Photo: Jigger & Pony courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020
Singapore’s most famous drink is the eponymous sling, which was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel Long Bar in 1915. The Lion City’s cocktail offerings have long transcended the sling, however, and the Asia’s 50 Best Bars List for 2020, which was announced May 14, shows that this tiny city-state keeps punching above its weight, taking 11 spots in the top 50. What’s even more impressive is that seven of those places can be found in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, all within a little more than a mile. If you’re in Singapore right now, these bars are all offering takeout or delivery options—but for the full experience, you’ll need to plan a future cocktail crawl, starting at the newly crowned Best Bar in Asia.
Asia’s new No. 1 has been open for eight years, but it saw its profile rise after moving to the Amara Hotel on Tanjong Pagar Road in late 2018. In 2019, it debuted on the World’s 50 Best List at No. 29, and this week it planted its flag at the top of the mountain in Asia. The mod interior feels lifted from Mad Men, while the menu is all about fun takes on classic drinks, including a Genmaicha Bellini and Crystal Ramos gin fizz.
While many Singaporean cocktail spots evince a Western influence, D.Bespoke’s Japanese owner looked to the sleek spaces of Tokyo’s Ginza district for his bar, which ranked 23rd on the latest list. Aside from the, ahem, bespoke mixed drinks, the bar specializes in Spanish sherries, French brandies, and vintage rums.
Set in a classic prewar shophouse, this attractive bar, which placed 25th on the 2020 list, is named after a variant of the martini (one that’s usually garnished with a pickled onion). As such, the menu boasts expertly crafted classics, sometimes with a regional twist—think old-fashioneds made with baked Japanese sweet potatoes or highballs with Malaysian white guava.
The original Old Man, in Hong Kong, has long been lauded as one of the best bars in the world, and this spinoff location, which opened last year, quickly took its rightful place among the Best in Asia (No. 22) and the World (No. 38 on the 2019 list). The place leans heavy into its Hemingway theme, with a cool Cubist portrait of the author behind the bar and drinks with names such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms dotting the menu.
This gastrobar spread across three shophouses has been a leader in the Singaporean mixology vanguard for more than a decade, and it placed 17th on this year’s list. The cocktails are creative (how good does a banh mi sazerac sound?) and work in amazing concert with the high-concept, tasting-menu meals.
After falling off the list in 2019, this speakeasy-style spot on Ann Siang Hill makes a triumphant return with a No. 32 ranking for 2020. The walls here are decorated with vintage 1960s posters and old medicine cabinets (the building once housed a traditional Chinese apothecary), while the menu draws its flavors from local culture (think: a Bloody Mary inspired by chili crab, a popular Singaporean dish).
Finish your crawl (you might be literally crawling at this point) at this Amoy Street institution, which ranked No. 6 in Asia this year and No. 12 in the world last year. The bartenders here carefully craft cocktails that are as photogenic as they are delicious, with a focus on Southeast Asian ingredients such as candlenut and curry leaf. Don’t miss out on the house-infused gins, which make use of everything from chrysanthemum to Kampot pepper.
Want to do the crawl yourself? The map below will take you on a trip through cocktail bar nirvana.