For a long time, we’ve been bemoaning the lack of quality places to drink in the area of Kampong Glam and Bugis. Now, besides cocktail spots Bar Stories and Atlas, bourbon bar The Beast, craft beer joint Good Luck Beerhouse, and wine bar 13% Gastro Wine, there’s IB HQ tucked away on the second floor of shophouse on North Bridge Road.
Founded by Kamil Foltán – who’s developed beverage programmes for the likes of Tippling Club, the Potato Head Group and Six Senses Duxton amongst others – IB HQ is an extension of The Indigenous Bartender, their platform for like-minded bartenders and members of the public to learn more about locally sourced ingredients and ways to use them creatively. In fact, the mezzanine level of the bar is where all the research and development magic happens, be it for IB HQ or the bars that Kamil is consulting for.
The best part? Members of the bar industry are welcome to conduct their experimentation at IB HQ while cocktail enthusiasts can look forward the venue hosting a wider variety of workshops and classes.
Part of the mad scientist set up includes a rotary evaporator, which has allowed bartender to create their own alcohol distillates. The folks at IB HQ have come up with things such as parsnip vodka, cocoa vodka, matcha gin, and yuzu vodka for their cocktail menu, where all tipples are priced at $24++ so it’s easy to focus on the flavour you really want rather than just the alcohol by volume.
If you love Japanese flavours, the martini-style Wai Lin is right up your alley with matcha gin, yuzu vodka, and Lillet Blanc. Smooth, aromatic, and spirit forward with the flavours in a harmonious balance, this is something you can start – or end – the night with.
For something sour that’s equally pleasing on the nose, try the Osmanthus Gimlet. Made with London dry gin and housemade osmanthus cordial, I wanted it to be more on the dry side, but the way the floral fragrance subtly follows through with every sip was lovely.
Using earl grey in anything but tea itself is tricky. Too much, and the bergamot overwhelms the palate, or the astringency gets to you and you never want to finish what you order. Oops I Forgot is not one of those. This take on the rum Old Fashioned balances earl grey with aged seven-year old Cuban rum; together with a bit of honey and a touch of rosewater, I daresay it’s one of the best earl grey cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.
Of the cordials and syrups IB HQ produces in-house, one of the most impressive is the strawberry shrub that goes into the Strawberry Royal alongside NV Berlucchi ’61 Brut. Naturally sweetened, the shrub is made with frozen strawberries so the flavour is concentrated without tasting artificial. We highly recommend it if you enjoy sparkling cocktails, and it’s a must if you love strawberries too.
Cocktails aside, the bar caters across the alcoholic spectrum with wines (red, white, and sparkling), beer (Pilsner Urquell, we wouldn’t have it any other way with a Czech man in charge), and sake. They’ve also started Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm daily, where early imbibers can have two drinks – beer, wine, and selected cocktails – for the price of one. Those going for an early cocktail, get the refreshing Li Che Ro made with raspberry gin or the banana whisky based Musa if you want something punchier.
Instead of having a kitchen and the hassle that comes with it, IB HQ is supporting their neighbor downstairs SG Pho House. So if you’re feeling peckish, good news, there’s (cheap and) delicious Seafood Spring Rolls and the like.
Our initial misgivings about the location of IB HQ – particularly since it’s not street level – might not have abated as much as we would have liked. That said, it is a fantastic addition to the neighbourhood, especially one that prides itself on art and creativity. There’s a synergy, and it’s a stone’s throw away from other great venues, so we really hope this is one of those that make it in brutal Singapore.
IB HQ is located at 774A North Bridge Road, Singapore 198742, p. +65 9025 3234. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-12am.