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Singapore’s bar scene is one of the world’s best, say pundits

This year’s World’s 50 Best Bars ranking by Drinks International served up a few firsts for the region with seven bars from Asia making the list for the first time

Singapore’s bar scene is one of the world’s best, say pundits

Manhattan Bar at Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel, has an Ingredients Room as well as the world's first in-hotel barrel ageing room. Photo: Regent Singapore

SINGAPORE — This year’s World’s 50 Best Bars ranking by Drinks International served up a few firsts for the region with seven bars from Asia making the list for the first time.

But what is equally notable is the speed at which Singapore’s bar scene has evolved to be the heart of the growth in the region. “The Singapore cocktail industry is at its peak right now,” said Philip Bischoff, manager at the Manhattan bar, which made an amazing jump up 24 places to land at No 11.

“Over the last two to three years, this city has seen a rise in cocktails (and) bars and the industry as a whole has grown. This has in turn led to the rise of so many local talents and attracted plenty of internationally renowned bartenders from the industry.”

Bischoff cited Drinks Magazine Asia’s recent move to Singapore, adding that it will also be launching the inaugural Singapore edition soon, as a sign of the times. “They were originally based in Shanghai but now realise that Singapore is one of the cities to be in.”

He also pointed out how companies such as Proof & Co. (the bar’s beverage consultant) have contributed greatly to this growing standard, helping the local market become “one of the new spots known the world over for great bar experiences”.

“They have helped shape the industry and helped create amazing concepts like Manhattan. They train and educate people and are also the curators of the finest products made available for those in the cocktail industry.

“I feel privileged and am very happy, and proud to be part of this exciting and constantly improving scene. Singapore definitely has the potential to become one of the world’s most recognised bar scenes.”

Manhattan leads the pack in Asia for the list, taking over the Best Bar in Asia crown from 28 Hongkong Street. The latter dropped seven places to No 14 on the global list, and finds itself seven spots ahead of local new entry Operation Dagger. This is not to take anything away from 28 Hongkong Street, which is led by creative director Joe Alessandroni and head bartender Logan Demmy.

“It’s a true honour to be included in the World’s 50 Best Bars awards for the fifth year in a row,” said Alessandroni, who cited the support of its peers as one of the reasons behind the bar’s continued success. “It’s really difficult to maintain a high ranking year-to-year, as academy members want to recognise great bars that may have been overlooked in the past and highlight new and exciting openings.” 

Manhattan's rank for this list is quite an achievement given that early this year, the bar only managed 5th place on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2016 list, also by Drinks International. But Bischoff does not feel they did anything different since the announcement of the Asia list, affirming that the team strives to always give their best.

“What we want to achieve in Manhattan is to make great cocktails, offer great food and, most importantly, be part of creating great memories for our guests,” he said. It may sound deceptively simple, but that would coincidentally mirror his personal approach to life. “My philosophy in life is simple: Treat others how you wish to be treated because at the end of the day what goes around comes around,” he mused.

“This happens to be in perfect alignment with our Four Seasons Golden Rule and is something that I believe in very strongly; whether in my professional career or personal life.

“What we want to achieve in Manhattan is to make great cocktails, offer great food and most importantly, be part of creating great memories for our guests.”

Part of this goal is its world’s first in-hotel barrel ageing room (or rickhouse), inspired by the districts of New York City’s Manhattan Island, where the team barrel age their own cocktails. “It’s really a bartender’s heaven — we are able to try out new things, experiment and have fun learning in the process,” Bischoff added.

Such progress is not lost on newcomers to Singapore’s bar scene. “It’s pretty indicative of the quantum leap in cocktail-making that happened here in the last five years,” said Igor Hadzismajlovic, founder of four-month-old Employees Only Singapore and one of the original partners of its original New York bar, which took home the Asahi Legend of the List award despite dropping three places to No 7.

“I myself have not witnessed such a quick learning curve anywhere else in the world,” he added. He said his Singapore team can only do its best to get on next year’s list. “If it happens to be appreciated by the customers and peers who do the voting, we would be most thankful. The global scene is changing so rapidly and the ‘centres of gravity’ shift perpetually. I would never take being a member of Top 50 for granted these days.”

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