During a recent evening on Purvis Street, Colin Chia is describing his “very personal” project, a new bar so deeply him that it is fittingly called Last Word.
Opened since January 2022, the bar serves only classic cocktails as Chia sees them: “carefully produced, tasty, and perfect.”
But like his other bars Nutmeg & Clove and Chuan by Nutmeg, Last Word was eventually shaped by Chia’s team led by general manager Shelley Tai and head bartender Joel Lim. “I just have the ideas,” Chia said. “They are the ones who execute everything.” Six months after its debut, Last Word finally “feels ready,” he added.
Located above Nutmeg & Clove, Last Word has no sign, no indication you are in the right place. Stumbling upon it is like discovering a high-end, Ginza-style drinking den in Tokyo known only to locals.
The Japanese vibe continues inside, but Chia prefers to call it “minimalist Nordic Zen.” Choose a spot by the eight-metre long bar counter or the low wooden tables, and the noragi-clothed staff offer you a towel as you sit down. There is no bottles lining the sparse shelfs. Only glassware and the odd bartending book hint that this is a cocktail bar. “I want Last Word to be like inviting friends to my house for good drinks and good company,” said Chia.
Last Word’s menu is primarily made up for 20 classic cocktails, divided according to styles. Search online, and there is a general consensus of how these drinks are made, but Chia tweaked their formulas to his liking.
Take the Prohibition-era Last Word cocktail, for instance, which the bar is also named after. “The original recipe can be a bit jelak (rich),” Chia said. “Too sweet, too herbaceous.” At the bar, it becomes drier and crisp with a hint of grassiness, achieved by adding more Hendricks Gin and less green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur. The traditional garnish of maraschino cherry is also not spared, its sweetness toned down with a soaking in brandy and cinnamon.
Last Word also takes on oft-maligned cocktails like the Bloody Mary. In the wrong hands, the drink can be cloying and bombastically garnished, but here it is light and fluffy with celery-infused Haku Vodka, fresh tomatoes juice, wasabi, togarashi spice, and a salt rim. It is also very seasonal. While the bar currently uses Japanese summer tomatoes, they will source whatever is ripest, which will change the drink’s profile.
Besides the classics, Last Word offers dessert and seasonal cocktails that are more experimental. They also allow the bar to attract a wider audience. “We want to cater to younger drinkers,” Chia said. “We can’t serve martinis to them all the time.”
Available now is the seasonal Wakame, which riffs on a shaken Martini with Botanist Dry Gin and seaweed-infused sake, giving the creamy saline drink a mint tinge. Under desserts, Strawberry is a shortcake-turned-clarified milk punch with butter biscuit-infused cognac and vanilla foam. Rich and smooth, it is liquid dessert.
Last Word has a succinct list of food that is also influenced by Japan. Kake fry, or panko fried oysters, are a juicy, crunchy snack, while the Grilled Wagyu MB5+ is lusciously fatty. Then there is Oden, a stew of fish cake, boiled egg, and radish. It is simple and clean-tasting, yet alluring enough to let Last Word have the final say on what you drink next.