Guaranteed a spot on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars – not to mention they were recently crowned Best Cocktail Bar at the recently concluded The Bar Awards Singapore 2017 – Manhattan’s new menu was a highly-anticipated event by their regulars. Unveiled together with the celebration of their third birthday earlier in April this year, the new list of cocktails is inspired by the great eras of New York, as opposed to the previous enclave – and borough-inspired menu.
It’s definitely another sort of time travelling, since the new tipples take you all the way back to the 16th century with New Amsterdam, when Dutch explorers settled at the southern tip of Manhattan. Clay pots were used to store liquids during this time and the First Voyage ($25) features the bar’s first earthenware-aged vermouth. Comprising a higher proportion of fortified wines (including port and maraschino liqueur) than gin and hence quite low in ABV, this complex, earthy, and slightly savoury tipple makes a great first drink – or if you have a big meeting the next morning. If you love smoky cocktails, be sure to give the Bonfire ($26) a try. Featuring mezcal sous vide with smoked ham, maple syrup, and cherry tobacco bitters, this twist on the Old Fashioned was too heavy for me to finish on my own.
While it sounded good on paper, the Crispy Cod Brandade ($19) was a bit disappointing. The breaded and fried balls of salted cod (also known as bacalao), fresh cod, and risotto could be crispier while the squid ink and basil aioli did nothing to lift the dish. However, a simple pasta dish with truffle cream, smoked cheddar and asaparagus managed to turn things around. The vegetarian friendly Ziti Pot ($18) is a take on the all-American Mac & Cheese, with influences borrowed from Italian migration to New York in the early 1900s during the Prohibition period. The cheese could, personally, be more pungent but the dish was well balanced by lime zest in the sauce for acidity and the asparagus cuts through the fat and cream really well.
The era birthed more than a few classic cocktails and one of them was 12 Mile Out ($24). A hat tip to rum running and a time where alcohol was only permitted 12 miles off the coast, expect a strong – but not super spirit-forward – drink of pineapple rum, straight rye whiskey, dry curacao, lemon, and grenadine. If you prefer something on the sweeter side, try the gorgeous looking Coal ($24, top image). A worthy tribute to the essential mineral that drove the Industrial Revolution (which started The Melting Pot that New York is now), a concoction of dark chocolate liqueur, dry curacao, and 12-year old single malt whisky is poured over a beautiful piece of hand-cut ice. Sweet and smoky, a simple three-ingredient drink that’s not at all simplistic.
In the 1950s, NYC was generally regarded by all to be the City of Tomorrow with its vibrant arts scene, street party, and fusion cuisine. This is evident in the Brisket Roll ($22), wagyu beef rolled in filo pastry served with a dip of sriracha mayo. A full flavoured snack, we have to say it was smart to use filo pastry instead of spring roll skin, since the former holds better. That said, the filling of the rolls could probably use carrots or potatoes for more texture. If food broke the rules in the 1950s, the cocktails definitely did. One of Manhattan’s most boundary-pushing drinks, Kerman ($24) is named after the first pistachio trees grown on American soil. The aromatic combination of tequila and pistachio orgeat is tempered nicely by the raspberry salt rim; it’s quite out there so it’s worth a try even if you don’t go for tequila cocktails.
Rounding up the menu is the New York of the 1990s, when the economy was rising and when it accumulated the glitz and glamour of a cosmopolitan city. The TKH ($24) is named after The Knickerbocker Hotel, a luxury hotel in Times Square that is still operating today. Naturally, you had to have American whiskey (straight rye) and Knickerbocker lager syrup in this dark yet mellow cocktail paying homage to a popular address for moguls and starlets. Dessert was a fun Knickerbocker Popsicle ($12) – with edible flowers dotting the white chocolate coating beer sherbet, it’s an Insta-worthy pop if you can be bothered to seek the light.
We can’t decide if we prefer this menu or the previous one but one thing remains certain – fans of spirit-forward cocktails and those who enjoy creative bar snacks will still find what they desire at Manhattan. And due to popular demand, regulars will be glad to know that they’ll find old signatures such as the New York Sour and The Mad Dog, as well as the Big Apple Cheesecake (I have this every single time I visit, which says a lot) on the menu.
Manhattan is located at Level 2, Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Rd, Singapore 249715, p. +65 6725 3377. Open 5pm-1am daily.