This Opulent Singapore Bar Has the Largest Gin Collection in the World
With grand arched ceilings, Art Deco murals, and a 26-foot-high tower of gins, Atlas is an exceptional place to drink.
After strolling through hawker markets, devouring one of the most inexpensive Michelin-starred meals in the world, and spending the day in the architect’s playground that is Singapore, you might ask yourself: It can’t get much better than this, right? But then, you walk into Atlas, one of the best bars in Asia and the world.
There’s no way around it: The space makes an excellent first impression. The bar is located in an office building lobby, although you’d never know it. (If I worked there, I wouldn’t be getting much work done). The ceilings are arched, filled with Art Deco murals, and adorned with gold-leaf molding.
In the center of the bar is a tower, reaching 26 feet up to the top of that arched ceiling, alight with bottles of gin. It’s aptly called the gin tower, and it contains one of the largest, and certainly the most curated, gin collections in the world, with over 1,300 different gins in all. And despite the museum-like display, it’s actually used daily. In fact, each bottle has a sleek label on the back, with a Dewey decimal code, allowing bartenders to easily access any of the bottles in the collection when required.
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But not just any bottle makes it to the tower. In order for a bottle to earn its right, it has to pass muster. The gin must be at least 40% ABV and natural tasting (i.e., no infusions) unless it is a sloe gin, and it must get past the tasting panel. “But I’m the real test,” the head bartender Lidiyana K laughs.
Beyond the Dewey Decimal organization and the tower, there’s even an Atlas of Atlas, a carefully curated list of all of the gins present in the bar. Organized first by style (i.e., London Dry, Modern, Overproof, Barrel Rested, Old Tom, Sloe Gin, and Genever) and then by a taxonomy of taste (i.e., citrus, floral, herbal, spiced, luscious, nutty, earthy, grassy, berries, and fruity), it would be a worthy coffee table book for any gin-lover. The list also includes their selection of Champagnes, wines, and whiskeys, as the bar says it strives to be inclusive to all kinds of drinkers.
But there’s no denying that the main attraction here is the gin. After all, a tower that nearly touches the sky is the centerpiece of a room, filled with rare gins that date as far back as 1910, and new releases from brands like Four Pillars that the bar has deemed worthy.
Of course, in Singaporean fashion, security measures are tight. Behind the bar is a Champagne cellar, which requires thumbprint access that only the head bartenders and owners have. Within that room are old bottles of Dom Perignon and Bollinger nested together in pull-out racks, and an ominous glass case, locked by another thumbprint scanner, which only the general manager and owners can access. This one holds the crown jewel of the bar: five bottles of Champagne that are more than 200 years old. Is it still bubbly? You have to sign a contract ensuring you’re willing to pay $200,000 Singaporean Dollars (equivalent to $148,392) to find out.
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While that wasn’t a chance I was willing to take, I was hopeful to try a martini or two. I ordered a flight of martinis to start, which miraculously were not outshined by the space itself. The flight included the Atlas martini, an orange blossom martini, and an espresso martini. It tasted more like a latte than an espresso martini, and while I hoped to savor it, I found my glass drained within seconds.
While the espresso martini was a highlight, the Atlas martini was also sensational. Rather than making them overly dry, the bartenders insist wet martinis amplify the vermouth and the gin. Despite not being a martini I’d order anywhere else, I recommend trying it here.
After downing three miniature coupes worth of martinis, I ordered the bar’s twist on a French 75 as a way to blend the two interests of Atlas — gin and Champagne. When it arrived, I was confused by the garnish, a charred kumquat, but Lidiyana kindly instructed me to take a bite, then a sip. The tartness of the kumquat made the lemon juice in the cocktail pale in comparison, and the only way to describe the French 75 I drank all too quickly was as a bubbly mouthful, luscious, savory, and sweet all at the same time.
Related:How London's Classic and Contemporary Venues Are Shaping the Future of Gin
Perhaps that is the best way to describe Atlas, anyway. It makes a great first impression, then tops it again and again, upending you and your expectations until you’re unsure where the exit is. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s the kind of bar you never want to leave.
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