How much the scene has changed in just a year

So many bars, so little time. Still, in the midst of visiting old favourites and trying to give our liver a break, we managed to find time to check out all the new bar openings in 2019. Not all were great, and not all are deserving of mention. But here, we highlight the best ones that have truly made a meaningful impact on our booming drinks scene.
 

Avenue


Marquee may have stolen the nightlife limelight, but of all the openings at Marina Bay Sands in 2019, we’re most impressed with Avenue. All cocktails are only $22, which is decent for the area, plus you get to lounge in one of the swankiest spots in town. The mini bowling alley, pool table, arcade machines, live DJ sets and karaoke room are just icing on the cake.
 

Barbary Coast


The most anticipated bar opening of the year had seen numeral delays, but thankfully, we now have a taste of the San Francisco bar concept just before the year ends. It’s essentially made up of two bars—Deadfall downstairs and Ballroom upstairs—both supported by the most high-tech lab kitchen yet in Singapore. Have a stiff $14 tipple at the more casual Deadfall then move on up to the fancier Ballroom for cocktails priced in the mid 20s.
 

Bee’s Island Drinkery


Juice bar by day, cocktail bar at dusk is this hole-in-the-wall watering hole’s claim to fame. Step into a vibin tropical landscape the moment you enter the space, then order up fruity yet potent cocktails with names like Beach Please and Rosa Rosa. Its Telok Ayer location only makes it easy as the go-to after-work hangout spot.
 

The Elephant Room


We’ve been waiting for this one the moment we found out Yugnes Susela, formerly at Smoke & Mirrors, was set to open his own bar. Carrying only spirits originating from India, and crafting his own liquors and infusions using only South Asian spices, the drinks here are thoughtful, unique creations birthed from Susela’s heritage and genius. The inaugural menu, dedicated to Singapore’s own Little India, will easily jolt your mind for fond memories thanks to poignant use of aromas and flavours.
 

Heart of Darkness Singapore


One of only two craft beer bars on the list, this first physical Heart of Darkness gastropub outside of Vietnam by the Saigon-based brewery has not only lived up to the hype, but outdone themselves thanks to an on-point collab with local brewers the likes of That Singapore Beer Project and Daryl’s Urban Ales. There’s bound to be a brew you enjoy from their 30 taps.
 

Idlewild


Locating Idlewild, InterContinental Singapore hotel’s very own cocktail bar, is half the fun. Upon entering its understated salon style entrance, an eye-catching walk-in cabinet of curiosities will continue to intrigue you. Peruse a solid drinks menu that harks back to the golden age of air travel while tuning in to jazzy tunes from a live four-piece band at this bar that simply oozes old-school glamour.
 

In Bad Company


A cross between a craft beer bar and a dive bar, this watering hole is the result of a bunch of friends just coming together and deciding to open a place they’d love; and it works. They carry a good range of local and international craft brews in cans and bottles, plus a few on tap to spice things up. The offbeat location at Kim Yam Road only makes it more alluring.
 

Live Twice


Enough with the puns; Live Twice’s name may be a magnet for wannabe wordsmiths, but we’d like to focus on their cocktails instead, thank you very much. This new concept from the Jigger & Pony guys is best described as a Ginza-style bar without the stuffiness—so expect well-crafted drinks alongside a vibrant, lively atmosphere at this cosy haunt. Don’t leave without having their take on the Vesper. We also spoke with Principal Bartender Yinying Leow about the bar. Check it out here.
 

No Sleep Club


Keong Saik’s newest is such a welcome addition to the buzzing street, thanks in no small part to badass owners Juan Yijun and Jessica Hutchinson at the helm. With their combined experience at bars like 28 HongKong Street and Operation Dagger, it’s little wonder why the place it already such a hit. Cocktails like Hay & Apples and Reverse Harvard offer complexity and comfort in equal measure, while the inclusion of orange wines on the menu showcases the length No Sleep Club goes to to cater to an ever more discerning customer base.
 

The Old Man Singapore


It feels like a long time ago, but The Old Man Singapore, the local outpost of the famed Hong Kong bar of the same name, only officially opened here in February. With $17 drinks, good use of the rotovap and its Ernest Hemingway (who was also a prolific drinker in addition to being an author) theme, there’s lots to love about this lively bar. Our favourite thing though has got to be the brass track cooler that’s fixed onto the T-shaped bar counter, which helps keep your drinks chilled for longer.
 

Oriental Elixir


This second floor shophouse bar on Haji Lane opened way back in April to no fanfare, but therein lies its charm. Abhishek Cherian George, best known for opening pioneering joint The Spiffy Dapper, prefers to go the small bar route in order to keep doing what he loves, and so birthed Oriental Elixir. There’s no menu at this antique shop-like space, just plenty of homemade bitters, infusions of all kinds, and the bartender’s fancy as you let them know what flavours you’d like. It is said no drink has ever been made twice here.
 

BONUS:
 

Bitters & Love


We all loved their kaya toast cocktail for the daring and Singaporeaness that it represented, but with the bar celebrating its seventh year in 2019, co-founder Beverly Yeoh wishes for Bitters & Love to go back to the root of their name by offering a brand new cocktail menu featuring drinks made using their own bitters (and mixed with plenty of love, of course). They’re deserving of a mention here as it’s now a completely different experience. New concoctions like the Last Train to Tokyo and It’s a Matcha (our favourite) are all made using various bitters all made in-house. There's just so much to love about a bar that's been around long enough to simply be itself.
 

Operation Dagger


Also not a 2019 opening, but finding its way into this list is underground (literally) bar Operation Dagger. Its winning concept hasn’t changed, but because its entire team has, so has the menu and the experience. New cocktails like the smoky and savoury Cheese, No Egg and the aromatic Golden Mile showcases how aware of local references they are, while the cheekily-named So It Wasn’t Coffee is a good use of ingredients and the rotovap. Some old items remain, like the ever-popular Bee Pollen, as well as their list of hooch, that are essentially fruit wines that they ferment in-house.