There are hidden bars and then there are hidden bars. The former are easy to spot: they’re usually half-heartedly “disguised” behind a token barbershop, a perfunctory café or a flimsy fortune-telling establishment. “Disguised” that is, like a two-year-old child playing hide and seek.
It’s clear after walking in circles around a brightly lit shopping centre for more than 15 minutes that this time I’m dealing with an entirely different level of “hidden”. Horse’s Mouth, one of Singapore’s hottest new cocktail bars, is properly hard to find — it’s camouflaged behind a working noodle bar. And nobody seems to have heard of it.
Right now, though, Singapore is awash with cocktail culture. The city-state dominated this year’s prestigious list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, with 13 entries in the final 50. Eight of those made the top 20, including the ultimate winner — Manhattan.
Whether outside investment, climate, the preponderance of rooftop bars or the rise of a large class of young professionals is driving this trend, a city with such a thirst for success has turned its attention to cocktails. As a result, Singapore is already breathing angostura-infused fumes down the necks of nightlife heavyweights such as London, Paris and New York.
The sheer diversity of upscale drinking options in Singapore’s walkable centre is borderline ridiculous — from swanky cocktail lounges in flagship hotels to speakeasies like Horse’s Mouth. So whatever your taste, here’s where to have a roaring time in the Lion City.
Manhattan has a seemingly endless collection of comfortable leather armchairs and sofas — and a world-beating cocktail menu to help you sink into them. No prizes for guessing the signature drink.
1 Cuscaden Rd, Level 2; regenthotels.com
2. Bitters and Love
An Alice-in-Wonderland of a bar hidden behind a door which simply says “Peek Here”. Quirky cocktails served to a killer soundtrack.
118 Telok Ayer St; bittersandlove.com
3. D Bespoke
A sleek, sumptuous Ginza-style bar hidden behind a designer shoe shop (think sterling-silver beer mats, triple-filtered ice cubes and Singapore’s sharpest young professionals).
2 Bukit Pasoh Road; dbespoke.sg
The locals call this place “Gotham Bar” — it sure looks like the kind of place Bruce Wayne might head for happy hour. A grand, Art Deco-style lobby bar, it has more than 1,000 gins, most of which are accessed by ladders and pulleys behind the bar.
Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road; atlasbar.sg
5. 28 HongKong Street
Despite reaching number four on the Best Bars in Asia list, this remains a laidback establishment with no signage and no pretensions.
28 Hong Kong St; 28hks.com
6. Operation Dagger
An obscure entrance marked only by “hobo code” (a system of graffiti-like symbols used by the homeless) disguises a raw concrete bar serving multi-sensory molecular cocktails.
7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01; operationdagger.com
7. Nutmeg & Clove
Just off buzzing Ann Siang Hill you’ll find this welcome, breezy oasis behind an innocuous curtain and up a flight of wooden stairs. The cocktail menu is extraordinary: look out for ingredients including fried anchovies and squid ink ice cream.
10 Ann Siang Hill; nutmegandclove.com.sg
8. The Gibson
Named after the famous pickled onion martini (which is served here with pickled ginger and sake vermouth) The Gibson is in an unassuming Singaporean shop house. It celebrated its first birthday last year with five new signature cocktails.
Second Floor, 20 Bukit Pasoh Road; gibsonbar.sg
Split over the first and second floors of a steep, Dutch-style townhouse, Native has a locally sourced menu built around foraging. The most famous cocktail is Antz, a coconut rum concoction served with roasted weaver ants on a liquid nitrogen-frozen leaf.
52a Amoy Street; tribenative.com
10. Horse’s Mouth
You’ll definitely want to make a repeat visit once you locate it (look for the grey curtain behind the noodle shop near McDonald’s in the Forum Shopping Mall). It’s also well positioned for seasonal gift-buying. (Insert own horse’s mouth gag here).
583 Orchard Road, #B1-39, Forum the Shopping Mall; horsesmouthbar.com