The Old Man Singapore – Inspired by Tales of Ernest Hemingway
Nowhere is the economic upturn in Asia more evident than in Singapore. Most of the millionaires in the world live in the Lion City. They not only want to earn their money, but also spend it. The smallest state in Southeast Asia is making it easy for them and is increasingly adapting to its rich inhabitants. The bar scene is still young but is growing steadily and compares easily with the cocktail metropolises London and New York. Conditions are ideal: a young state, together with open-minded and cultivated people from all over the world who have filled their wallets to the brim.
When I was at Native, I met two nice businesswomen. They told me about a brand new bar, which had opened around March last year, that was a must-visit. Spontaneously we decided to set off together. That was the beginning of another exceptional evening with an unexpected surprise.
Located in Chinatown on the popular Keong Saik Road you will find The Old Man Singapore. It is the sister bar of its internationally acclaimed Hong Kong namesake which ranks number 1 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars and number 10 in the World’s 50 Best Bars. The Old Man Singapore already earned a coveted spot on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2019, debuting at number 38, and was also awarded Best New Bar of the Year at The Bar Awards 2019. Impressive!
Keep an eye out for the pineapple lamp outside.
My adventure started with a warm welcome into a pleasantly lit venue. It looks like a mix of a living room and a library filled with cocktail books and subtle tropical accents. Think of a contemporary take on Hemingway’s tropical Cuban estate. A mural of Hemingway unmistakably indicates the inspiration and is an unambiguous reference to the name of the bar. The rotovap, just right under Hemingway himself, gives a foretaste of the experimental and innovative menu. The Old Man pays homage to writer Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous drinkers in history. Centrepiece of the venue is its admirable bar counter. At the head of the huge communal table you will find the bartenders. The rest of the counter is shaped like a l, ensuring unlimited communication between guests and bartenders alike. For me, the regular seat height was particularly pleasant, I like to put my feet on the ground. Another extraordinary detail, which I haven’t seen at any other bar, was a brass rail embedded in the table, running along the full length of the counter.
No coasters needed. Just place your drink onto the brass rail to keep it at the right temperature.
Nowadays, bars are equipped like laboratories. Producing and refining your own drinks seems to be the order of the day. Taking a material and turning it into something drinkable, extracting flavours and creating new drinking experiences. Science is, in any case, part of the cocktail process. I am really fascinated by this scientific approach and of course by the drinkable results. The staff is super friendly, knowledgeable and attentive. I looked not only thirsty but also thirsty for knowledge, so the bartender gave me a tour behind the curtains where all the magic happens. He showed me the centrifuge with a capacity of 6 litres, which are rarely found in bars. Every drink on the menu is processed using techniques like fat-washing, sous-vide, and rotary evaporation – high-tech drinking at its best.
My company had meanwhile left me and I changed from the lounge area to the impressive bar counter. A pleasant surprise awaited me in the form of a familiar and also surprised face: Andrew Yap, Managing Partner of Old Man Singapore (along with owners Agung Prabowo, James Tamang and Roman Ghale). We had met previously in Athens a couple of years ago and I was fascinated by his humble and down-to-earth character. He is one of the great bar luminaries with more than 20 years of experience, and he learned from scratch. We talked about bars, booze, had some shots and it was a perfect adventure for me.
Let’s turn our attention to drinks. They are spirit-forward and highly creative.
The menu lists nine cocktails inspired by Hemingway’s book and what he would like to drink nowadays. My first drink of choice was The Sun Also Rises, the first major novel by Hemingway, published in 1926. For the drink it is an Asian twist on a Negroni blending coconut oil fat-washed applejack, curry leaf infused gin, sous-vide pandan leaves in sweet vermouth and lime kaffir. Bitter, spicy, sweet, extremely tasty and well-balanced. Pandan always brings me childhood memories and a homey feeling.
If you follow Hemingway’s footsteps a Papa Doble is a drink you cannot miss. Hemingways adaption of a Daiquiri comes crystal clear and is a cocktail with pineapple sous-vide rum, clarified pink grapefruit, lime, and maraschino sous-vide jalapeno. Time for a refreshing one. The Islands in the Stream is a mix of clarified pink grapefruit, salted gin mix in-house, then carbonated for the fizz.
Intimate, stylish, high-tech. The Old Man is a place for crafted cocktails and warm hospitality. The place, the team, the drinks, everything touched my heart and taste buds.
Shortly opened and already entered the World’s 50 Best Bars – this usually makes me mostly suspicious, but here it is well deserved.