“One of the best bespoke cocktail bars in Singapore”
Bitters and Love has always been a long time haunt for me, having visited on many different occasions and events but never really doing a review. When American Express invited me down for a media tasting as well as to promote their latest tie-up, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity again.
Other than having my bartending mentor guru Naz working there, my close friend Chef Warren also used to helm Shoebox Canteen (the restaurant attached to Bitters and Love), so the bar and kitchen isn’t all that unfamiliar to me.
Arriving via car, the first drawback to having a drink here is the scarcity of parking lots remotely close to this place. You shouldn’t be drinking and driving anyway. Going by train is not an issue though, as Clark Quay station is just 5 minutes away. Nestled between Settler’s cafe and a Christian book store among other random shop houses, Bitters and Love is not some place you will happen to walk by.
Even the sign outside shows the more prominent Shoebox Canteen instead, but as with all hipster bars in this area, it’s all about being incognito. Shoebox Canteen operates in the day for lunch/dinner food, while the Bitters and Love bar only starts up in the evening.
The interior of this hidden little bar is retro and mildly hoarder-like, yet another telling sign of an Indie bar. The floor tile patterns are reminiscent of old school shophouses, which is what this bar was converted from, now with modern furnishing and those few hints of retrospect.
Not only is the collection of drinks at the bar amazing with rare finds of Gin like the Geranium and Jensen Gin, you see a large work area filled with fruits of all sorts- dehydrated, sliced, infused or just freshly whole.
Although they do have a small cocktail menu, what I find the most interesting when coming to a bespoke cocktail bar, is to try the bespoke cocktails. Be adventurous and test the limits of the bartenders, especially if you have a good understanding of what you like and if you can be very specific, your cocktail will be amazing.
Cocktail request: Something sour, whisky based. Like a whisky sour with some body.
First bespoke cocktail of the night, is this whisky-based, passionfruit cocktail with rosemary. I really loved how Naz prepared it in this suspended plastic bag like how Singaporeans drink our takeaway kopi, and Bitters and Love is known to go wild with their cocktail presentations. Very tart and fruity with a bit of caramelized aroma coming from the torched passionfruit, smell and taste blend to give a pleasant flavorful experience.
Cocktail Request: Not sour, fruity, no preference of alcohol.
Next came this Mangosteen, rum based cocktail. Very refreshing with ample Mangosteen being muddled in as well, and nicely balanced with some floral notes given that the Mangosteen flavour is pretty distinct.
Cocktail request: Something more exotic, yet Asian. Tequila.
Something that looks like it came from Bangkok, this cocktail has ginger, lemongrass, tequila and a bit of chili spice going on inside. The spiciness is mild and counteracted with some sweetness and sourness in the drink as well. This is quite subjective as the flavours are all powerful and you either like lemongrass or not.
Cocktail Request: Something using Geranium Gin.
A very botanical, citrusy and zesty cocktail in a teacup cocktail glass. Foam was probably from shaking the drink with egg white, and thus adding some body to the drink. Again, amazing balance although the cocktail resultant was a bit low on volume.
Kaya Toast Cocktail ($19). Mount Gay rum, Earl Grey tea, fresh lemon juice, honey and kaya. This was the only cocktail we tried that night from the bar menu, which Bitters and Love is rather known for. A play on the traditional Singapore kaya breakfast, most patrons really love this drink. I wasn’t one of them though.
Although unusual, the mix of kaya and lemon just didn’t cut it for me. The fragrant coconut kaya with sourness just doesn’t make sense to me, reminding me more of kaya that has gone bad. The earl grey was definitely too subtle in this mix, and you can’t really taste it at all. I’d pass, but bring back the customized stuff.
Mocktails are also available, like this dragonfruit one, if teetotalism is more your routine.
The bar food below is provided from Shoebox Canteen.
B&L Beef Cubes. 200g of pan-seared Ranger’s valley Wagyu sprinkled with sea salt. You can’t go wrong with this simple dish of juicy beef. It all starts with picking a good cut of beef, and Ranger’s Valley Australian wagyu has always been a pretty good bet.
Slider mini burgers. Mini bite-sized burgers with an appropriate amount of beef patty for a good bun to meat ratio.
We also tried their pizza which had a crust that doesn’t get too soggy even after sitting with cheese and sauce for a while. Awesome.
My verdict? The bespoke cocktails at Bitters and Love are top notch, but prices aren’t cheap for customized stuff. This is to be expected though, with loads of whole fresh fruit being muddled and high quality liquors being used to create delicious concoctions. Ironically, the famous Kaya Toast cocktail wasn’t up my alley although I love both traditional kaya toasts and cocktails separately.
I’ve nothing but praise for mixologist Naz, and you should make a point to specifically request him to make your drink. I’ve heard of legendary cocktails they’ve made previously like a Nutella one as well, so you can perhaps try to ask for something like that to really push the limits of creativity. You just can’t go wrong with Nutella.
A very chill environment as well with friendly and chatty staff too (thanks Fiona). Bitters and Love can get quite crowded on weekends though, so don’t come too late for drinks. Big thank you to American Express for sponsoring the drinks 🙂
Expected Damage: $25 – $30 per cocktail
Bitters and Love: 36 North Canal Road, Singapore 059292 | Tel: 6438 1836 | Website
As part of the American Express PLATINUM PRIVATE DEALS, American Platinum Credit Care Members get to enjoy a complimentary “Surprise Me” cocktail with a minimum spend of S$100 nett from now till 14 October 2014. However, if members already have the redemption coupon, then they have up to 31 October 2014 to redeem it.
AMEX Platinum card members also get to enjoy discounts off the following bottled spirits (until 14 October 2014):
Geranium Gin, Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, Port Charlotte and Octomore Scotches.
In addition, the American Express Platinum Credit Card offers free membership to two dining programmes, namely the Classic Far Card Membership and the PALATE programme. Under these two programmes, you have the opportunity to eat at over 80 fine dining restaurants, and enjoy drinks after, in Singapore at great discounts.
There is also an ongoing Lucky Draw Promotion exclusively for Platinum Card Members: From now till 9 Nov 2014, you can also be one of the 5 lucky winners every day to win S$100 worth of dining vouchers (TungLok dining vouchers for Monday to Saturday draws and Fairmont dining vouchers for Sunday draws). Every receipt above S$50 earns you one chance to win. Enjoy double the chances when you spend S$50 or more in a single receipt at any The Far Card or Palate establishment.