossus ($26) – a cocktail of Willett 3 Year Rye, Mancino Rosse, Dom Benedictine, Peychaud's bitters and absinthe.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Marina Bay

The hyped-up import from the US occupies an enviable spot at Marina Bay Sands, bringing with it a menu of hearty Southern classics and a gold mine of bourbon and rye. Go for a dram of Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel ($30) for the purest expression of what the gold standard of bourbon should taste like, or try a cocktail like the Watermelon Sling ($24) – Death’s Door white whiskey, Aperol, rosemary and watermelon juice – to go with your fried chicken ($35-$45). Better yet, spring for a measure of rare bourbon if your wallet’s up for it: the AH Hirsch 1974 16-year Reserve clocks in at a cool $600 a shot.

Local and regional spirits

Native
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

Spirit hunters visiting Asia for the first time should stop by Native for an education on what the region has to offer. Well-known urban forager and award-winning bartender Vijay Mudalier is the brains behind this bar that thrives on showcasing flavours unique to Singapore and the cities that surround us. Ascend the flight of stairs located along Amoy Street and you’ll find a healthy stock of regional spirits such as Indian whisky, Cambodian rum, Thai gin and Indonesian arrack. Cocktails highlight the local terroir, where you'll find familiar ingredients like curry leaves, kampot pepper, buah keluak, blue pea flower and candlenut.

Scotch

  • Clubs
  • City Hall

Over at Auld Alliance, class and old world charm drip from timber wood surfaces and plush leather couches. The menu is as thick as your average encyclopaedia, and you'll be dazzled by choice with over 40 whisky flights (starting from $40). Its range covers whiskies from the most popular distilleries in Scotland to the dark horses from other European towns.

Gin

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

Tucked away in a corner of Oasia Hotel, with floor to ceiling glass doors that open out to an alfresco space, Cin Cin stocks over 100 different types of gin on its shelves. Here's exactly where you can get you after-work martinis, gin and tonics, gimlets, Tom Collins, negronis, French 75s, vespers, corpse revivers (because we could all use one after a dreadful workday) – and more. As a bonus for the hedonists, the bar runs Gin Treasury every Saturday, where you can flounder your way through a list of predetermined gins, free-flow style, for three hours at just $68 per head. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Rochor
  • price 2 of 4

At this art deco-inspired bar that Jay Gatsby would be proud to patronise, ordering a simple G&T won’t do. Atlas has upwards of 1,000 bottles of gin, housed in a three-storey-high tower, that have been sourced from more than 40 countries. So if you’ve ever wanted to sample gins from Greece, Estonia or Moldova, here’s your chance. Most of these are rare or vintage spirits, too, with prices to match: a martini made with gin from the 1910s, for instance, will set you back $250. But pull yourself back to Earth and scan through the leather-bound menu for more affordable tipples like The Atlas Martini ($24) crafted with London dry gin.

Japanese whisky

The Wall
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Shelves of backlit bottles cast an amber glow upon this cavernous restaurant and bar that deals in sumiyaki and whisky. While you’ll find whiskies the world over on the menu here, The Wall is especially proud of its Japanese malt collection – and rightfully so. There is much more on offer than the sought-after expressions from the exalted Suntory distilleries of Yamazaki and Hakushu. Single-grain whisky from Chita, special Ichiro’s Malt expressions from Chichibu and Hanyu, and ultra-rare bottles from Karuizawa (a vintage from 1963, anyone?) are available, too.

Sake

  • Bars and pubs
  • Raffles Place

You know you’ve struck gold when the largest distributors of sake in Singapore operate a standing bar. Among its impressive roster of alcoholic options, Japanese whiskies, umeshu, gin and shochu, comes the pièce de résistance – over 400 exclusive labels from more than 40 sake breweries. Traverse the land of the rising sun, one tipple at a time, starting with the premium Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo from Kochi prefecture, to the small-batched Musubiyui Junmai Daiginjo hailing from Ibaraki and finally further south to the Fukuoka prefecture for Niwa no Uguisi Junamai Ginjo. Accompany your spirited road trip across Japan with sake bar bites such as edamame and smoked stingray fin. 

Shochu

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown

Unlike sake, which is made by fermenting rice, shochu is distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes and other starchy ingredients. And at RPM by D.Bespoke, you can find a wide range to get yourself acquainted with this spirit. Sample different types of by ordering a tasting flight ($35), which offers a sampler of Ikenotsuyu sweet potato shochu from Kumamoto, Dabada chestnut shochu from Kochi and incredibly smooth Asagiri No Hana rice shochu from Kumamoto. Don’t like it neat? Most of the cocktails on RPM’s menu, from the lighter lemon sour ($23) and dark and stormy ($23) to the more spirit-forward negroni ($23) and barrel-aged taimatsu ($25), use shochu as its base and go down like a dream.

Rum

  • Clubs
  • Chinatown

Despite its core business profile, La Maison du Whisky throws a forceful curveball in the rum arena with more than 80 varieties of rum, bringing a touch of Caribbean spirit to the riverside establishment. It stocks white rum, navy rum, spiced rum, aged rum and rhum agricole, but fret not if your eyes are starting to glaze over – with passionate retailers on deck, you're in safe hands. A couple of our picks include the Clairin Vaval ($25 for 45ml) hailing from Cavaillon, which comes with a subtle notes of vanilla scent and saffron; the lord of funk, Hampden Estate 46% ($33 for 45ml pour), which is best drunk neat and the Neisson XO Full Proof ($80 for 45ml), which showcases endless legs of herbaceous freshness and soft spices.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Outram

Palm plants, rattan furniture and hanging bird cages make this second-floor shophouse bar seem more like a friend’s living room – until you spy the racks of spirits that line the wall. Given owner Chris Morris’ Caribbean roots, Bago is devoted to all manner of rums. There are dozens of labels of rum, rhum and ron (respectively, British-, French- and Spanish-style rums) that you can sip neat or shaken up in a cocktail. From typical Bacardi expressions to cult favourites like Diplomatico Reserva to little-known distilleries such as New Grove in Mauritius, Bago isn’t kidding about its rum credentials. The bar even concocts its own rum infusions with herbs and spices. If you can’t decide which to go for, check out the menu’s Bago Build section: you pick your flavours and ‘mood’, and let the bartender mix up a tipple ($25) based on your preferences.

Makgeolli

Joo Bar
  • Restaurants
  • Rochor

When translated, the name of this modern Korean bar and restaurant means ‘alcohol’. Specifically, it’s makgeolli – Korean rice wine – that takes centre-stage, with owners Jamie and Kristin Lim brewing and serving this milky white drink on tap. Newbies to makgeolli can try the sampler ($35), which includes Joo’s four in-house creations in flavours such as yucha, mango and strawberry. The house-brewed makgeolli ($7/mini, $15/small, $28/large) can be paired with Kimcheese Bacon Pancake ($22) and Joo bossam ($28), made with boiled Mangalitsa pork belly.

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