Now Reading
Why Singapore’s Cocktail Culture Deserves More Recognition Than It Gets

Why Singapore’s Cocktail Culture Deserves More Recognition Than It Gets

When you think of Singapore, a few things probably come to mind: the iconic Changi Airport, the Merlion, the Marina Bay Sands and, of course, the humidity. But the unsung hero of the city-state is, without a doubt, the cocktail culture. 

I recently had the chance to visit Singapore for the Formula 1 Grand Prix (more on that later), and spent a week frolicking around and taking in everything that makes Singapore so unique. Sure, there was stunning architecture (see: brightly coloured buildings scattering the coastline that looked like something out of a fairytale), delicious food and picturesque greenery that often had me forgetting I was in the middle of a major metropolitan hub, but none of that stood out to me quite like Singapore’s unique cocktail culture. 

Despite the fact that Singapore doesn’t have a minimum wage like Australia, nor does it promote tipping as we see in the US, the quality and service in the country’s hospitality sector is unmatched. 

If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I love a good cocktail – especially something a little unique. And, as I came to learn throughout my week of eating and boozing across the country, unique cocktails are sort of Singapore’s bread and butter. 

The thriving alcohol economy is thanks in part to the large expat population – who work hard and want to play harder – and because of the country’s relatively new alcohol culture. 

“We don’t have a century-old love affair with wines, or with whiskies, or anything at all,” Indra Kantono, owner of Jigger & Pony, told Skift Table. “In New York there are expectations for what a cocktail bar is. Here it’s kind of a blank slate.”

So, what it lacks in a rich drinking history, Singapore more than makes up for with a community that is keen to let their creativity shine through and experiment with anything and everything. 

After arriving on a 1pm flight into Changi Airport on Wednesday, I found myself three cocktails deep by the time I went to bed that night. Sure, it was partially because the humidity rocked this former Melburnian and the idea of a refreshing beverage sounded like a necessity, but when every restaurant and bar has a cocktail menu that rivals an encyclopaedia, it’s hard to say no. 

In true Singapore fashion, I kicked off my week-long cocktail crawl with a Singapore Sling from Raffles Hotel. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a table at the Long Bar – the home of the drink and a rite of passage for anyone coming to Singapore – but we secured a spot in the Raffles Courtyard and slung away in the pre-Grand Prix sun.

At $37SGD per drink, the Sling – like most other cocktails in Singapore – will set you back a pretty penny, but for the experience, it’s definitely worth it. 

Not to mention, alcohol in general is notoriously expensive in Singapore due to high taxes, so if you’re going to be paying a premium for any alcohol, you may as well enjoy a fancy cocktail instead of an overpriced beer you can drink at home, right?

Obviously, we’re in a cost of living crisis and I’m not saying everyone should hop a flight to Singapore and splash out their life savings on cocktails, but if you’re planning a trip and you’re a fan of a unique drink, it’s worth adding a few hundred dollars to your budget to truly enjoy it. 

Unlike most bars in Australia (excluding those fancy cocktail-speciality bars), pretty much every bar and restaurant I entered in Singapore had at least a dozen unique, speciality cocktails – as well as your classics like a margarita or an espresso martini. I mean it when I say you could bar-hop across the city and never have the same drink twice – just don’t blame me when you’ve got a nasty hangover the next day.

I would hate to think of how many cocktails I consumed during my week in Singapore (and I’m sure my boss would too – sorry boss), but every single one was completely unique and unlike anything I had tasted before – from a Milo cocktail at Hopscotch Bar to a kaya toast espresso martini at Open Farm Community.

Heck, I even tried an acai bowl cocktail and an extremely boozy twist on chinese tang yuan – and there was even a hot, chicken-flavoured cocktail that, sadly, nobody in our tour group was game enough to try!

Every cocktail looked like a work of art, which was a shame considering the heat and humidity meant I was downing them like water.

But actual cocktails aside, there is so much more to Singapore’s cocktail culture that makes you feel far less guilty for paying a small fortune for your drink.

For starters, the bar and wait staff at every venue I visited throughout the week were extremely attentive and knowledgeable at their craft. Not only did they know the story behind every drink and the history of the venues, but they were keen to recommend their favourite and regularly came back to check that we were satisfied – something that is rarely seen in Australia, especially during weeks as busy as Singapore was during the Grand Prix. 

Considering there’s no minimum wage and these bartenders weren’t fighting for tips, it was interesting to see the passion and care that went into every drink. Perhaps I was just not very good at working in hospitality (as anyone I ever poured a beer for could probably attest to), but the whole experience felt so much more heightened when the staff seemed genuinely happy to help. 

Not to mention, every bar in Singapore looks like a work of art. From bars like Analogue – a sustainability-focussed cocktail bar in Chijmes with a 3D printed bench made out of 1600kg of recycled plastic – to the Bond girl-inspired Anouska’s with its 70s/80s vibe, each and every venue felt like it had its own story and was ready to whisk you away from the heat and into a new atmosphere. And trust me, when it’s 80+ percent humidity, that is a welcome experience!

The combination of the city’s incredible cocktail culture and walkability is both a blessing and a curse because there are so many bars to choose from and when it’s either torrential rain or blistering heat outside, it’s far too easy to slip into a cold, air-conditioned bar for a cheeky cocktail or two.

AWOL Recommends

Image: AWOL

Raffle’s Hotel – The home of the Singapore Sling.

See Also
A Local Beer Lover's Guide To The Best Breweries In Wellington

Try: the Singapore Sling, obviously.

Analogue Initiative – Plant based cocktails using eco-friendly alternatives to your favourite ingredients.

Try: the faux espresso martini.

Anouska’s Bar – Step back into the 70s and 80s in this ode to Bond girl-turned-interior designer Anouska Hempel-themed bar.

Try: the raspberry and pistachio margarita.

Open Farm Community – Singapore’s first sustainable urban farm & restaurant.

Try: the kaya toast espresso martini.

Hopscotch – Grilled food and craft cocktails in the heart of the city.

Try: the little dragon lady.

Check out Visit Singapore for more information on everything to see, do, eat and drink in the Lion City.

Scroll To Top