Like artisanal foods and brashly imaginative dining trends that whet our appetite, the drinks scene has evolved tremendously. In the last five years, the spirit of choice among the young and affluent has gone from whisky to gin to more sophisticated distillations. And the focus on fine wines has grown to include a greater appreciation for boutique and biodynamic alternatives from as far away as Lebanon. Whether you’re looking to up your drinking game or just drink better, here are tips from industry insiders to help you hit the bar like a proper cognoscenti.

Joe Schofield

Head Bartender, Tippling Club

"Cocktail making has become more advanced. One gadget that’s widely used today is the rotary evaporator (like a traditional still, except under pressure), which allows us to create our own spirit bases. This means that the ingredients aren’t subjected to as much heat damage, allowing us to achieve a very delicate and full flavour from our distillate. We use this to create our own beetroot vodka, which is used in our Rain cocktail."


Mark Tay

Owner, Sunday Punch

"Don't ask a bartender to make a drink that tastes like the one you had at another bar. It's like going to McDonald's and asking for a Whopper."



Luke Whearty

Head Bartender, Operation Dagger

"Instead of falling back on your regular Negroni or Old Fashioned, trust the bartenders and leave yourself in their hands. Who knows, you might discover your next favourite drink or, at the very least, you’ll experience something new."

Read also: try this out at Skullduggery


William Pravda

Head Bartender, Bread Street Kitchen

"The Rosalio liqueur, which consists of rose petals, bergamot, Cedro lemons and other botanicals, is perfect when blended with white spirits and sparkling liquids; it also makes a good base for many fun and innovative creations."

Dario Knox

“The Man Behind”, The Other Room

"I am a big believer in old English milk punches or clarified milk punches. They were made over 150 years ago. They are delicious, easy to make and can be stored for months or even years under the right conditions."

Kamil Foltan

Founder, Sunday Funday

"Tequila, Rum and American Whiskey or Bourbon and Rye, if you like, are becoming more and more popular across the local drinking community. They are similar to whiskies in their own way, and many consumers are becoming more educated and curious about what else is out there that they can enjoy."

Read also: Martell's 6 do's and dont's to get the most out of your cognac

Roman Foltan

Head Bartender, Atlas

"Amaro liqueur is the next big thing. With roots from Italy and dating back to Roman times, this wine-based drink is infused with herbs and spices and is typically drunk before or after a meal to aid digestion. It is very tasty on its own, and its use in cocktails is very versatile. Our favourite is the Amaro Montenegro."


Steve Schneider

Bar Manager and Partner, Employees Only Singapore

"If you go into a well-respected-cocktail bar anywhere in the world and ask to buy the bartender a shot of Fernet Branca, you’ll immediately establish camaraderie and gain status as an in-the-know drinker. The industry loves Fernet and will be kind to those who recognise it!"

Charmaine Thio

Deputy Bar Captain, 28HKS

"Non-traditional sippers are trending. These days, the notion of what is meant to be sipped neat or on the rocks no longer extends to your usual suspects such as rum, whisky or cognac. More distillers are crafting "sipping gins" that are excellent neat or chilled over ice as they would be in a gin and tonic or martini. Tequila is also shedding its "party image" and, together with its sibling mezcal, is increasingly being appreciated as a sipping spirit."

Gerald Lu

General Manager and Head Sommelier, Praelum Wine Bistro

"Shaky vintage by a good producer, good vintage by a shaky producer; that’s the smart way to drink good wines without splurging on a regular basis."


Vijay Mudaliar

Owner, Native

"Always ask the bartender the story behind the cocktail you are drinking. I'm almost certain that, given context, a cocktail can taste better and the level of appreciation higher."

Read also: what is zero waste bartending?

Christopher Mark

Co-Founder, Black Sheep Restaurants

"Pared down, simple cocktails pair better with food and are a nice contrast to the over-the-top moustached creations in today’s bar world. Our recently opened New Punjab Club celebrates the boozing culture of the progressive 1950s and 1960s, and the concise list of high balls centres on gin in the summer and whisky during cooler months to provide a refreshing complement to the hearty food."

Alan Au

Head Sommelier, Foo’d By Davide Oldani

"Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean with a long history of wine culture, is blessed with a combination of abundant sunshine and varied terroir. And the most important factor is its indigenous grape varietal, which can only be found here. It produces mainly dry whites, reds as well as sweet wines. One particular winery that impressed me is Passopisciaro, which produces less than 8000 cases annually."

Matthew Chan

Restaurant and Beverage Manager, Nouri

"If you want a bottle that will take you through each course of a degustation or set menu, give a versatile rosé or a food friendly orange wine a go. Orange wines are still relatively unknown. They are made with grape varietals that are used to make white wines and showcase a higher natural acidity.

I also highly recommend exploring biodynamic wines. The esoteric techniques employed to the farming methods may seem unorthodox, but having personally visited biodynamic vineyards, I have witnessed the difference these techniques have made in maintaining the health of the grapes and vines. These wines can be vinified in any wine making style, with or without sulphites."

(Related: On The Pass: Do We Need Another Fine Dining Restaurant, Asks Ivan Brehm Of Nouri)

Daisuke Kawai

Chief Sommelier and Co-Founder, La Terre

"I recommend the Domaine du Daley, Lavaux Villette Grand Cru Le Chasselas Grand Réserve 2015. The grape variety Chasselas is originally from Switzerland, where most of the wines are consumed within the country. This is a classified Grand Cru with a brilliant pale-yellow colour, and peach, orange and white flower on the nose. It has a rich body, is rounded, and has a well-balanced acidity and minerality."


Sally Humble

Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, Bistro November

"Natural wine is a can of worms; sometimes simply not worth opening. drink whatever wine crosses your wine pairings, considerately and appreciatively. seek quality wine conscientiously, and not dogmatically. Good wine is good wine, simply because it's good—not because it's natural."

Read also: this is where you can get good wine


Shawn Chong

Co-founder and Bartender, Omakese + Appreciate

"What is the one drink to order to measure another bartender’s skill?

For me it would be two, simple cocktails. The first would be an old fashioned, reason being that the drink is the very definition of a cocktail and if you know how to make one it shows that you’ve done your groundwork.

The second would be a very simple daiquiri, which will show if you know where the cocktail comes from and if you know how to balance a simple sweet and sour cocktail."


Christian Hartmann

“El Presidente”, Vasco

"Agave spirits are super-hot in Asia and the suppliers’ portfolio in this category keeps growing, which is a true pleasure."


Eugene Wong

Certified Sake Professional and Director, Mr Otaru

"I studied under Sensei John Gauntner, and the first thing he used to tell people new to sake was to look for the word ‘Ginjo’ or ‘Daiginjo’ on the bottle, and you can be assured that you are drinking sake that is towards the high end of the market.

Today’s premium sake is brewed with such care and precision that nuances really come through if you treat sake like a wine. While traditional sake glasses are still entirely enjoyable and appropriate, try wine glasses for another level of appreciation.

Speaking of traditional sake glasses, the small glasses are cultural and not intended for doing shots! In Japanese culture, it is an honour to pour for others, and you generally do not pour for yourself. Doing shots of sake is solely reserved for salarymen and samurai on TV."

Read also: 5 things you didn't know about Japanese whisky


Howard Lo

Owner, Liberty Spirits Asia and Cocktail Bar The Secret Mermaid

"Craft spirits are in full swing now; while there are a lot of distilleries producing great spirits, be cognisant that some of these companies aren’t actually producing the spirit themselves; they’re sourcing it from a mass producer (generally MGP of Indiana, also known as Midwest Grain Products of Indiana) and acting as a brand marketing group. Pay attention to the label on the bottle and look for key words like distilled, produced, or other language that would make it clear it’s being made by the company whose name is on it."


Patrick Sauze

Communications Director, Robert Parker Wine Advocate

"There are many wine options that will work with spicy dishes, but there is one specific character in the wine that is necessary to make the pairing work: high acidity. Preferably avoid sweet wines that will make the chilli feel “hotter”, and look for reds or white that have a good bite on the tongue as the acidity will balance out the chilli."

Read also: raise the heat with these Thai cocktails

Sin Kim Shin

Senior Bartender, Jigger & Pony

"I think consumers can expect to see a lot more familiar, “comfort” ingredients in modern cocktails such as Milo."



Jayden Ong

Bartender, Sugarhall

"Personally, I do not think that it’s necessary for guests to be “discerning” drinkers in order to enjoy an evening at a cocktail bar. Even if you’re new to cocktail drinking, one way to make your evening more memorable is to simply chat with the bartenders."

See also: learn how to make your own Bloody Mary


Peter Chua

Head Barman, Crackerjack and Junior

"Lose gender stereotypes for drinks! An Old Fashioned is not a 'manly' drink. A Mojito is not a 'girly' drink. That stemmed glass is not feminine. That rock glass is not masculine. Tote bags were not a guy thing until recently. I am keeping a unicorn cup for the next guy that asks me 'to put it in a manlier glass'."


Catarina Longman

Co-Founder, Maracatu Cachaça

"Yes, we've all had our share of hangovers, but this can be drastically reduced if you focus on quality. Artisinal spirits such as Maracatu Cachaça are distilled in batches and during the distillation process the good alcohol (the "heart") is separated from the bad stuff... it makes a big difference on your palate and on how you feel the next morning."


Foong Chi Hou

Editor, Highest Spirits

"The world has much more to offer than whisky and vodka, and you can often get good stuff at a very reasonable price. My current favourite drink is Calvados, a French apple brandy that has all the subtle finesse of whisky, but a zesty fruitiness to boot."

Read also: 5 speciality bars dedicated to a single spirit



Symphony Loo

Group Beverage Manager, Summerlong, Neon Pigeon, Fat Prince, And The Ottomani

"For a casual Monday or Tuesday night out, start off with craft beer before dinner. I have tried numerous impressive craft beers, and have listed a few of them in our outlets: the 8 Wired Flat White Stout from Australia tastes like light chocolate-coffee stout; Luppolajo Bucolica Kolsch from Italy, which is a crisp medium-bodied beer; and Hop Splicer Grapefruit XPA from Australia, an extremely refreshing and citrusy beer that was released in Singapore in August."


Mason Ng

Head Sommelier, Atlas

"If you’re looking for a bottle of pinot noir at a restaurant, particularly Burgundian, that won’t break the bank, look to German pinot noirs, such as the spätburgunder. These wines offer quality, value and are often regarded as having just as high a quality as their Burgundian counterpart, which tends to be very expensive. Names to look out for include MeyerNäkel, Bernard Huber and Rudolf Fürst."

(Related: Why We’re Swooning Over The New Art Deco-Style Atlas Bar

Aki Eguchi

Bar Programme Director At The Jigger & Pony Group, Gibson

"I feel it is still important to step back and embrace the classics. One that I feel will start to really be popular again is the spritz. It’s a straightforward cocktail that’s easy to like, especially in Singapore’s warm climate. Being a bubbly, it also has a level of glamour about it, while maintaining a tasteful and balanced blend of flavours."


Yugnes Susela

Head Bartender, Smoke & Mirrors

"Go for unique spirits, such as the Okayama craft gin from Japan. It is a peach-flavoured gin with rice sochu base, and uses japanese peaches as one of their botanicals. It's aged in oak barrels and has a smoky fragrance that is rare for gin."