A View from the City: Singapore

Where do you think Singapore ranks in terms of bar scenes in Asia? 

Tokyo has an amazing drinking culture and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Seoul are great places to party. But as far as the craft scene goes, Singapore is the most diverse and developed market in Asia.

How is 28 Hongkong Street’s business – does custom track to economical shifts? 

Our business is super stable. We have a ton of regulars and a constant stream of visitors to Singapore who have been recommended by someone, somewhere in the global community. One of the big things we track is who is coming to the bar. Obviously it varies night by night, but we generally host about 60% local Singaporeans, 20%-30% expats, and 10%-20% international travellers.

What does Singapore have to do to grow?

The bar scene needs to continue to grow by focusing on quality and execution, continuing to build a sense of community in the local scene and reaching out to forge connections in the international bar community. One of my favourite things about drinking in a mature market such as NYC or San Francisco is the confidence to keep it simple. Even the cocktails at The Artesian are fundamentally straightforward and delicious, once you dig under the glitzy presentations.

Singapore is really far away from most of the other cities with great cocktail scenes so it is doubly important that we encourage our brothers and sisters to come and see it for themselves. We love hosting guest bartenders at 28 Hongkong Street, which has been a major factor in our success in garnering international recognition. If any of your readers happen to be in the neighbourhood, we always have a place behind the stick for a fellow barman.

The biggest challenge is a dilution of talent due to the rapid pace of growth. Barmen with two or three years of craft experience are being offered their own programmes and even opening their own bars. This is why we believe so strongly in building a collaborative bar community through events such as the Bartender’s Allowance, an informal monthly contest run for barmen by barmen. Great markets such as NYC and London are built on a foundation of sharing information, mentoring and friendly competition and Singapore must continue to foster that to mature into a great drinking city.