New restaurants, bars, and menus perfect for a fancy date night or casual dining with friends …would be how we start this article off with a slew of SEO-keywords, can you tell? Though that’s still an honest description of these establishments, which maybe didn’t quite make the cut for a full feature (sorry?) but are nonetheless very worthy mentions that have earned their spot on this highlight. Or if you have already been eyeing these places, take this as a lowdown of key dishes to try.

Meadesmoore

Wagyu Flat Iron. MEADESMOORE

Previously Fat Belly Social, one of the renowned places in town for a feather blade gets a new menu. And you know the steakhouse turns alternative cuts into exceptional ones when the Wagyu Flat Iron significantly outperforms the 65-day aged Cote De Boeuf. Don’t be mistaken; the latter is no weak contender when Australian grain-fed tender and seared with a caramelised crust. Still, having tried a Flat Iron steak elsewhere, this Wagyu cut with a marble score of 9+ had such undeniable flavour each bite you won’t need the sauces.

Mashed potato fans would appreciate the sinful, velvety Ratte Potato Puree that’s whisked with crap ton of milk and butter (do eat it fast before the gluten hardens). The Roasted Honey Saffron Cauliflower is a lighter side, and the florets are served atop a bed of homemade ricotta that has a lovely citrusy tang. A flavour punch would be the Kuju Kushima Oyster Mornay where the fat piece is quite literally blanketed in a luscious reduced cream, grana padano, and wilted spinach (we know how it sounds, but the combination works).

Vibe: That classic, neutral shophouse restaurant that’s safe to bring anyone

Wallet damage: $$$

Meadesmoore is located at 21A Boon Tat Street, Singapore 069620.

NOU Noodle Bar

Shopfront. NOU
Interior. NOU
Umami Noodles. NOU
Cocktail line up (L), G&T (R). NOU

Why yes, this is the one you saw on Instagram. The one with the progressive menu, ambient lights, intimate seating, and ay, glass block feature. Perhaps expectations were high, but it did seem like drinks outperformed their culinary counterparts. For appetisers, Olives come satisfyingly enhanced with citrus and chilli, though at SGD10 before tax for the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit, we googled) may look hefty. The Trout Carpaccio and Seafood Spinach dumplings can’t be faulted apart from portion size, but we can’t help but wish the Umami Noodle and Chicken Mazemen packed more of a punch (pairing chillis were chefs kiss though).

Here, the Gin & Tonic is a signature and besides using house-made tonic, the unique frothy beetroot topping tells you why. The Pink Frog is another refreshing gin-based starter, especially for lovers of egg white foam on cocktails. Except you’re probably more up to try the unconventional koji rice fermented tomato brine Tomato, Tomato, or the machetazo duck-fat washed salmiana mezcal-centric Ducktini. The savoury two are undeniably subject to personal preferences, but if you want to double down on the pepper, order the Duck Kut Teh Mee Sua to go with the latter.

Vibe: The contemporary casual bar you want to be caught dead in

Wallet damage: $$

NOU Noodle Bar is located at 45 Craig Road, Singapore 089683.

Puffy Bois

Dawn Chorus (L), Box of Stars (R). PUFFY BOIS

Speakeasies are great, better yet if they are unintentional and serve solid slices. Up the subtly-lit stairway and through a shadowed doorway you find the petite nook away from street buzz. Helmed by veterans, the refreshed tipple menu is concise but has sufficient variety. Two are subjectively polarising—the Pillar to Post (think medicinal aperitivo) and the Ok Go (think boozy ice cream soda). On the other hand, Dawn Chorus is easy to nurse for Old Fashioned regulars, thanks to the comfortable balance of sweet from the cornflake-scented Tennessee Whiskey and housemade salted honey whey. Box of Stars steals the show as a Bellini-inspired, Champagne-dosed hit that is truly complex, with a pleasantly distinct aftertaste.

One primed to be completely up your alley is the customisable Sour What What. It’s your genie drink with freedom of spirit and presentation choice; just tell the trusty duo your profile preference. What makes you return though, will probably be the handmade pizzas literally pulled and toasted before your eyes. We thought ourselves strict fans of thin crust until we had a go. Something about the freshly warm, doughy goodness that’s simultaneously airy and crispy… Where were we? Right. Opt for the creative, non-mainstay options and definitely complement them with the housemade lao gan ma-style chilli that’s hardly spicy but so damn addictive.

Vibe: The super-chill post-dinner/early-supper hangout

Wallet damage: $

Puffy Bois is located at 20A Bali Lane, Singapore 189856.

Gourmet Park Kampong Bugis

A bit of everything. GOURMET PARK KAMPONG BUGIS

Taking over Camp Kilo grounds, this pop-up lands a good spot not only because it’s pet-friendly and around till the end of the year, but also has the capacity to offer a nice multi-concept mix. First of the five homegrown brands is of course, The Goodburger, head honcho behind last year’s Gourmet Park RWS. As you devour their signatures, you kinda forget that they’re plant-based, and you get why their food-truck biz is still around today.

Another burger maestro (Chef Adam Penney of Potato Head Folk, Three Buns) makes a teaser appearance here, but with indulgent British breakfast fare Carnaby, which is set to launch at Roberston Quay later this year. Keeping up the backyard soul of the space is Meatsmith, which iconic char needs no introduction. Our biased favourite is Quattro, specifically the Cacio e Pepe amongst an array of Neapolitan-style pizzas and pastas. Finally, dessert is not left out with Backyard Bakers‘ homemade brownies. And fret not, there will be coffee and cocktails. We’re told to expect kitchen takeovers and more collaborations in coming months, so keep an eye out on their socials.

Vibe: The barbeque party you never got invited to in your late teens

Wallet damage: $$

Gourmet Park Kampong Bugis is located at 66 Kampong Bugis Ground Floor Patio, Singapore 338987.

When you hear the word “cocktail,” what comes to mind? For some, it may be James Bond and classy two-to-three-ingredient classics like the martini or old fashioned. If you look through the cocktail list at many bars today, though, you’ll see paragraph-long descriptions, scientific-sounding infusions and Bloody Marys garnished with a full English breakfast.

Is minimalism dead? Maybe, and while some may mourn the loss and hold on to their Manhattans for dear life, it’s time to accept the shift. Maximalist cocktails aren’t something to fear. Sure, they’re easy to poke fun at, but you can’t argue they don’t deserve their popularity.

The Rise of Maximalist Cocktails

The maximalist movement is everywhere, not just in the bar scene. t has taken over interior design, crept its way into wardrobes and filled our charcuterie boards with cheese we can’t pronounce. Drinks have taken longer to get in on the trend, but they’re fully in it now.

A few summers back, espresso martinis were all the rage. Admittedly, the ingredient list for this specific drink isn’t that long. But having to brew coffee just to put it in a cocktail shaker is certainly a step or two above its all-spirits ancestor. Since then, bars and their customers have leaned further into the “more is more” philosophy.

Take a look at Liquor.com’s most popular cocktails from the recent summer. Number one is the painkiller, boasting an entire pineapple wedge and a mountain of crushed ice as a garnish. Right below it is the notorious Long Island iced tea. Sangrias made in a French press, six-spirit sippers and a lot of muddling populate the rest of the list.

The people have spoken. Simple is out. Niche ingredients and borderline absurd techniques are in. But why?

You could explain the rise of maximalist cocktails—and maximalism in general—in a few different ways. A convincing argument is that people, especially younger generations, want to live in contrast to tough economic conditions. It’s no secret that prices and inflation have been rising for some time now. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened it.

Now that it’s harder to go beyond the necessities, people are going big where they can. Exorbitant drinks and indulgent presentation add a touch of luxury and excitement to an otherwise sad and drab world. A new car today may cost USD6,000 more than two years ago, but you can still afford to flex with a cocktail.

What the Nay-Sayers Say

Of course, maximalist cocktails aren’t beloved by everyone. Anything reaching this level of popularity is bound to have people arguing it is overrated or outright bad. That’s especially true of anything involving alcohol, as anyone whose buddy just got back from doing the Bourbon Trail can attest.

Classic cocktail die-hards might tell you a drink should elevate its base spirit, not hide it. If your libation has seven different liquors in it, something’s probably getting lost in there. Others might lament that if you need to hide the booze in your drink, you probably shouldn’t be drinking.

There’s also a persistent idea that simpler cocktails are more refined. After all, the old fashioned is called that because the combination of liquor, bitters and sugar is one of the earliest cocktail recipes in print. Why mess with the classics? If it was good for the past two hundred years, it’s good now.

More practical arguments involve cost and labour. It’ll take your poor bartender much longer to make a six-plus-ingredient, highly technical cocktail than a spritz. Considering all the liquor going in it, it’s also likely to cost more.

Why You Should Be Drinking Maximalist Cocktails

It’s time to say nay to those nay-sayers. Popular drinks are popular for a reason, and it’s not just the Instagrammability of a hurricane glass with contents that look like a lava lamp. The maximalist cocktail has earned its keep, and here’s why. Cocktails aren’t cheap, even if you’re ordering a relatively simple one.

An old fashioned or martini can run you USD18 at many bars. With liquor prices being what they are, any drink is going to cost a pretty penny, whether it comes neat or with five mixers. If you’re going to go out and splurge on a cocktail anyway, why not go the extra mile? Why not get a statement for your money?

Money aside, maximalist cocktails are just plain fun. Does presentation make a drink taste better? Probably a little bit, but not all that much. It does, however, put a smile on your face. Going out to drink should be fun and what’s more fun than a boozy slushie with lit sparklers in it?

Contrary to what people taking notes on their bourbon will tell you, maximalist cocktails taste good, too. They may not be spirit-forward, but that’s not the only way a drink can be tasty. Sometimes, combining things into new flavours is more exciting than honing in on existing ones.

If nothing else, people have different tastes at the end of the day. If you like simple, spirit-forward cocktails, by all means, drink them. In the same way, let people drink fruity, over-the-top creations if they want to. There’s no sense in bashing maximalist drinks as a category just because you prefer something else. It doesn’t make anyone cooler or more refined.

Case in Point: Bloody Marys and Tiki

To cap off this defence of the maximalist cocktail, it’s time for a look at history. Despite what it may seem, exorbitant mixed beverages aren’t a new phenomenon. Some of the longest-lasting, most revered classics are ridiculous when you think about it.

The Bloody Mary is a prime example. The brunch favourite has been around for over 100 years and is the epitome of over-the-top. Even its original, most basic version includes Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.

Since then, creating the most extravagant Bloody Mary garnish has almost become a game. You’ll find Bloody Marys with bacon, shrimp skewers and even full hamburgers on top. The sheer absurdity of it is undoubtedly part of why it’s remained so popular for so long. It’s hard to think of a funnier drink than one topped with an entire fried chicken.

There’s also the entire class of Tiki drinks. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a group of cocktail enthusiasts more devoted to a certain kind of drink than Tiki fans. There’s also no denying that Tiki is inherently maximalist.

Tiki bar culture took off in the 1930s and has been slinging fruity, rum-heavy drinks nationwide ever since. While not every Tiki cocktail is extreme, many feature multiple kinds of rum. That’s before you get to all the added fruit juices, liqueurs and ornate glassware, too. With such an endearing legacy, it’s hard to say that maximalist cocktails aren’t at least historical.

A Shortlist to Get You Started

If you haven’t yet forayed into the world of maximalist cocktails, there’s no time like the present. Here are a few ideas to start your journey. The mint julep is a good way to dip your toe in the water. It’s not crazy complex or hard to make. Even so, the mint garnish, piles of ice and requisite frosty silver chalice add just enough extravagance. If you want to kick it up a notch, check out this classic mint julep recipe that calls for eight—yes, eight—whole lemons.

Tiki is a natural next step. The eight-ingredient Zombie cocktail is a classic, and the inclusion of four different kinds of rum is maximalist to the core. Just be sure to pace yourself with this one.

From there, try your riff on a Bloody Mary or dip into fat-washed and infused rums. If you want a truly tedious drink, get a Pousse-Café. Keep in mind, though, that this particular drink is a pain to make. Take it easy on your bartender and don’t order one during a rush.

Maximalist Drinks Deserve Their Spot in the Cocktail Sun

Maximalist cocktails have wavered in popularity over the years, but they’ve been part of cocktail culture longer than you might have thought. You can drink something else if you like. They may fade out of the cultural zeitgeist before long. But you can’t say they don’t deserve their spot in the most popular drinks lists.

The green mango martini at Superbueno, on the corner of First and First in New York City, is easily my new favourite cocktail. There’s no vodka involved. Instead, the main ingredient is Patrón infused with green mangoes and accompanied by mango brandy, Sauternes, honey, and a drop of costeño chile oil. Its otherworldly deliciousness and elegance represent in one cocktail how far tequila has come in the U.S. Aficionados know that the Mexican spirit is every bit as complex as whiskey but just as much fun as rum.

If you were to tell me 23 years ago, when I first started writing about drinks, that tequila and mezcal combined might one day beat out vodka to become America’s best-selling spirit and that people would be drinking $18 tequila martinis, I’d have done a spit take with my old-fashioned. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening. While vodka sales were flat last year, tequila and mezcal sales rose 17 percent, marking 20 years of sustained growth. Some cynics will roll their eyes and dismiss this as celebrity capitalism gone wild. (Everyone from the Rock to George Clooney has a tequila brand these days.) But I like to think of it as a triumph of taste in America.

Sure, the margarita has always been the drink of those who see Cinco de Mayo as a year-round way of life. But the popularity of the quintessential party drink alone wasn’t enough to propel tequila to number one. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the robust demand for more luxurious, premium tequilas—those that go for the price of single-malt Scotches— is a significant part of tequila’s boom as well.

With tequila, terroir is evident in each sip, perhaps more than in any other spirit (and most certainly vodka). It’s made from agave plants, which are particularly abundant in west-central Mexico. A highland tequila (Los Altos) will generally be fruitier and more floral than one from the lowlands (El Valle), which tends to be brighter and peppery. The very best tequila tastes ancient because it is: Fermenting agave goes back thousands of years. (The earliest references date to 1000 B.C.) Tequila tastes like it was made by the labor of many human hands and not the push of a button. And in a world where so much can be deepfaked, where White Claw and macro beers seem to dominate the drinking industry like unavoidable AI-generated Muzak at a bad airport bar, tequila just might be the most visceral, analog, transportive thing you can sip these days to cut through the noise and appreciate that what you’re feeling is indeed the real thing.

Go Wide With Tequila

Let’s get the basics out of the way. There are blancos and platos. These fall into the unaged category. While reposados are aged at least 2 months in oak. Anejos takes it a step further with it spending at least one year in oak. (Extra Anejos are in the barrel for at least three years.) Age does not mean it’s better. In fact, hardcore tequila fans tend to prefer the freshness and vibrancy of blancos as compared to the more subdued anejos and repos. But put together, all three main types of tequila offer a wide spectrum of regions and flavors to explore in cocktails and sipping, and I guess, if you must, shots.

Here’s a few favourites of ours and other tequila fans Nacho Ximenez of NYC’s Superbueno, Robert Struthers the Beverage Director of Gair in Brooklyn, and bartender Lynette Marrero who is Co-Founder of Speed Rack, MasterClass host, and partner and Chief Mixologist of Delola.

For When You Need Bang for the Buck

Casco Viejo Tequila Blanco

"The best value tequila," says Nacho Ximenez of NYC's Superbueno.

Pueblo Viejo Anejo

Robert Struthers, Beverage Director of Gair, prefers this "When you need a lot of decent tequila to go around."

El Tesoro Reposado

"From a bartender's perspective, I'm always happy with El Tosoro, the reposado in particular," says Marrero. "It's always been very predictable and delicious."

Cimarron Blanco Tequila

“Always decent for a mixable light tequila” says Marrero. And it usually comes in a 1 litre size offering a good value.

Teremana Blanco

Marrero like’s the tequila company owned by Dwayne the Rock Johnson for their sustainability practices as well as what’s in the bottle. “They’ve tried to responsibly grow and have held back as they build their distribution,” says Marrero.

For Sipping and Elevated Cocktails

Siete Leguas Tequila Reposado

Nearly all of the bartenders we spoke to will say that this is a must. Says Struthers: “They stay true to making quality tequila AND steadily raising their prices as it becomes more difficult to maintain this dedication.” Marrero says, “There’s something that just feels like home with the blanco.”

Tepozan Tequila Blanco

A small-batch tequila you've probably never heard of and definitely should try and is surprisingly affordable too,” says Struthers.

Maestro Dobel Humito Smoked SIlver

When you want smoke in your margarita, it’s normal to reach for mezcal. Next time, try Maestro Dobel Humito instead which uses agave that’s been smoked with mesquite to impart a subtle smoke flavour.

For Special Occasions

El Tesoro Extra Anejo

“It’s extremely rich with notes of butterscotch and herbs,” says Ximenez.

Don Julio 1942

Easily recognisable in the tall, slender bottle, this very special Don Julio is aged in oak for two and a half years so it drinks a bit more like a smooth whiskey but is still very much a tequila.

Herradura Directo de Alambique

It’s tequila, unadulterated, as if sipped straight from the still. Terroir times one hundred. Hard to find, but worth the quest. You’ll sometimes find bottles at duty free at Mexican airports.

The New Tequila Cocktail Canon

Nothing wrong with your classic margarita, but tequila can make for some of the most dynamic and delicious cocktails you’ll ever have. If you’re up for experimenting, swap in tequila where you would normally use a gin or vodka. (A Bloody Maria bests the vodka-based bloody Mary in my book.) Here’s five essential modern classics.

The Daiquiri Alternative

Siesta

(by Kaite Stipe, 2006)

Campari, grapefruit, and lime make this a cocktail light and bright enough to crush yet bitter enough to sip, too.

1 1/2 ounces tequila blanco

3/4 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce grapefruit juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

1/4 ounce Campari

Shake with ice. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

A Spritz that Came to Party

Paloma

Traditionally made with Squirt soda from Mexico, this is the fun-loving combination that you’ve been missing all of your life.

2 ounces tequila

1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed

Grapefruit soda, chilled, to top

Add tequila and lime juice to a glass, and fill with ice. Top with grapefruit soda, and stir briefly. Garnish with a lime wheel.


The Superior Margarita

Tommy’s Margarita

(by Julia Bermejo, circa 1989)

Who needs triple-sec in a margarita? Swap that out with a touch of agave syrup, and you’ve got something light, bright, sour (and less calorie-dense) than margaritas that you always thought were too damn sweet.

2 ounces 100% agave tequila

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar syrup (1 part agave nectar to 1 part water)

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

A Touch of Tiki

Infante

(by Guiseppe Gonzalez)

If you swap out triple sec for orgeat (almond syrup) and add a dusting of nutmeg, you have a cool-weather margarita.

2 ounces blanco tequila

3/4 ounces lime juice

3/4 ounces orgeat

2 dashes rose water.

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.

For the Whiskey Drinker

Oaxacan Old Fashioned

(by Phil Ward)

If you're a scotch person who thinks they don’t like tequila. This will change your mind. While I’ve seen many folks skip the mezcal and go for a full two ounces of aged tequila, that’s essential if you want that smokey touch.

1½ ounces reposado tequila

½ ounce mezcal

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Flame an orange peel twist over glass. Discard.

Easy Margarita Upgrades

We know you’re still going to make margaritas. Here’s five simple tips to make them even better:

1) Don’t use table salt. The grains are too small. Go kosher or sea salt. Smoked salt if you want to get fancy. Tajin, the Mexican fruit seasoning can be revelatory.

2) Fresh lime juice. If you’ve been using store-bought lime-juice, we feel bad for you.

3) Try it up. On the rocks is great on a hot day. But the tequila really shines, and is downright elegant when served in a chilled coupe every once in a while.

4) Want spice? A few dashes of Cholula or Tapatio. Boom.

Originally published on Esquire US

Photo by Getty Images

Sitting at H Bar, in the Post Oak Marriott Hotel in Houston, Texas, my face gradually becoming beet red from the hops in the beer that was slowly, but surely, revealing my Asian body’s inability to effectively process the alcohol, I started to ponder.

Why was I having a beer anyway, knowing full well that I lack the enzyme in my body to properly breakdown the alcohol in this specific class of intoxicant?

It’s not like I very much like the taste of beer, but perhaps I’ve been conditioned to believe the golden elixir is the "proper" inebriant for a "real man." Where a "real man", especially one who drinks, but may not necessarily enjoy beer, fits in the modern context is perhaps an increasingly unclear proposition.

There was a time when a "real man" worked with his hands, his sweaty body requiring the refreshment of a nice-cold beer after a hard day’s work, typically outdoors and exposed to the elements. Today, most men work with their hands still, in anonymous open-plan offices or shared workspaces, hammering away not at nails, but keyboards.

In centuries past, the liberalisation of women could arguably have been the focus, but the past several decades could possibly be seen as the "liberalisation of men". Whereas women were deservedly breaking out of their gender-specific roles, that sea change also afforded men the opportunity to redefine what it means to be a modern man.

For men, giving up their careers to dedicate themselves to domestic roles as the key caretaker of home and offspring is no longer seen as something to be concealed but celebrated. And many of the stereotypical qualities associated with so-called “toxic” masculinity have started to be chipped away at, replaced with more fluid concepts that appear increasingly tolerant of various interpretations of what being a man is.

Yet despite the progress made in redefining the modern man in virtually every area of life, one area which appears to remain “Old Fashioned” is at the bar—there’s even a drink named after it!

Disagree? Attempt a first date by ordering a lychee martini for yourself from the mixologist and look out for the noticeable flinch from your date. That tropical cocktail with the little umbrella? You might not be looking at a second date.

As much as it ought not be the case, we can’t help but at least form an impression of each other by what we wear, do for a living, and of course, order at the bar.

Scotch and soda? Safe, staid, if not a little bit boring.

Blue Curacao? A Pandora’s box.

The same way a man in the eighties and nineties could have been judged for ordering a salad on a first date, similarly, would a date not judge a man based on what he orders from the bartender today?

To be sure, change is afoot, as evidenced in the advertising of the liquor companies, with a subtle shift towards more “friendly” beverages, many of them mixed. But one can’t help recognising the predominant message is of a certain brand of masculinity when it comes to most male-targeted spirits. Backdrops of hunting and the Scottish countryside certainly seem to suggest the beverage was intended to be imbibed by men, sans mixers of any sort.

Yet there seems one representation of a man who is partial to a cocktail—Ian Fleming’s creation of James Bond. While Bond may have preferred white spirits, his cocktail of choice, a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred wasn’t always served in the most “manly looking” stemware. Which brings us down to the question of glassware—does the vessel imbue its beverage with so-called “manliness” or lack thereof? In a lineup of various glasses to serve drinks, would one argue that a whiskey glass is decidedly more manly than say, a martini glass?

A wine glass possesses more machismo than say a champagne flute? But if so, who became the judge of what manly glassware is?

Yet somehow, and at least this is something I know I am certainly guilty of, in the back of our minds, there is an unwritten hierarchy to glassware for drinks and a beer mug must certainly rank quite high on the testosterone scale. And if it’s not the glassware that matters, surely the colour of the cocktail makes a difference too?

Is a blue curacao necessarily less manly than a whiskey sour? I would think there are more than a few who would believe so.

A Midori cocktail, more effeminate than a vodka tonic?

Unwittingly, there are so many of us, myself included, who pull up to a bar and especially if we’re getting a drink alone, would scarcely dare to order some cocktail in a neon green or blue hue.

If we as a society are to break gender stereotypes wherever they exist, then this must surely extend to the cocktail bar as well.

So as my mind drifted to these thoughts at the H Bar that summer afternoon, I gulped down what remained of my beer and motioned for the barkeep, not for the bill, but to whisper, somewhat conspiratorially, “I’ll have a mai tai please, and oh, if it’s not too much trouble, could you put an umbrella in it?”

Baby steps.

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