Fancy a dry martini cocktail made by famed Spanish bartender Javier De Las Muelas? Or perhaps a Royal Blush, the signature champagne cocktail created by New York cocktail extraordinaire Eben Freeman?
No need to travel to Spain or the United States to try these cocktails: You can have them right here in Singapore.
Local bar owners are tapping overseas consultants and world-renowned bartenders to stay ahead of the game.
Next week, the Regent Singapore hotel will officially launch its new multi-million-dollar bar Manhattan, styled after American watering holes from the 19th century.
Manhattan will be headed by American transplant Ricky Paiva, who has worked at some of world's leading bars, including San Francisco's Rickhouse. Named Best Personality at international bartending competition G'Vine Gin Connoisseur Program global finals in France in 2012, Paiva will manage the bar's in-hotel rickhouse and craft its cocktail menu.
In January, the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore spent $1 million to revamp its One-Ninety Bar.
Spaniard De Las Muelas was hired to consult on the drinks menu and train its team of seven local bartenders.
Explaining the hotel's decision to rope in De Las Muelas, Mr Lee Kelly, 37, director of food and beverage of Four Seasons notes that Singapore has become a "cocktail destination" in recent years, and that it was "important to have expertise to bring the bar to a world-class level".
The 57-year-old bartender, who founded the award-winning Dry Martini bar in Barcelona, Spain, spent more than a month in January to help get the bar in running order. He will visit every two to three months to ensure bar service standards remain up to par, and tweak the cocktail menu.
It is crucial not to blindly import an overseas bar concept without considering Singaporeans' preferences, says De Las Muelas: "There are a lot of bars in Singapore, but it is important that the Singapore style is reflected in all the bars. The challenge is to create something different."
Even existing cocktail bars such as The Horse's Mouth at Forum The Shopping Mall in Orchard Road are upping the ante by hiring New York food and beverage heavyweight the Altamarea Group to consult on their bar revamp.
The Altamarea Group operates restaurants in New York, London, Instanbul and Hong Kong, including fine-dining restaurant Ai Fiori and Wisconsin-style cocktail bar and supper club The Butterfly in Manhattan.
The group's director of bar operations, Eben Freeman, and veteran American bartender, Michael Longshore, have been working since last December with Mr Russell Yu, director of Iki Concepts which owns The Horse's Mouth, to revise its drinks and food menu.
Patrons can now order the duo's speciality cocktails, including Freeman's Royal Blush champagne cocktail, and Longshore's Fiore D'arancio (Orange Blossom) cocktail, among other additions.
Mr Yu, who declined to say how much was invested in the revamp, says that the bar is definitely incorporating some mixing techniques and recipes from Freeman and Longshore.
Mr Yu, 28, adds: "These guys from abroad, who have worked in multiple establishments, have probably seen more ways to perform tasks than we know of here. Having this experience is invaluable to our staff and the business."
Over at the month-old relaunched Manor Bar in Ann Siang Hill, seasoned local bartender Din Hassan plans to invite award-winning international bartenders and liquor brand ambassadors, as well as local ones, to work regular "guest shifts" behind the bar.
Earlier this month, Manor invited 29-year-old Indonesian bartender Harli Gurnawan, a Diageo World Class 2012 bartending champion, and local bartender Eugene Chua, 24, a Diplomatico World Tournament 2013 Singapore winner, to create three unique cocktails for its customers.
"Manor isn't only about me, it's about everyone's love of quality cocktails," Din, 40, says.
Foreign talents are also putting their stamp on local bar food.
At cocktail bar Maison Ikkoku in Kandahar Street, director of bar operations Ethan Leslie Leong, 37, teamed up with Hashida Sushi's Japanese chef Kenjiro Hashida, 35, to come up with an "epicurean bar menu" this month.
Called Alimentaire, the menu boasts a selection of French- and Japanese-inspired food options that can be paired with specially crafted cocktails.
And at the Regent's soon-to-be-opened Manhattan bar, American chef Nicholas Trosien, 28, whose most recent stint was at the Graze at Four Seasons Hotel Palm Beach, has been tasked to "craft and elevate the food", says Mr Martin Dell, director of food and beverage at the Regent Singapore.
Among the bar bites patrons can expect to tuck into when they officially open are the Lobster Roll (Maine lobster wrapped around a crab salad) and bourbon-infused donuts.
"We didn't want food to be an after-thought," says Mr Dell.
Why go there: World-renowned Spanish bartender Javier De Las Muelas was roped in to consult on the bar, which was relaunched in January.
De Las Muelas, 57, who founded the award- winning Dry Martini bar in Barcelona, Spain, trained the bar staff and will pop in every two to three months to tweak the cocktail menu and add new creations.
This month, the bartender introduced an afternoon tea cocktail menu with a selection of light and refreshing drinks that can be shared among friends.
Must-try: Sidle up to the bar counter and order what De Las Muelas is famous for - his perfectly balanced dry martini. The bartender will make one for you on an elevated platform faster than you can say "showman".
For an afternoon delight, try the Singapore Sangria, De Las Muelas' mash-up of the classic Singapore Sling and Spanish sangria (Martini rosso, bacardi superior, ginger droplets, apple juice, mangosteen, passionfruit, mandarin syrup and lemon juice).
Tea-time is given a twist with the Diva's Collection - a trio of light cocktails served in a glass teapot and named after Hollywood screen greats such as Grace Kelly and Ginger Roberts.
Where: 190 Orchard Boulevard, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
Open: 5pm to 1am daily; Afternoon tea from 2 to 5pm.
Prices: Cocktails on average $23. Cocktail afternoon tea at $62 a person. Bar bites from $7 to $30.
Info: Call 6831-7671 or e-mail: one-ninetybar. firstname.lastname@example.org
Why go there: This three-year-old bar, run by veteran mixologist Ethan Leslie Leong, 37, is known for its innovative cocktails using infused spirits and fresh fruits and herbs.
But patrons can now try a special range of cocktails created by Leong to pair with a selection of bar bites prepared by chef Kenjiro "Hatch" Hashida, 35, of fine-dining Japanese restaurant Sushi Hashida at Mandarin Gallery.
Called Alimentaire, the cocktail pairing menu offers 11 tapas-style dishes that include fresh live oysters, crisp smoked duck and mussels marinated in sauvignon blanc, parsley, garlic and lemon. The cocktail pairing menu will be updated every few months.
Must try: The Cheese & Crack is a sophisticated take on basic cheese and crackers, using crab meat, caramelised onion, creme cheese and sea asparagus. This is paired with the Fleur De Avril cocktail (grapes, cucumber, starfruit, elderflower, basil and sauvignon blanc).
Indulge in the decadent Foie Gras Macaron - pureed smoked French goose liver-filled macarons garnished with grapes and berries. This is paired with a truffle-infused whisky, topped with shaved black truffle.
Where: 20 Kandahar Street, Level 2 shophouse unit
Open: 4pm to 1am (Sundays to Thursdays); 4pm till late (Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays)
Prices: Cocktails average between $28 and $32. Bar bites between $16 and $25
Info: Call 6294-0078
The Horse's Mouth
Why go there: This popular speakeasy, hidden behind a ramen bar at Forum The Shopping Mall, has been around for 1 1/2 years.
Recently, however, its owners have roped in two cocktail heavyweights to tweak its food and beverage menu.
One can expect some of the signature cocktails of famous New York bartender and bar consultant Eben Freeman. Freeman cut his teeth at some of the best bars in New York, including wd-50 and Tailor. His colleague, American bartender Michael Longshore, is known for his use of aperitifs, amaros and light wines.
A new food menu will be launched in the coming months.
Must-try: The Royal Blush, one of Freeman's best-selling cocktails. A hit with the women, this cocktail (cherry puree, vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, champagne) changes colour when the bartender pours champagne into the mix - from light green to rose pink, hence the name.
A more macho tipple would be Longshore's Fiore D'Arancio (Orange Blossom) cocktail, made with Rainwater madeira, Gary Regan orange bitters, vanilla syrup, ramazotti and bourbon.
Where: 583 Orchard Road, Forum The Shopping Mall (behind Uma Uma Ramen at 01-41)
Prices: Cocktails range from $18 to $25
Open: 6pm to midnight (Mondays to Thursdays); 6pm to 1am (Fridays and Saturdays)
Info: Call 6235-1088 or e-mail: email@example.com
Why go there: Manor Bar used to be a private whisky bar, but it was relaunched last month as a cocktail room. Owner Henry Gomez roped in seasoned local bartender Din Hassan, known for his bespoke cocktails using fresh local ingredients.
Din, 40, hopes to regularly invite award-winning bartenders and liquor brand ambassadors - both local and international - to work guest shifts behind the bar.
Guest bartenders will come up with a selection of unique cocktails to add to the bar's fixed beverage menu. Three to six months down the road, Din may put some of his favourite "guest shift" cocktails on the permanent menu.
The next guest bartender, who is yet to be named, will helm the bar in the first week of May.
Must-try: For a fresh take on the classic Singapore Sling, try Din's Hot4U, which mixes gin, cherry and orange liqueur and finished with a dash of Tabasco and garnished with a red chilli.
Breakfast With A Twist, serves up a breakfast martini using vodka, English marmalade, grapefruit and egg white. This drink comes with toast and marmalade as a garnish.
If you are feeling more adventurous, try the spicy Nourishing Soup (Rum, yellow chartreuse, lime juice and curry leaves, served with papadom).
Where: 8 Ann Siang Hill, 2nd floor shophouse unit (enter via Zui Hong Lou bar)
Open: 5pm to 1am (Mondays to Thursdays); 5pm to 2am (Fridays); 5pm to 1am (Saturdays), closed on Sundays
Prices: Cocktails average about $20
Info: Call 9696-6695 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Why go there: When the bar opens on Thursday, it will house the world's first in-hotel rickhouse, a space its bartenders will use to barrel-age spirits and bitters.
Taking charge of the bar is American Ricky Paiva, 32, who worked at leading global bars such as San Francisco's Rickhouse and Local Edition bar. Bar bites are crafted by American chef Nicholas Trosien, 28, who recently completed a stint as a sous chef at Four Seasons Hotel Palm Beach.
Must-try: Cocktails here are inspired by New York's iconic neighbourhoods including Wall Street, Broadway and Spanish Harlem. Those after a strong drink can try the Eighth Ward (High West Campfire whiskey, Sangue morlacco, Cocchi vermouth di Torino and Ferrand dry curacao), Paiva's take on the Boston classic Ward 8 cocktail.
Inspired by the women of the Upper East Side, he came up with a refreshing floral cocktail, the Princess Cut (G'Vine Florison gin, June Fleur de Vigne liqueur, homemade hibiscus syrup, fresh lemon; rosewater and champagne).
Also try nibbling on housemade kettle chips, served with a pan-fried onion dip laced with rum-infused grated foie gras. For a sweet finish, try the bar's bourbon- infused donuts or Trosien's take on the New York cheesecake which resembles miniature Granny Smith apples.
Where: Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road, 2nd floor
Open: 5pm to 1am daily
Prices: About $18 to $24 a cocktail. Bespoke cocktails are about $25. Bar bites cost $14 to $20.
Info: Go to www.facebook.com/manhattansg
This article was published on April 18 in The Straits Times.
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