The Takeaway: Our favorite of the 6 Singapore bars that have made it to the top 50 in the world list. Focuses more on the spirit-forward, whisky-based cocktails and barrel-aged classics. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable young bartenders.
On the second floor of the Regent Hotel lobby, an imposing entrance of thick metal doors and lacquered black walls leads into the dimly lit, modernized whisky lounge of the Manhattan Bar. Black leather sofas and marbled tables line the walls, and light emanates from the glowing bar along the far wall. Slim young female waitstaff flicker around the black leather sofas, setting down complimentary cups of BBQ popcorn and taking orders.
The menu itself is an homage to New York City. Historical eras are separated out, starting from the pilgrim age and advancing to the modern age, and a list of drinks inspired by the era. Drinks lean toward the spirituous whisky side.
We select the Switchel – named for the mocktails that colonists drank (Plantation Jamaican rum, Cocchi Rosa, curacao, Montenegro amaro, blueberry, lemon, and balsamic reduction) and a most excellent Black Pudding (Lagavulin 16 and sherry) to start, while we scan the menu for their other specialties (in-house barrel aged cocktails and American whiskies). The drinks go down quickly and easily.
Two vault-like rooms are on opposite sides of the entryway wall. One boasts a small compendium of their tinctures and shrubs in progress, while the other houses a rickhouse of the Manhattan’s in-house barrel aging program filled with a myriad of quarter casks. From these, we selected their barrel-aged Friends of Manhattan special (Tequila, Averna, vermouth, and Dom Benedictine) and a lovely coffee cask aged Nikka whisky.
Our drinks are halfway done before we notice two patrons vacate the coveted seats at the bar, and we quickly pounce. At the bar, we are able to fully analyze their sizable American whiskey selection – the product of their launching of an American Whiskey Embassy program as of late last year. To our delight, we spot the rare unicorns of the St George Breaking & Entering and the Lot 14 (rum cask finished whisky). Both are very reasonable (around 20 SGD) and happiness ensues. The young bartenders, Sophia and Frank, inform us that no one ever orders these and were surprised to find they’re collector’s editions. Sophia says she thinks there are several still available at “Easy Spirits” which we jot down and spend the next day Googling. Only until the night before our flight out of Singapore (at which point the store was closed), did we realize she meant “EC Proof”. It’s a shame – it would have been worth the trip to be able to snag a bottle; ironically far more difficult from our home of 20 miles away from the St George distillery than halfway around the globe.
We round out the night with two bespoke cocktails – which end up being a Lagavulin 16 old fashioned and a last word. The bartenders err on the classic side, but the cocktails are consistently excellent, and the approachable convivial atmosphere in the midst of the brooding and sexy interior make for a memorable night.