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Singapore’s leading bartenders share their favourite bars around the world

One of our favourite things to do when travelling to major capitals around the world is to explore their vibrant bar scenes. However, especially in cities with burgeoning ones such as London or Melbourne, sometimes the vast range of options just gets too overwhelming. Where do we go? What should we drink? Are the house pours going to give us a major hangover the next day?

Ahead of our year-end vacation plans, we decided to get some recommendations from prominent bartenders in Singapore’s own thriving bar scene. After all, they are well-versed in everything related to cocktails, spirits, and even a bar’s atmosphere. We spoke to the head bartenders and bar managers from some of Singapore’s top bars — namely Tippling Club, Operation Dagger, Atlas, Crackerjack and Catchfly — to find out their favourite bars around the world. Some of the answers we received were rather unexpected, we have to admit.

Without further ado, here’s where and what to drink on your next holiday, as suggested by five of Singapore’s leading bartenders.

Liam Baer, Bar Manager of Catchfly

Singapore's leading bartenders
Liam Baer

Attaboy, New York City 

“This speakeasy bar was founded by bartending legend Sam Ross, a Milk and Honey (an award-winning bar in New York) alum. Attaboy not only serves fantastic cocktails, but has a great vibe contributed by a team that truly embraces hospitality.”

What to drink:Penicillin is not just my favourite drink at this bar, but probably one of my top five drinks, period! It’s a refreshing blend of smoky scotch, lemon, honey and invigorating ginger.”

The Pontiac, Hong Kong

The Pontiac in Hong Kong is my home away from home. Walking into that bar feels like being transported to a bar in New York — unabashed and completely free of pretension. This is thanks to the team that truly understands the concept of a bar being a place for the community.”

What to drink: “The Heisenberg – A delicious, frozen twist on the classic Corpse Reviver #2. The drink is strong, cold, blue and topped with rainbow sprinkles. What else do you need?”

High Five Bar, Tokyo

“First of all, Ueno San is a hospitality god. Stepping into his bar is like stepping into someone’s living room. It’s a guarantee that Ueno will make you feel at home, whether it’s your first time coming to High Five or your 50th.”

Where to drink: “The Dry Martini. I am pretty sure Ueno San is a wizard. I mean how else do you explain a consistent, balanced and flavourful martini each time?”

Juan Yijun, Sous Bartender of Operation Dagger

Singapore's leading bartenders
Juan Yijun

Bar Termini, London

“If you’re walking around in Soho to shop or to eat, this is the place for a pit stop to refuel and take in some vitamin D. The menu is simple and direct, and every drink is a killer. Bar Termini opens from 10am and if great cocktails are not enough, Bar Termini makes excellent coffee. It’s are right smack in the middle of a cluster of great restaurants, and near enough for you to hop in for coffee in the morning, a little aperitivo (pre-meal drink to whet your appetite) before dinner, and a digestivo (an Italian after-dinner drink) after.”

What to drink: “The Bloody Mary here is hands down the best I’ve had. The bartenders use a house-distilled horseradish vodka that will make you want to have a hangover on purpose — just so you have another excuse to smash these!”

Heartbreaker, Melbourne

“There is no list without a dive bar to level it out. Heartbreaker is a neon-lit fantasy for the rockers, with a house jukebox, pool tables and old school arcade games. With skull taps for beers, cocktails poured directly from the bottle in perfectly cut ice, and pizza, there isn’t much more you can ask for in a bar.”

What to drink: “Everything. The last time I was there, Heartbreaker had a great list of beers, ciders and three cocktails. I was there every night and exhausted the list many times over. This was also made possible by the genius trick of pouring pre-made classics by its sister bar Everleigh, which also means you get your drink quicker than you can say ‘mixologist’.”

Tippling Club, Singapore

Tippling Club is where I was first introduced to the kitchen and the chefs that work there. It’s the first bar in Singapore that pairs cocktails with a tasting menu. Working with classics is a prerequisite for any bartender, but to stay ahead of the game is to be open to techniques and context outside of your own — and having Chef Ryan Clift and Joe Schofield is a great example of what that should look like.”

What to drink: “Joe has made a menu that uses scent and memory on perfume paper as opposed to words on a page. This is direct and effective, as you get a whiff of what you order before you decide to taste the full drink. I love Rain, which is made up of redistilled beetroot to emulate the same flavour of rain — served as a fizz garnished with grey.”

Joe Schofield, Head Bartender of Tippling Club

Singapore's leading bartenders
Joe Schofield

American Bar at The Savoy, London

“One of my favourite bars is the American Bar at The Savoy. For over 127 years, The Savoy has set a benchmark for hospitality and cocktail standards. Not only has the bar continued to grow and evolve over the years, it also still remains true to its legacy. I was fortunate enough to work there before moving to Tippling Club in Singapore, and will always consider The Savoy my home away from home.”

What to drink: “There’s always something special about sipping a martini in a great hotel bar. I like a vodka martini, dry with an olive.”

The Clumsies, Athens

The Clumsies team are the epitome of fantastic hospitality. Here, they use an ancient Greek concept called ‘Xenia’, which is a tradition of showing generosity and courtesy for those away from home. This bar serves great drinks, great atmosphere and great people.”

What to drink: “Everything is good, so drink whatever you like!”

Speakeasy Mortar, Seoul

Speakeasy Mortar in Seoul is run by a great host and bartender, Rocky. What I like about this bar is that the walls are padded, so you can’t get any phone reception. Add in communal tables, and you get a bar that encourages you to talk to other patrons. I love the amazing selection of drinks here and the great soundtrack.”

What to drink: “Whisky Highball, made up of blended whisky, carbonated water and lemon.”

Zachary de Git, Co-Head Barman of Crackerjack & Junior

Singapore's leading bartenders
Zachary de Git

Bar Swift, London

“First of all, this bar is located in Soho, which is renowned for its great members’ bars. The team at Bar Swift are quick on their feet, hospitable and attentive. They really make you feel at home here. The bar is separated into two areas, upstairs and down. The former is a brighter space that serves a great selection of aperitivo-style drinks, oysters, along with a well-curated selection of white spirits. The downstairs area, my favourite part, is extremely cosy and has an extremely impressive selection of whisky and stunning drinks. If I had one night left in the world it would be spent here.”

What to drink: “I’d have a little Sgroppino (Italian cocktail) upstairs, it’s super refreshing and a great light way to start. It’s made of prosecco, mint, lemon sorbet and vodka. Downstairs, a cracking Irish coffee and an amazing array of whisky cocktails on the menu.

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Los Angeles

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s has all the thrills of the sometimes tacky speakeasy entrance paired with a laid back non-pretentious party inside. You enter through a garage in what seems like a refitted house, and find a vibe that is reminiscent of a house party.”

What to drink: “Boilermakers all round. Pick a beer, a shot and just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. It doesn’t boast the world’s best cocktail list, but it’s meant to be light hearted and fun.”

Black Pearl, Melbourne

“This one’s a little more personal. I use to work at Black Pearl, and was a frequent patron before. In both scenarios, I had never felt more at home. The place oozes hospitality and epitomises what it means to treat your guests and staff as family. If there’s one thing I miss about Australia, it’s the Black Pearl.”

What to drink: “No matter what drink you order here you know it’s going to be solid. Locally they are renowned for their espresso martinis — these guys punch out buckets of these a night. Talk to Nathan Beasley, who’s the biggest encyclopaedia for classic drinks.”

Roman Foltan, Head Bartender of Atlas 

Singapore's leading bartenders
Roman Foltan

Connaught Bar at Connaught Hotel, London

“This is an elegant and sophisticated five-star hotel bar with an atmosphere that I find hard to put into words. It’s almost as if time stops there. What I love the most about Connaught Bar is the warm hospitality there, and how I feel right at home.”

What to drink: “Connaught Bar is known for its martinis, which are quietly stirred and never shaken. Something unique about it is the cleverly-designed Martini Trolley, which provides an option of different essences for guests — taking the cocktail experience one step further.

L’Fleur Bar, Prague

“This beautiful bar inspired by Paris in the 1920s is a must when you’re visiting Prague. L’Fleur Bar probably houses the most diverse and curated champagne list in Prague, maybe even in Europe.”

What to drink: “While its main focus is on cocktails inspired by events from that period, you must also check out the extensive selection of champagne — which includes labels from big houses to small growers and even biodynamic wines.”

Bar Termini, London

“This little Italian cafe and bar is inspired by the iconic little cafes found at train stations in Italy. Its main focus is on coffee (typical of Italian establishments) and cocktails.”

What to drink: “You have to try its three different versions of bottled negroni — gin, campari and vermouth.”

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.