When she turned 37 last Tuesday – the same day circuit breaker measures kicked in – communications executive Denise Li celebrated at home with her family.
While she could not clink glasses with friends, they had cocktails from one of the bars she frequents, The Secret Mermaid, delivered to her home, so she could still have a drink on her special day.
In these times, when bars are closed and people are told to stay home, cocktails bars are taking their concoctions to homes.
Most offer same-day, islandwide deliveries of cocktails in bottles or vacuum-sealed bags. In some cases, the drinks come with garnishes.
One of the early movers was The Secret Mermaid, a six-year-old bar in Ocean Financial Centre, which had its delivery services up and running by March 30.
Bar manager Kelly D’Cruz, 28, says the team had been keeping tabs on the developments in other countries that imposed lockdown measures earlier than Singapore.
“Hearing from the bar communities there, as well as friends who were going stir-crazy in their homes, we saw that people wanted to still have a semblance of their regular social life. And for many, the idea of socialising and relaxing is with a cocktail,” she says.
“Hence, we wanted to be ready to deliver that experience and be a source of comfort during the circuit breaker period.”
To recreate the experience of having freshly made cocktails, Ms D’Cruz says all orders are prepared on the spot as close to the delivery time as possible, to be consumed on the day of production, and labelled as such.
It seems to be catching on. The bar is now getting an average of 20 orders a day, up from six a day when its delivery services first launched.
Customers are willing to spend. She says: “What’s interesting is the spending is high an order, much more than the average bar tab.”
Takeaway cocktails to try
From vacuum-packed garnishes to handwritten notes to prompt (sometimes personal) deliveries, these bars have made drinking at home all the more palatable.
1 ORDER FROM FOUR BARS AT ONE GO
The Jigger & Pony group offers the widest cocktail selection because you can order from any of its four bar concepts.
For a decadent tipple, order the Lobster Mary from Gibson, which comes with vacuum-packed lobster tail meat garnishes. A classy, stirred drink is the Sakura Martini from Jigger & Pony or the Vesper from Live Twice. Negroni lovers can pick from five options on Caffe Fernet’s menu.
The cocktails arrive chilled and ready to drink straight up or over ice, and you might even get a cheeky note from the team.
2 LOCAL FLAVOURS AND A SIDE OF KUEH FROM NATIVE
Considered one of the best bars in the world, Native stays true to its roots with flavours that local drinkers will be familiar with.
The spirit-forward Pineapple Arrack, a bestseller since the bar opened in 2016, is one of the 500ml bottled cocktail options available. At $88 a pop, it comes up to about $10 a drink if you pour one for yourself at home.
Another bestseller, Peranakan (right), is a Singaporean take on a milk punch – made with jackfruit rum, laksa leaves, gula melaka, goat’s milk and candlenut. It comes with a side of kueh in a reusable tupperware box.
There is also a chance you will find the bar’s co-founder Vijay Mudaliar at your doorstep with your order – masked, of course.
3 THE SECRET MERMAID’S BOOZY TIPPLES
For value-conscious Singaporeans, The Secret Mermaid offers the most affordable cocktails of the lot ($20 for two portions worth). The drinks are also boozy. Cocktails like the dragonfruit daiquri and mezcal-spiked margarita are refreshing but punchy.
Bar manager Kelly D’Cruz and her team can make you a custom cocktail, sans dairy and eggs – like one of their latest concoctions, a coffee spritz, made with whisky, coffee liqueur and chocolate bitters and topped off with a sparkling wine.
Native in Amoy Street is also seeing around 20 orders a day. Currently ranked 12th on the World’s 50 Best Bars List, it is best known for championing local and regional spirits and ingredients.
Co-founder Vijay Mudaliar, who heads out on delivery runs himself, says: “(Offering home delivery) allows us to stay in touch with the customers and continue to convey Native’s (branding).”
The bar has also seen an uptick in customers outside its immediate circle of friends, family and regulars, though business has taken a hit of 70 to 80 per cent since stricter social distancing measures kicked in.
But Mr Mudaliar, 31, admits that the rising number of local coronavirus cases meant that it was “getting too dangerous to operate, both for my staff and for customers”.
While many players see cocktail deliveries as a stop-gap measure, especially those which are independent bars without the backing of hotel chains or investors with deep pockets, they agree this is not a long-term or sustainable solution.
“It helps because it generates some income and keeps our team together, but it is definitely not sustainable as a long-term option,” says Ms D’Cruz.
Mr Mudaliar adds: “We can’t break even and, whether it helps us cut the losses, we will have to wait and see.”
New players like No Sleep Club in Keong Saik Road, which has been open all of six months, are determined to make it work with the current situation.
Co-founder Juan Yijun, 35, says: “Now that every venue is on the same platform, you can no longer lean on location, ambience or hospitality like we know it. So we are constantly thinking of ways to separate ourselves (from the crowd) to add value to an order.”
The all-day bar has rolled out 750ml bottled cocktails and is adapting its coffee and food menu for delivery.
As a smaller and owner-operator business, Ms Juan feels it can tweak operations easily when the situation calls for it.
“We also adapted based on customer requests, packaging even the doughnut milk we used in our doughnut lattes when someone asked for it. During this time, our approach is to say ‘yes’ to almost anything,” she adds.
Customers like recent birthday girl Ms Li are also learning to adjust.
While drinking at home is not the same as going to a bar – “which is an experience in itself, with the music, ambience and the social aspect of it” – it is the new normal for now.
“Drinking martinis out of a non-martini glass feels strange, but I’m still happy to make do with cocktails out of a bag during this circuit breaker period,” she says.
“It’s still the best way to wind down on a Friday evening.”
Six bars to order from
The Amoy Street resident has curated some of its bestsellers for home delivery.
There are lighter options like Hibiscus and Foragers’ Garden (made with matcha gin, calamansi and matcha kombucha) as well as stronger drinks like Peranakan and Pineapple Arrack. Each 500ml bottle serves six to eight portions.
Prices: $68 or $88 nett
Info: Orders are delivered within 24 hours, between 3 and 9pm daily
To order: E-mail [email protected] tribenative.com, call 8869-6520 or leave a message on their Instagram page
NUTMEG & CLOVE
The Ann Siang Hill bar offers four bottled cocktails in 250ml (three servings), 350ml (41/2 servings) and 500ml (six servings) portions.
They are Chrissy Negroni, made with chrysanthemum gin; Roses & Lychees, a milk punch made with gin, roses and lychees; Smoky Rum Old Fashioned, made with a blend of rum and Islay whisky; and Symphony, made with cognac, rye whiskey, black tea and Chinese herbs.
Prices: $38 to $88 nett
To order: WhatsApp Shuen on 8245-9262
JIGGER & PONY GROUP
Order from the drinks and food menus of all the food-and-beverage outlets run by the group – Jigger & Pony, Gibson, Live Twice, Caffe Fernet and Humpback – with a one-stop service. This means you can mix cocktails as well as food items from across the venues.
From stiff negronis to classy vespers to signature drinks like the gin-based Madame President, there are 24 cocktails to choose from.
Prices: Cocktails start at $30 for two portions
Info: Delivery is from 1 to 10pm daily and is free for orders above $150 Order at least two hours in advance.
To order: Call 9772-9896 or go to this website
NO SLEEP CLUB
The new bar in Keong Saik Road is doing flavour-packed 750ml bottled cocktails, which come up to eight to 10 portions.
Order aged peppercorn, coffee negroni, banana rum old fashioned; signature drinks including Hay & Apples (toasted hay whisky, fermented apples and chamomile honey); and classic cocktails.
Prices: $128 to $148
Info: Delivery from 11am to 8pm. Order at least an hour before
To order: WhatsApp or call 8838-0188 or leave a message on their Instagram page
Besides bottled versions of its signature cocktails like the Atlas Martini, Negroni and the gin and coffee-based Urban Pioneer, the bar at Parkview Square is also delivering home cocktail sets comprising gin, whisky or both, as well as modifiers, bitters and garnishes. There is an option to add on a full set of rose gold bartending tools ($480).
You can also purchase bottles of spirits from its vast collection, including its flagship collaboration gin, St George Atlas Orange gin.
Prices: From $45 for three cocktail flights (100ml of each cocktail)
Info: Delivery is from Mondays to Fridays, noon to 6pm. Free home delivery for orders above $100
To order: Visit this website
Sip on the swanky hotel bar’s world-class cocktails at home. Crowd favourites, like The Manhattan, Scarface (made with mezcal and cynar) and Bada Bing Bada Boom (Scotch whisky, Chianti and cherry tobacco bitters), are available in bottled format. You can also order bar bites such as the barrel-aged whiskey pulled pork burgers.
Prices: From $24 nett for 100ml bottled cocktails
Info: Free delivery for orders above $100 and 50 per cent off delivery for orders above $50. Minimum order of $30 applies
To order: Visit this website
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