There are moments in Singapore’s drinking scene that sees an exciting new watering hole with a refreshing concept other than the usual bespoke bars. When I first caught wind of Junior The Pocket Bar, I was instantly piqued by its description.
First, I was told that it’s a bar within a bar. To add to that, it only seats a maximum of 10 patrons at a time, and its entrance is via a discreet alley behind its sibling, Crackerjack.
My visit led me to a white-washed door, with only a barely-there sign notifying passers-by of its existence. You’ll need to go past another blue door before walking into a very cosy and dimly lit cave, in which you’ll instantly be greeted by a stunning wall of agave-based spirits.
Another interesting fact about this place is that it’s Singapore’s first bar to have a rotating concept every six months. Currently, its focus is agave-based spirits with the likes of tequila, mezcal, sotol, bacanora and many others.
And if you think its menu will get tiresome after serving the same cocktails for six months, you’d be wrong; the staples do stay, but they freshen up their offerings every month or so, just to ensure the spirit has an equal chance of showing itself off.
Bartender, Pete, gave me a quick lowdown on how they came about choosing agave as the introductory category as the team felt like it was something that was already on the rise and needed some further education. “People have this notion that you only drink tequila when you want to get drunk, and because of that tequila has gotten a really bad reputation. There is, in fact, a lot of romance and craft behind it,” Pete elaborated.
To start me off, he made me the very first cocktail off their menu, La Bella ($24). It uses Don Fulano Fuerte tequila, grilled bell pepper & coriander cordial, lime and a dash of absinthe. It may look savoury and heavy in such a delicate glass, but in fact, it’s bright, light and akin to an alcoholic gazpacho.
The next tipple was the Stagger Lee ($23), a slightly sweet-bitter number made with Tequila Cabeza, Campari, Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aéro D’or, watermelon cordial (also homemade) and Mancino Rosso Amaranto Vermouth. On the sip, it had an edge of sharpness but quickly mellowed out to a smooth sweetness, all thanks to the watermelon.
I asked Pete about the longstanding debate of drinking particular spirits on the rocks or neat, and his response sees him take a neutral stand. “I believe in letting people enjoy their drinks however they wish; there’s no hard and fast rule as to how something should be drunk, as long as you like it,” he quipped.
For the third round, Pete decided to change things up by serving me something more refreshing, to the tune of a Primavera ($25). This one used Pierde Almas +9 Botanical Mezcal and St. George Spiced Pear Liquer, along with yuzu, lemon, agave and fresh mint.
Needless to say, this drink was a lovely respite from the mid-afternoon swelter, and I would say a great initiation for those who don’t particularly like potent-tasting cocktails.
For the last round of drinks, I experienced a tasting flight of three different spirits, each with its own complementary snack. For $55, The Camarenas flight consists of three shots of tequila, meant not for getting sloshed quickly, but to allow keen learners of the spirit to appreciate each shot for its flavour(s).
Of course, I merely sipped on each, but I could already tell which one I took a particular liking to the G4 Reposado Tequila, accompanied by a mango & tajin sorbet. The sip was mildly spicy, but also sweet, while the sorbet added just the right amount of acidity to make the pairing a great duo.
For bar snacks, they currently only serve two types: Chips And Homemade Salsa/Guacamole ($7) or both dips for $12, and Tacos (one for $7, three for $12). Although the chips aren’t homemade, the dips are, and they are made just the way I like them.
The guacamole isn’t too smooth, which adds texture, and the homemade salsa is tangy and sweet, without masking the taste of the corn chips themselves.
Although some may feel like there’s little credit to give to bar food, you’ll find the pork belly tacos (the meats will change up occasionally too) make you eat your words. It’s fragrant, tender and succulent, and everyone knows that fatty foods are more than welcome when slightly inebriated. You’ll polish the plate off in no time, guaranteed.
So why should you come check out Junior The Pocket Bar? Because it’s not simply another bar that serves alcohol for the sake of drinking and socialising (although it does a swell job of facilitating it), but it also educates patrons about the art of spirit-making, mixology and if you’re lucky, they’ll even share an anecdote or two from their lives as bartenders.
Expected damage: $25 – $60 per pax