Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Bars

BEST

Atlas, 600 North Bridge Road, Parkview Square; open: 10am to 1am (Mondays to Thursdays), 10am to 2am (Fridays), 3pm to 2am (Saturdays), closed on Sundays


The gin tower at Atlas bar in Parkview Square. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE

Cavernous and classy, the 1920s come to life at the resplendent Atlas bar, with its gilded walls, sharp-suited staff and exquisite cocktails.

While it opened only in March this year, the bar has already snagged a coveted spot on the World's 50 Best Bars list, making the highest debut at No. 15.

The magnificent space may be better known for its vast collection of more than 1,000 bottles of gin that are stacked in a tower, but its over 250-label champagne collection is also notable. The most expensive is a shipwreck champagne - a 1907 Heidsieck & Co. Monopole "Gout Americain" that was recovered from the seabed and is available at $190,700 a pop.

The bar's popularity is apparent. Even on weekday afternoons, the space is comfortably filled with customers enjoying coffee or tea. But it is especially hard to get a table or a seat at the bar on weekends, where the wait in line can take up to an hour.

Native, 52A Amoy Street; open: 6pm to midnight (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Another new bar that has made its mark in a very short time is Native in Amoy Street.

Opened in January, it sits on a stretch that is already filled with reputable home-grown bars such as Jigger & Pony and Spiffy Dapper.

But head bartender and local boy Vijay Mudaliar is fixated on championing only regional spirits - not mass-market, brand-name ones, as expected in any bar worth its salt.

Here, a sizeable range of expressions from India's Amrut single malt whisky and brands such as Nusa Cana white rum from Bali get heavy play at the back of the bar, along with house-distilled gins using Asian fruit and flavours, such as pomelo and matcha.

The unique concept, which also involves using foraged ingredients such as weaver ants in their now famous Antz cocktail, earned the newbie bar, which opened in January, a very respectable No. 47 spot on the World's 50 Best Bars list.

Manhattan, 1 Cuscaden Road, Level 2 Regent Singapore; open: 5pm to 1am (Mondays to Thursdays), 5pm to 2am (Fridays and Saturdays), 11.30am to 3.30pm and 5pm to 1am on Sundays


PHOTO: REGENT
SINGAPORE, A FOUR
SEASONS HOTEL

Before Atlas and Native joined Singapore's rapidly evolving bar scene, there was Manhattan (above).

The three-year-old bar has gone from strength to strength, consistently delivering a quality drinks programme, innovating its offerings - all the while getting recognition from its international peers.

As American bourbons and ryes came to the fore, Manhattan also introduced the American Whiskey Embassy Programme in July this year, as a companion to its already world-class bar programme - one that got it its highest ranking on the World's 50 Best Bars list yet. Moving up four places from No. 11 to No. 7 this year, the bar also remains the highest-ranked in Asia.

The bar stocks a highly curated 200-bottle collection of fine American whiskeys, including rare, cult brands such as Pappy Van Winkle.

 

WORST

Highly conceptual menus with Instagram-friendly drinks

While no bars warrant a "worst bar" title, there is certainly a worrying trend of menus featuring Instagram-friendly drinks that, frankly, do not taste all that great.

Things such as picking a drink based on the flavour of custom-made, multi-coloured gummy bears and edible acid tabs attached to the edge of the glass with a mini clothespin might seem like a bit of fun for the customer and make for a good Instagram picture. But the gimmick falls flat when the accompanying drink is unexciting and unmemorable.

Prizing aesthetics and theatrics over a quality drink is a step back for the growing cocktail culture here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Bars'. Print Edition | Subscribe