The Old Man Singapore
High volume cocktail bar in Keong Saik done right
The Old Man Hong Kong skyrocketed seemingly out of nowhere to fifth place on Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2018. And when word of them opening a Singapore outlet creeped into the grapevine, the scene was stoked. Little wonder then that whenever you choose to visit, The Old Man Singapore is always lively, if not outrightly jam-packed.
The Singapore bar is a near identical re-creation of the OG space, staying true both in terms of interior design and menu. Even the iconic Ernest Hemingway mosaic made of spare building materials is there. And just like the Hong Kong bar, the prolific author and drinker inspires the cocktail offerings here.
But it’s the T-shaped main bar counter that steals the limelight (at least for us). It not only encourages greater stranger-to-stranger interaction due to its shape, but also houses Singapore’s one and only brass track cooler that runs across the full length of the counter. No coasters; simply place your drink atop the brass plate to keep your drink cold and delay ice from watering—you won’t find this amazing contraption at any other bar here.
That isn’t even the most high-tech thing you’ll find at The Old Man. Showing off their flashy gadgetry in the least subtle way possible is a rotary evaporator sitting right under Hemingway himself. Here, it is used to distill an Old Fashioned mix into a spirit, then washed down to drinkable alcohol levels before being used in an off-menu cocktail. More on that later.
Their actual menu is a succinct nine-drink list of what they think Hemingway would have liked, and all named after one of his monikers or his books (which you can find in a quaint bookshelf there). All $17 and batched conveniently in glass bottles for sake of quick service, you’ll find concoctions like The Snows of Kilimanjaro, where sous vide marshmallow gin, lacto-fermented raspberry and microplaned gruyere cheese combine for a funky-good sensation with each sip.
A more smashable long drink will be the Islands in the Stream. It’s refreshing, for one, thanks to them carbonating the clarified pink grapefruit and salted gin mix in-house. For a more rounded cocktail, try the Little Wax Puppy, where beeswax-infused whisky is mixed with eucalyptus honey and bitters to create a really deep and balanced Old Fashioned.
You’ll find that salinity dominates much of the menu, and the drink that showcases this the best is A Farewell to Arms—which you should never get as your first drink. Expect a super clean martini-like tipple that’s dry and briny thanks to the use of nori in various ways. Then instead of an olive garnish, you get an onion pearl for a more crunchy, less oily thing to munch on.
Come during dinner time for the best possible experience—sitting at the bar counter with dedicated attention from the bartenders, and without too many people crowding about. Then, when no one else is noticing, order up an Old Fashioned ($22), an off-menu drink that shares nearly no attributes with the classic cocktail we know and love, other than the name. It’s clear, silky and nutty, with lots of fresh citrus notes thanks to the use of both lemon and orange zest.
Oh, and be sure to ask kindly to check out their back area. You just might geek out at how all the magic happens.