Speakeasy bars are the latest buzzword in Singapore’s cocktail scene, but how did they come about? Rewind 100 years and America was about to enter a time of prohibition whereby producing, selling and marketing alcohol became illegal. The law wasn’t going to stop the people from partaking in their favourite tipple however and as the old adage goes, where there’s a will there’s a way.
Within no time, liquor joints, or ‘speakeasys’ (so called as patrons tended to talk in hushed tones to avoid detection) were popping up faster than I can down a shot of tequila, often disguised as something completely different so as not to alert the police.
Fast forward to today and luckily we are now allowed to buy and consume our poison of choice with relative ease. However, I’m a sucker for a hidden bar that’s just so hard to find. So without further ado, here’s our definitive list to the best speakeasy bars in Singapore.
1. Operation Dagger
Tucked away underground on Ann Siang Hill, blink and you’ll miss it. Given away only by strange markings surrounding a non-descript door, unless you know Operation Dagger is there you’d walk straight past in complete oblivion to the fun that is happening directly beneath your feet.
Once inside, a short walk down an industrial-esque staircase will lead you into the heart of Operation Dagger. A cool, concrete enclave reminiscent of a medical pharmacist greets you upon arrival. Serving your usual alcoholic stalwarts alongside some original and quite delicious house inventions, this place will do serious damage to your liver if you’re not careful.
Be warned, it can get busy so be prepared for standing room only. My only complaint? The house cocktails are so good, I wish they’d change the menu up and invent some more- You must try the salted-egg based cocktail, The Egg ($25).
Operation Dagger: 7 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069791| Tel:?? | Website
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 6pm until late
2. The Library
OK, we know The Libary is not a new kid on the block, but a speakeasy list without it is akin to serving chicken rice without rice. In it’s current guise, you may mistake this watering hole for a sophisticated whisky shop, in it’s previous life it has also been kitted out as a library (quelle surprise) and more recently a tailors studio.
To gain entry to the bar itself you must reveal the ever changing password – which you can find on The Study’s Facebook page – or tell a cheeseball joke if you can’t be bothered to look it up (little known trick). Once you have passed the test a door at the back of the shop will be opened for you revealing the ultimate hipster hangout.
The Library is cosy and quiet, perfect for a first date or a post-dinner nightcap. The bartenders are knowledgable and rustle up unique drinks served in a quirky fashion – cocktail in a mini bathtub anyone? Pour one for me…
The Library: 47 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089151 | Tel: 6221 8338 | Facebook
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 6.00pm – 1am
3. Bitters & Love
From the outside Bitters & Love looks like nothing more than a rundown shophouse. A black curtain covers the window, whilst the only clue there is something exciting going on that you don’t yet know about is a discreet ‘peek here’ sign beneath a reverse viewfinder on the door.
Once inside picking a drink is easy and fun. For the less adventurous a set cocktail list is available to peruse. For the slightly more daring a bespoke drink is the way to go. First choose a spirit from the extensive menu that contains the usual suspects as well as some lesser known brands – Geranium Gin anyone? Next, add your favourite flavour, for example sweet, sour, refreshing or, for the very brave, ‘surprise me’. The result? Delicious and unusual flavour combinations presented with flair. Drinking has never been so fun.
Bitters & Love: 118 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068587 | Tel: 6438 1836 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 6.00pm – 12:00am / Friday – Saturday 6.00pm – 2.00am / Sunday Closed
4. Spiffy Dapper
Follow the signs for ‘Dapper Coffee’ on Amoy Street and you’ll stumble upon two beautifully engraved doors that, once opened, reveal the uber cool interior of speakeasy bar Spiffy Dapper.
This place has the speakeasy atmosphere down perfectly – patrons speaking in hushed tones, 1920’s-esque music humming in the background, boxes and other junk strewn artistically around the room. It almost feels as if you have stepped back in time.
Pull up a pew, tell the bartender what you like and he’ll whip up something to suit your taste. This place is pricey, our cocktails were $28 a pop. Come for one to soak in the atmosphere but perhaps not somewhere to drink the night away.
Spiffy Dapper: 73 Amoy Street, Singapore 069892 | Tel: 8722 4953 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 6.oopm – 1.00am / Friday – Saturday 6.00pm – 2.00am / Sunday 7.00pm – 1.00am
Two heavy wooden doors just off Ann Siang Road provide a discreet entrance to B28. If you love whisky and jazz, walk into B28 and you’ll find your mecca.
With 1960’s leather sofa’s and an impressive array of malts, you’ll begin to channel your inner Don Draper the moment you cross the threshold. It’s also worth checking out their regular live jazz evenings. Adding music to the equation creates the perfect setting to unwind and soak up the suitably dark and moody atmosphere.
If whisky isn’t your thing there is also a cocktail bar upstairs where you can quench your thirst with something a little sweeter.
BTwentyEight: 28 AnnSiang Rd, The Club (Basement), Singapore 069708| Tel: 9026 3466 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 6.00pm – 2.00am / Saturday 8.00pm – 2.00am / Sunday closed.
6. Manor Cocktail Room
If you ever find yourself needing to escape the madness of Club Street, you need look no further. Walk up the staircase within the dim sum restaurant Zui Hong Lou and you will stumble upon the quintessential Britishness of Manor cocktail bar. With no signs to guide the way, you’ll need to trust me on this one.
The interior is kitted out with oak panels and huge chesterfield sofas whilst antlers adorn the walls, very old school gentleman’s club, yet less intimidating. Enjoy the relative peace and quiet as you sup a bespoke cocktail or sample their Scotch collection whilst the chaos of Club Street carries on outside.
Manor Bar. 8 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069788 | Tel: 9696 6695 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday and Saturday: 5.00pm – 1.00am / Friday 5.00pm – 2.00am
7. Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall has recently celebrated it’s second birthday and we hope it’s around to celebrate many more in future. We love the down to earth approach of this hidden gem in Boat Quay.
The cosy location, the old school furniture and decor, the simplicity of even the name itself. By keeping everything straight forward the only thing doing the talking here are the drinks – exactly as it should be.
For a crafted cocktail lacking the pretentious atmosphere often associated with these types of bars, you can’t go far wrong at Ah Sam. If you find yourself in Boat Quay and in need of respite, make your way to this unassuming shophouse and you won’t be disappointed.
Most ingredients are made themselves (even the grenadine) and you’re guaranteed flavours that aren’t artificial.
No menu is available here, and you’ll have to look out for the small signboard below a dodgy looking spa massage sign.
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall: 60 Boat Quay, Singapore 049848 | Tel: 6535 0838 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 6.00pm – 12.00am / Friday – Saturday 6.00pm – 3.00am
8. The Secret Mermaid
Buried underneath the Ocean Financial Centre, you’d be hard pressed to find a more surprising location. Once discovered, it’s nigh on impossible to walk past The Secret Mermaid after a hard days work without popping in for just the one. In proper speakeasy fashion this can be a little tricky to find.
Look out for the quirky logo – a fish head with ladies legs – next to the giant black sliding doors.
The trick though, is that in the day this joint opens as a quick service Japanese salad and sashimi bar, Shikansen. Only after 7pm does it convert into the Secret Mermaid bar.
With a fine selection of whisky, a cool playlist and atmospheric lighting there really is no reason to leave until forced. One drink turns to two, two drinks turns to three, and before you know it you’ll hear your liver begging for mercy. The bartenders here are friendly, the American craft spirits are plentiful and the happy hour is lethal. For what more could you possibly ask?
The Secret Mermaid. 10 Collyer Quay, B1-08 Ocean Financial Centre, 049315 | Tel: ?? | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 5.00pm – 11.00pm
9. The Horse’s Mouth
With no signage to guide the way, you really do need to have a rough idea of where you’re headed otherwise you will never find this glorious den that is The Horses Mouth, nestled deep within The Forum on Orchard Road. Head for Uma Uma ramen restaurant and the helpful staff will point you in the right direction if you ask to head to the bar downstairs.
Whilst it’s easy to burn a hole in your pocket here, in my view it’s worth every penny. The interior is sleek, yet cosy. The bar staff are attentive and fun. Whilst the drinks, oh the drinks, are classy and suited to taste. A one of a kind on Orchard Road.
The Horses Mouth: #B1-39, Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, 238884 | Tel: 6235 1088 | Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 6:00 pm – 12:00 am / Friday – Saturday 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
10. 28 Hong Kong Street
Whilst the name gives the game away in terms of location, this bar is still as discreet as they come hidden amongst the old shophouses without any visible signage in front. Once inside, the dark lighting arrangements create a relaxed yet sophisticated ambience within this New York-esque hideaway.
28 Hong Kong Street is always busy, though never uncomfortably so, which creates a nice hum of excitement. It does mean however that it is always worth booking a table in advance.
With knowledgeable bartenders and a cracking list of spirits, drinks are always well made and never rushed, irrespective of busyness. 28 Hong Kong Street is a great night out whatever the occasion, just don’t expect to be able to capture any of your fabulous memories here – photo’s are not allowed (we managed to get photos cos, you know, media request). I’ll let them get away with this one little bit of pretentious nonsense because the drinks are so good.
28 HongKong Street: 28 Hong Kong Street, 059667| Tel: 6533 2001| Website
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 5:30pm – 1:00am / Friday – Saturday 5.30pm – 3.00am / Sunday Closed
Located within the Red Dot Traffic Building’s compounds at Maxwell, Hopscotch is again not a bar that you can just pass by and decide to walk-in; You’ll have to have prior knowledge to find this place. Hopscotch pays homage to Singapore’s heritage with its combination of local flavoured cocktails as well as its nostalgic name.
Ex-Bar Stories bartender Kino Soh as well as Joel De Win are the main alcoholic drivers behind Hopscotch, delivering signature drinks with familiar ingredients that might sound strange in a drink.
The Kopi Stout ($22) for example, uses local coffee, bovril, stout and rum to create a strong cocktail reminiscent of what Singaporeans have in a coffeeshop. Other concoctions also include the Golden 933 ($21), a drink named after our Chinese radio station and made with cereal butter rum for that local twist.
An industrial layout that features home-grown talent, Hopscotch is a refreshingly local speakeasy concept you’ll want to check out.
Hopscotch: 28 Maxwell Rd, #01-04 Red Dot Traffic Building, Singapore 069120 | Tel: 6327 4820 | Facebook
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 4pm – 1am
12. Smoke & Mirrors
Smoke & Mirrors is a destination rooftop bar hidden on the 6th floor of Singapore’s National Gallery.
You have to head in, take the lift to the 5th floor then take the escalator up to the 6th floor to reach Smokoe & Mirrors. The unblocked panoramic view of the Padang and Marina Bay isgood enough reason to visit thou.
Upon entering, one will be greeted by the stunning round island bar that connects the al fresco area with the inner seats.
The cocktails at Smoke & Mirrors are inspired from running artworks in the National Gallery and will change according to the paintings too. Truly a hidden piece of art.
Smoke & Mirrors: #06-01 National Gallery 1 St., St Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957 | Tel: 6384 5595 | Website
Opening hours: Daily 11.30am – 12.30am