Bar crawl

Bar crawl

Inside D.Bespoke cocktail bar, in a shophouse in Bukit Pasoh Road, patrons are greeted by Japanese head bartender and co-owner Daiki Kanetaka, dressed in an immaculately tailored suit and bowtie.

He pours glasses of sherry using a venencia, a long-handled tool used for pulling sherry samples from ageing barrels of spirits, and carefully handchips blocks of purified, slow-frozen ice for cocktails.

D.Bespoke is one of four new speciality bars that have sprung up in the past month, adding to a growing bespoke bar scene.

At least one speciality cocktail bar pops up every few months now.

Bar owners say there are now more than 30 bars offering bespoke drinks and premium spirits here.

The bar scene here took off in 2011 when American-inspired speakeasy 28 Hong Kong Street opened. Over a dozen more - such as Jigger & Pony, Maison Ikkoku, Bitters & Love and Regent Singapore hotel's Manhattan bar - followed suit, each specialising in craft cocktails.

Apart from D.Bespoke, the three other new bars are Korean bar Joo in Tan Quee Lan Street, gin bar Copper Singapore in Jiak Chuan Road and Elixir Bar, part of multi-concept venue Kuvo in Orchard Road. All four opened last month.

But in an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape, new players have to come up with unique offerings to woo a discerning clientele.

At D.Bespoke , Mr Kanetaka, 35, hopes to introduce traditional bartending techniques and the Japanese style of personalised service, something he feels is lacking in Singapore's vibrant bar scene.

He says: "Every bespoke bar is different, so the bartender's character is very important - it shows in the way they make their cocktails. I have a very Japanese zen style which focuses more on skill."

His 28-seat bar, which specialises in sherry, calvados (apple brandy) and armagnac (French brandy), will also feature exclusive dinner tastings by international guest chefs on an ad-hoc basis.

Joo, owned by Mr Jamie Lim, 37, and his wife Kristin, 34, is the first bar here to brew its own makgeolli (Korean rice wine) in-house and serve it on tap.

Customers can order Korean-inspired cocktails such as lime soju mojitos and yucha makgeolli slush, a drink that combines the rice wine with fresh yuzu.

The 2,600 sq ft bar housed in a three-storey shophouse offers a modern take on anju (Korean food typically served with alcohol), serving bites such as tofu chips with guacamole and kimchi salsa, deep fried sheets of baby eel, and kimchi mac and cheese.

"We thought we could stand out in a big way by staying true, to have a makgeolli bar that serves in-house brew and food too. It's modern, but true to the original tastes you will find in South Korea," says Mr Lim, who also owns contemporary Korean barbecue restaurant Eight Korean BBQ at The Central and founded home-grown handmade rock candy store Sticky with his wife.

He adds that $1 million was invested in the bar. At Kuvo, a $2-million multi-concept food and beverage outlet at Orchard Road Shopping Centre, Elixir bar offers bespoke cocktails created by Japanese barman Yutaka Nakashima.

He has more than 16 years of experience as a bartender and chef, and produces interesting alcoholic concoctions using ingredients such as blue cheese and cranberry jelly.

The 9,000 sq ft space, which houses a cocktail bar, wine lounge, restaurant and gift shop, was opened last month by Sarika Connoisseur Cafe, the company behind The Connoisseur Concerto, better known as TCC, which has 28 outlets islandwide.

Mr Henry Tan, 36, marketing communications manager for Sarika Connoisseur Cafe, says the group wanted a centrally located dining and bar concept to cater to tourists and residents in the area, as well as executive types who want a casual place to drink cocktails and wine.

"Everyone's trying to do bespoke cocktails nowadays, but we believe it's the experience with the bartender and the relationship between you and him that makes you choose one bar over another," he says.

"We are trying to do something to ride on trends that will appeal to customers, so we're a lifestyle concept space that is not just dedicated to the bar, but dining and wining as well."

Then there is Copper Singapore, a gin speciality bar that opened without fanfare in Jiak Chuan Road, a stone's throw away from established cocktail bar The Cufflink Club and Spanish tapas bar Esquina.

The 320 sq ft bar occupies the ground floor of a shophouse unit.

The owners will soon open a restaurant serving grilled meats on the upper floor.

Mr Alexis Nicosia, 33, and Ms Cindy Chng, 37, who also own Oyster Bar in Collyer Quay, are hoping to stand out with the largest selection of gin in town.

Currently, the bar stocks more than 30 types, including artisanal brands such as Death's Door Gin and the Botanist Islay Dry Gin.

Ms Chng says: "We are not a cocktail bar and do not boast of having a talented mixologist, but we are a classic gin bar and aim to have the biggest gin menu in town - served in a martini or with tonic."

With so many bars having opened in the past few years, she says it can only mean better quality and more options for bargoers.

"It's great that we have a burgeoning bar scene as it means everybody is upping his game," she says.

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