If you, like me, enjoy drawn-out liaisons and beautifully-crafted cocktails whilst staying incognito, then perhaps a throwback to Prohibition-style bars may just be what you’re looking for. Most are beloved gems of the CBD crowd, but bars these days enjoy increasingly hidden entrances, and revel in serving only patrons that are in-the-know. Let us let you in on some of them bars you should know.
Ah Sam has a very specific aesthetic and we assume they’re gunning for the old-school, museum/ your grandmother’s storefront vibe. The bar was conceptualised as a drinking hole for migrant workers and the hyperlocal menu pays homage to Singaporean cuisine, and people flock here for when they’ve had enough of being basic at void deck kopitiams. Think, alcoholic Milo, Chendol, Ice Limau and even…dare we believe it, Laksa? The Laksa cocktail is a blend of fresh lemongrass, chili padi, coconut cream, lime juice and vodka fat-washed with Hae Bee Hiam. However, the less adventurous should do Chendol, with plain old dependable rum, coconut cream and gula melaka. Bar nosh are what you can find at the hawker centre, only, prices “elevated”; ($12) for char kway teow, ($10) for orh luak. All cocktails are priced from ($24).
60 Boat Quay, 6-12pm daily; closed Sundays.
If you’re a lady, this place is where you will be taken to when a date wants to impress you/ when you specifically request to be impressed. I know because, been there. We had both studied in London, and so, we shared a mutual love of unearthing hole-in-the-wall drinking spots. Furthermore, I had requested “dimly lit”, because it’s been awhile since we’d met.
He couldn’t give me the name of the bar, nor explain how to get there, so we ended up meeting at a cafe, first.
They specialise in serving Mexican spirits. The door ended up elaborately hidden, that we had to round the corner of shophouse, duck into a discreet alley on the left, walk two doors down, coming face to face with a nondescript entrance. Altogether the name of the game is discretion, but I wonder how Junior survives as a business, if they only seat 10.
I was also suitably impressed; if only the bar had been opened. It wasn’t. We will make our way there again, of that I’m sure, but the main takeaway is that you should never judge a book by its cover.
43 Tg Pagar Rd., 6-12pm daily; closed Sundays.
A stalwart that has made its way on several “hidden gems” list, Operation Dagger is a basement bar, all industrial chic, with exposed beams. Keep your eyes peeled for an unmarked door behind Oxwell and Co. Don’t be stumped by the apothecary-style bottles—they won’t be selling you health and wellness packages here because spirits have been re-distilled and enhanced. Really, their sweet cocktails spell like liquid desserts but are potent to boot. Get the Banana Split ($25) after the Pork Soda ($25); the latter with roast pork belly, apple and creamed soda. Drinking accompaniments skew towards sophisticated, look forward to sheep fromage with candied walnuts; or flax seed crisps. Come Feb, Operation Dagger will launch a brand spanking new menu you can look forward to.
7 Ann Siang Hill, 6-12pm daily; closed Sundays.
I love a good craft spirit, and The Secret Mermaid thoughtfully caters to that need. Serving up mainly American craft spirits, the bar sees some Happy Hour fun from 5 to 7pm; where cocktails go for ($14). The American twist on drinks see the Applewood Negroni ($22) infused with cinnamon, vanilla and rosemary smoke.G&T fans will delight to find gins meticulously paired with artisanal tonic, infused with the likes of mango and rosemary; soursop puree; passionfruit syrup and tamarind all ($20). Fancy an order off the menu? Ask the staff for a daily special.
Ocean Financial Centre, #B1-09, 5-11pm daily; closed weekends.