Singapore's cocktail bars are hip and their mixologists savvy, writes Paul Harper.
A night out in Singapore can take a thirsty traveller by surprise. A glass of the local Tiger beer, for example, can set you back as much as $20 (bear in mind that a 10 per cent service charge and seven per cent GST will be added to advertised prices).
If you're looking to drink on the cheap, hunt around for happy hour specials, where discounted drinks and two-for-one deals can make your evening's thirst-quenching a little less taxing on the back pocket.
If, however, you're not so fussed about how much you spend, Singapore offers some great cocktail bars.
Nestled among the hookah bars, hipster shops and bustling stalls selling vibrant fabrics and rugs in Kampong Glam, Singapore's fashionable Arab Quarter, Bar Stories can be found up a narrow staircase on Haji Lane.
Famous for cocktails, there is no menu. Rather, you describe the flavours and liquors you like and the bartender goes from there.
I'd spent the day walking across Singapore, and was still jet-lagged from my flight a few days earlier. So I needed something refreshing but with a kick and, feeling adventurous, I wanted something I'd never had before.
Optimistically, I ask mixologist Kino Soh for what she would serve someone who had only minutes to live and who wanted to experience something mind-blowing before they left this earth. We discussed what flavours I like, I vetoed what I can't stand, and she returned to the bar to mix my concoction.
The author's cocktail was a twist on a Mai Tai that included light and dark rum, orgeat syrup, fresh lime juice, blackberries and cointreau. Photo / James Harper
Kino nailed it, returning to our table with a raspberry-flavoured drink in a ceramic vessel, complete with a burning leaf pegged on top, for a nice end-of-the-world aroma.
She described my drink as a twist on a classic, similar to a Mai Tai; with a mix of light and dark rum, orgeat syrup, fresh lime juice, blackberries and cointreau. I'd never had a drink like it, so it ticked that box. The berry ensured it was refreshing, the rum gave it the kick I was after and the orgeat gave it a pleasant almond tinge.
Of course, it's rude not to share, so I tried my brother's strong gingery chilli drink (no thanks) and his friend's very drinkable grapefruit cocktail.
The concoctions are worth their price, for the creativity and skill of Bar Stories' mixologists.
For such a hip bar, the staff are remarkably welcoming. Unlike some fashionable bars where staff and clientele are too cool to crack a smile, the bar staff don't take themselves too seriously, although they're certainly passionate about the drinks they are making.
It makes sense to visit Bar Stories on a quiet night, when the staff have the time to give customers and their drinks the care and attention they are known for.
A burning leaf pegged on top of the author's cocktail made for a nice end-of-the-world aroma. Photo / James Harper
If you're keen to continue drinking cocktails across the city state, Kino recommends a handful of other cocktail bars in Singapore: Bitters & Love (30 North Canal), Jigger & Pony (101 Amoy St), Mars Bar (Duxton Hotel), Spiffy Dapper, Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (both Clark Quay) and Nox - Dine in the Dark (Beach Rd).
Paul Harper travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines.