Japanese-style bartending exerts a powerful influence on the craft cocktail world.
In fact, their reach is so profound that it stretches far beyond their own borders. In Singapore itself, it is not hard to find several Japanese cocktail bars that specialise in exquisite craft cocktails.
Many of these places practice Ginza-style bartending, named after the Tokyo neighbourhood that houses many of the city’s renowned drinking dens. The general guidelines call for cocktails being made one at a time. The focus is on perfection over speed, which sometimes means a longer wait.
The bartenders tend to dress in perfectly-fitting suits, and more often than not, the drinks are served in glassware thinner than the government’s excuses for raising GST. From the OG of D.Bespoke to the recently opened House Bar, here are six to check out.
Best Japanese cocktail bars in Singapore for a tipple:
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Kakure, which means hidden in Japanese, is secluded away on the second floor of a black-and-white bungalow on Scotts Road, which also houses omakase restaurant Ki-sho. The bar is helmed by Yokohama native Kazuhiro Chii, who started working at the iconic Chrysler Bar in Tokyo’s Hotel Okura before arriving in Singapore in 2010.
You’ll need a key code for access – the maître d reveals it when you walk in – and behind the nondescript door are Chii’s signature drinks including the wasabi-spiked Yamaoroshi, peppery Black Storm Highball, and Wa Mojito with ume-shu and shiso. Classic cocktails and a wide selection of Japanese whisky and scotch are also available. Call to book.
Mondays to Saturdays, 6pm to 1am
D.Bespoke is a cocktail bar with no menu. Founded in 2014 by Daiki Kanetaka, the drinks are tailored to your preference, much like a custom-made suit. That means you can go as safe or wild as you like, but prices can accelerate quickly too. The mood here is hushed and borderline reverential, and the cocktails are always razor-sharp. Alternatively, dive into their diverse range of single malts and vintage brandies.
Mondays to Thursdays, 6pm to 1am
Fridays and Saturdays, 6pm to 2am
Image credit: @mariel_kentaro_satoh / Instagram
The newest bar on this list, House Bar is omakase restaurant Taiga Dining’s intimate drinking den. The venue is run by former Il Lido Group bartender Shafik Ismail, who came up with a tightly edited menu of 11 cocktails. Drinks have a Japanese flair from the Sake Bramble to the Azuki Rum Old Fashioned with red bean paste. Classics including the lesser-seen Bronx are also on offer.
Mondays to Saturdays, 11am to 11pm
Perched on the second floor of a Purvis Street shophouse, Last Word is veteran bartender Colin Chia’s homage to the classic cocktail in a zen, temple-like space. Start your evening off with a Bloody Mary made from fresh tomato juice, then order the namesake drink with gin, chartreuse, lime juice, and maraschino cherry garnish.
Flip the menu over for a small selection of seasonal cocktails; during our last visit, options include an amaro-based Fennel Pollen. Then finish off with the invigorating and timeless Corpse Reviver No.2.
Tuesdays to Saturdays, 5pm to midnight
Live Twice is the Jigger & Pony Group’s homage to a mid-century Japanese bar. Launched in 2019, it is led by Principal Bartender Yinying Leow, who recently introduced a new menu that blends Western and Japanese influences, yet remains charming and unapologetically dedicated to the drink-making process.
The menu of 14 cocktails is divided into two parts. The first is “One Life For Yourself,” which consists of subtle twists on classic cocktails including the signature Vesper and the Fuzzy Navel. Minimalist yet innovative drinks make up the second part titled “One Life For Your Dreams,” such as the pisco and cold brew coffee Golden Butterfly, and Little Crane with un-aged rye and vetiver liqueur. During Happy Hour, Ume Highball, Spumoni, and other cocktails go for S$16++ each.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 6pm to midnight
Fridays and Saturdays, 6pm to 2am
Sundays, 6pm to midnight
Happy Hour, 6pm to 7.30pm
Waku Ghin Bar is a reason to arrive early for your chef’s table reservation or stay on after dinner. The venue has a variety of Japanese-style cocktails such as Kaguya-hime, a riff on the Bamboo with sakura liqueur, Shochu Lemon Sour, and a sake shooter with caviar called Ikazuchi. Currently, they’re serving seasonal fruit cocktails made with musk melon and strawberry from Shizuoka and Fukuoka prefectures.
Daily, 5pm to 11pm