Best bars for local cocktails

Bean curd and Chinese cold medicine remedies aren't foreign to the cocktails at these bars

Nutmeg & Clove

There are too many ways to get drunk on Club Street, but Nutmeg & Clove trumps its lager-pouring neighbours, infusing Asian flavours into its crafted cocktails. Its conserved shophouse space, complete with the flourish of brushstrokes on a Chinese signboard, harks back to the area's immigrant heritage, as do the drinks that carefully balance spice and herb in porcelain cup tipples. The bar's petite Korean bartender, Bannie Kang, works under the consultation of Marian Beke from top London bar Nightjar, while Ginza bar legend Hidetsugu Ueno of Bar High Five shows up for a guest stint here every few months.  

Try Singapore Sling ($20). Forget the terribly sweet original. Hibiscus-addled Tanqueray, Benedictine DOM, goji and red date syrup are aged in a nutmeg barrel for a fruity drink that doesn't hold back on its punch. 

Hopscotch 

Tucked away in one of the courtyards of the historic Red Dot Traffic Museum is the copper pipe-, wood- and bare concrete-dressed Hopscotch. Find Singaporean bartenders Joel De Win and Kino Soh behind the bar here, decorated with little toy tchotchkes reclaimed from the ’80s and ’90s. De Win and Soh are absolute whizzes at borrowing inspiration from local hawker food favourites for their complex craft cocktails, and each serving comes with a thoughtful local snack to cut the sweet, savoury and burn.

Try Golden 933 ($21). Curry leaves and cereal butter fat-washed rum conjure a drinkable – and almost savoury – version of the zi char favourite, cereal butter prawns. 

Jekyll & Hyde

By day, it’s a nail parlour. But at night, Jeremie Tan takes over the bar counter at the end of this long space to experiment with silky soy milk, medicinal goji berries and mangosteen in his sweeter and herb-forward cocktails, typically served in funky bamboo, glass and porcelain vessels. Bar snacks like luncheon meat fries and chilli crab drive home the local narrative. Hardcore sippers hankering for an Old Fashioned or Manhattan nightcap though, better make haste for other bars in the vicinity – Jekyll & Hyde makes its own drinks better than it does the classics. 

Try Mr Bean ($23). Silky soft Lao Ban soy pudding – some say they make the best version of the traditional dessert here in Singapore – is shaken into butterscotch liqueur, Frangelico and vodka, then poured into a bamboo bowl for you to slurp. 

Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall 

For locals, it's the smell of success. For those that travel east from colder climes, the pong of belachan – fermented shrimp paste – that hangs over this Boat Quay bar might be an acquired scent. Stick around the dark room manned by the bar’s namesake Sam Wong and his number two, Edwin Poh, and refined bespoke cocktails are your reward. The drinks here are all anchored on the classics, but add-ins like laksa leaves, coconut milk, osmanthus flowers and gula melaka give the cocktails here a local identity. Poh also flexes his cooking muscles to fry up plates of Hokkien mee ($12), prawn paste chicken ($10) – this explains the smell – and char kway teow ($12) to make the experience so distinctively Singaporean.

Try A bespoke cocktail ($18-$35). Tell Wong or Poh your favourite classic drink, and wait for the surprise.

Ding Dong

Chef Ryan Clift of Tippling Club, a restaurant on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, loosens his apron strings and dabbles in Asian flavours at Ding Dong. While the sharing bamboo basket dishes are still pretty vanilla interpretations of Asian classics, the fun cocktails created by Kamil Foltan – the group's Czech bar expert, lured away from the fêted Zetter Hotel & Townhouse in London – are at a whole different level of invention. Asian ingredients like rice, Thai tea, pandan and Vietnamese coffee are infused into craft spirits and worked into genius cocktails ($17-$22) like the Roti Kaya, which drinks like a Singaporean kaya toast breakfast. 

Try Pi Pa Kao. The traditional Chinese coffee remedy that quells sore throats finds itself in fine company with aged Diplomatico rum, Black Label and calamansi for a spirit-forward cocktail with a minty finish.

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