Welcome to Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG – our commitment to showing you the best of what's going on in the city this week. Every Monday, a guest writer who's "in" with the scene shares a recommendation on what to see, eat, do or buy in the city. This week we speak to Cedric Mendoza, the head bartender of Manhattan. The bar at the Regent Singapore recently claimed the third spot on this year's World's 50 Best Bars list – making it the top dog in Asia. Here's what he thinks about the win and Singapore's drink scene.
Congrats on coming in third on the World's 50 Best Bars list, how does it feel?
At times, I still don't know how to respond when someone congratulates us. It is a surreal, humbling and extremely rewarding experience for such a young bar. We are proud of what we've achieved in our four years of operation, but there's still lots to learn from the veterans and big players. We will put our heads down and continue to stay grounded in this highly competitive bar scene in Singapore. Honestly, we are still letting this achievement sink in. It has been really busy at Manhattan since the award and we are focusing on our guests first, a proper celebration can come later!
What do you think sets you apart from other bars around the world?
Apart from our beverage programme and innovative offerings, at the heart of it all, is a dedicated team that is committed to excellence, consistency and teamwork. Everyone on the team is hungry to learn and goes the extra mile to help each other out - it almost feels like a family business run by close-knit siblings. All this translates to a memorable experience for our guests, something we believe is uniquely Manhattan.
What's the most rewarding thing about running such an esteemed establishment?
Besides having colleagues I call family and winning awards along the way, our guests have also become supportive friends that keep on supporting us. It feels great to have people that were beside us from beginning watching us evolve and grow. Another thing is having constant support from our management. Sometimes, our ideas can sound rather ambitious but we are given guidance to reach our goals and free rein to translate these bold ideas into reality.
What gets you excited about Singapore?
Back in college, I didn't even know where Singapore was. All I knew was that everyone wanted to go there for an internship. I applied and have never looked back since. I have lived here for almost 9 years and the thing that excites me most is how vibrant the city is – there's always something going on somewhere on the island – be it in the food and beverage scene, arts, culture or entertainment, and it gets better each year. I'm particularly impressed by the rich, authentic culinary scene here since I love to eat and drink – and Singapore never fails to disappoint. It's always a struggle to think of where and what to eat and drink. What a good problem to have!
When did you first fall in love with F&B?
I started my F&B career in 2010, but it was never really love at first sight. It was just a means for me to pass time while saving a bit of money while deciding on what I really wanted to do in my life. As time passed, I realise that it's actually a viable career option in Singapore, and fell in love with different aspects of running a F&B business.
What are your thoughts on Singapore's bar scene?
Singapore is standing strong in the cocktail scene globally. It feels really great to see how the industry has grown and evolved in the past couple of years. Back in 2013, there were just a handful of cocktail bars, now, we have so many notable local and international talents. And we're at the forefront of cocktail innovation and craft globally. The bar scene is definitely more vibrant and competitive, and consumers are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and interested in fine cocktails. This propels Singapore bars to continue pushing the creative boundaries in the art of cocktail making.
What are some local bars you would recommend?
There are two bars that I always hang out at, even before I became a bartender. One of them is 28 HongKong Street. I still remember sitting down and ordering an Old Fashioned – back in 2013, I didn't even know what went inside it, I just thought it sounded classy and I wanted to be fancy. The bartender asked me if I wanted to try the Cognac or Rye instead. I didn't know the difference between the two but the bartender was kind enough to explain and that made it very memorable for me. Another bar I would recommend is Jigger and Pony, the team always makes me feel welcomed. Its new location looks chic, elegant and sexy, and most importantly the quality of drinks and service is consistent. Visitors will never be disappointed there.
What's your favourite cocktail of all time and why? Bonus points if you tell us where we can get it.
My favourite cocktail of all time is the Manhattan. There are very few bars in the world that impress me, but locally I highly recommend trying the Manhattan at Operation Dagger, D'Bespoke and Employees Only – all made to perfection.