Here’s a beginner-friendly guide to these 10 classic cocktails & the best bars in Singapore to enjoy them at

by Christabel Tan

As a cocktail enthusiast (and budding home mixologist), I could go on and on about the subject.

But if Jack & coke, vodka crans’ and flaming lambos are what first come to mind when the word “cocktail” is brought up, it’s time to move on and open your eyes to the wonderful world of proper cocktails — the kind you find at slightly more upscale bars, restaurants, and bistros. 

So, if you’ve ever ventured into a cocktail bar without knowing where to start, I’ve got you covered with these 10 must-know classic cocktails, and some of the best bars in Singapore to imbibe ‘em at. 

1. Gin & Tonic

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The gin & tonic is one of my go-to classic cocktails, and for good reason. It’s one of the most incredibly versatile and clean-tasting drinks that require just two ingredients — gin and tonic water poured over ice. 

Originally used as a traditional cure for malaria in the early 19th century, this highball-style (more on that later) cocktail offers so, so much room for experimentation. It is typically served with a slice or wedge of lime, but you can spice it up with assorted fruits, herbs, and vegetables — especially those that enhance the botanical notes of gin. 

My personal picks? Cucumber and kaffir lime leaves. 

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Photo: @atlasbarsg/instagram

This may be a drink you can easily whip up at home in mere seconds, but why not enjoy it at the swanky ATLAS, home to one of the largest gin collections in the world? 

Photo: @theotherroomsg/instagram

Otherwise, the Islay Gin Tonic from Orchard speakeasy The Other Room puts a smoky twist on the classic G&T with lemon zest, rosemary smoke, and a spiced herbal tonic.

2. Highball

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G&Ts aside, highballs are traditionally composed of a base spirit, like whisky, vodka, or gin, and a non-alcoholic, usually carbonated mixer. It’s one of the best classic cocktails for beginners (especially those who’ve yet to test out their alcohol tolerance) to start with, given its light and refreshing profile.

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In Singapore, the whisky highball, a staple in Japanese drinking culture, is what usually comes to mind. It’s easy to make, available almost everywhere, and pairs excellently with most food. 

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Photo: Jim Beam

If you order it at a Japanese izakaya or restaurant (even Don Don Donki sells it at their in-house bar), you’re likely to get whisky or shochu, a mild-tasting Japanese distilled spirit, in a tall glass with ice and lemon.  

There are plenty of fun flavoured variations to explore, like umeshu (a sweet plum liquor), mandarin, and the most popular of the lot, yuzu.

3. Martini

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Moving on to one of the world’s most iconic mixed cocktails, the martini. When you think about the word “cocktail”, the visual of a conical stemmed glass comes to mind.

In its most classic form, it comprises dry gin and vermouth (a dry fortified wine with herbaceous notes) garnished with an olive or lemon twist. You can even drink it “dry”, “wet”, “dirty”, with a different garnish, so on and so forth. 

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However, the martini has evolved a lot over the years. Its simplicity makes it easy to come up with other variations, creating new drinks (that still use the term “martini” despite straying away from the OG) in the process. 

For instance, it is not uncommon to see martinis made with vodka instead of gin. 

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Two of the most beginner-friendly variations out there are the P*rn Star Martini, which sees vodka, passion fruit, and vanilla served with a shot of champagne, as well as the sweet and tangy Cosmopolitan, the cranberry juice creation made famous by Sex and the City.

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Photo: @no5emeraldhill/instagram

You can find 1-for-1 martinis in almost every flavour imaginable at No. 5 Emerald Hill — think peach, chendol, mango, osmanthus, and my personal favourite, jello. 

4. Espresso Martini

How could I go on about martinis without bringing up the espresso martini

coffee cocktail decorated with coffee beans

Widely believed to have been created by London bartender Dick Bradsell in the late 1980s for a young model who asked for a drink that would “wake me up, and then f*ck me up“, it truly is the most well-known coffee-based cocktail out there.

The original recipe calls for espresso, coffee liqueur, and vodka (along with a sweetener), but most tend to incorporate flavours like vanilla, salted caramel, and even citrus.

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Photo: Unsplash

Sweet, boozy, and a little bitter, crowned with a layer of thick froth — it is the platonic ideal of a drink you can imbibe at any time of day (for me, at least). 

Photo: Stay Gold Flamingo

Stay Gold Flamingo might be your new go-to for a classic three-ingredient espresso martini, but it is taken up a notch at Night Hawk, which incorporates both dark rum and vodka, served topped with a hot coconut foam. 


I’m a fan of the variation served at The Store, which pairs espresso, coffee liqueur, and Cuban rum with homemade coffee kombucha and hazelnut syrup.

5. Margarita

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In the mood to party? Look no further than the world’s most popular tequila-based cocktail, the margarita

The traditional recipe features tequila, triple sec (orange-flavoured liqueur), and lime juice — with or without sweetener and a salt rim — striking a good balance of sweet, sour, and salty that never fails to lift the spirit.

Photo: Pexels

Although margaritas are already super refreshing, I have a soft spot for those of the blended (AKA frozen) variety. Let’s just say that if you’ve never had the pleasure of sipping on a frozen margarita on a sweltering hot day, you’re missing out. 

Photo: @cafeiguansg/instagram

You can find margaritas at any decent Mexican restaurant, but you won’t go wrong with the fun, fruity, and way-too-crushable variations from both Cafe Iguana and Margarita’s Dempsey Hill

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Photo: Cat Bite Club

Otherwise, Cat Bite Club delivers a tantalising blend of tequila and mezcal (a smoky and earthy spirit made from agave) through their Cat Bite Margarita.

6. Daiquiri

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Believe it or not, a true daiquiri is not a flavoured, often artificial-tasting frozen slushy commonly served at resorts and chain restaurants (as shown above).

Photo: @argonautbrandy/instagram

It is, in its purest form, a three-ingredient Cuban cocktail that requires only rum, lime juice, and sugar. I daresay it is one of those classic cocktails every bartender should be able to whip up perfectly, given that it is really easy for the ratios to be thrown off-balance. 

The best daiquiris are strong, crisp, and tart, although some prefer theirs on the sweeter side. Despite not being served in a glass of ice (it is only shaken with ice, and then strained), it should be refreshing and thirst-quenching. 

Photo: Sugarhall

Tiki bar Low Tide may keep it fairly simple sans extra ingredients, but they use a blend of four different types of Caribbean rum, yielding a deeply aromatic and flavourful daiquiri.

Alternatively, rum-focused cocktail bar Sugarhall puts a Japanese twist on the classic with their Plum Daiquiri, which incorporates umeshu for a tangy, sweet, and mellow profile.

7. Mojito

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Want something even more refreshing than a daiquiri? The mojito, a rum-based cocktail, might just become your new best friend.

Combine rum, fresh lime juice, and sugar or simple syrup with muddled (mashed) mint leaves, top it off with crushed ice and splash of soda water, and there you have it: a fresh, herbaceous, and citrusy number that’s highly regarded as a “summer drink”.

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Photo: @overeasysg/instagram

With that being said, you can order a mojito almost anywhere and at any time of year in sunny Singapore, but you won’t go wrong with the rendition at American diner Overeasy.

8. Whisky Sour

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If you find whisky daunting, there’s no better way to ease your way into the spirit’s good books than with a whisky sour

Tart, mildly sweet, and seductively silky, it is traditionally made with rye whisky, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white, but some recipes call for bourbon in place of whisky due to its subtle vanilla and caramel notes. 

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Photo: Pexels

Before you start freaking out, egg white is used in the majority of cocktails that fall under the “sour” category — drinks composed of a base spirit, sugar, and citric acid (in the form of citrus).

It’s the same as making meringue; the egg white gets aerated, giving the cocktails a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. How do you think they get such a lovely thick and even layer of foam?

But of course, many bars serve whisky sours without egg white, so I suggest trying it both ways. Also, it would be best to check with the staff or bartenders if you are unsure.

Photo: @jiggerandponysg/instagram

Ordering a whisky sour at a proper whisky bar is a no-brainer for beginners, but I recommend heading down to the famous Jigger & Pony during happy hour for their signature Yuzu Whisky Sour.

9. Spritz

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The spritz is a day-drinker’s dream come true. This Italian wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif (alcoholic drinks served before a meal) and consists of prosecco, bitter liqueur, and soda water with a generous scoop of ice.

It’s one of those classic cocktails you order if you want something that’s easy to drink, especially on a hot day, and with low-alcohol content.  

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The vibrant orange-hued Aperol Spritz is perhaps the most widely-ordered variation out there; it’s sweet and slightly bitter, with zesty and herbal notes. 

Photo: @caffefernetsg/instagram

No wonder some consider it to be one of the best classic brunch cocktails!

You can order it at most Italian restaurants, but Caffe Fernet’s rendition will do you no wrong. It may be a bit of an acquired taste, though, so I recommend you try your first aperol spritz with a friend who actually enjoys them. 

Photo: @vuesingapore/instagram

For a more approachable option, head on down to VUE, Singapore’s first rooftop spritz bar, where you’ll get to sip on the delightful Hugo Spritz, which gets its floral and gently herbaceous notes from the use of elderflower liqueur.

10. Old Fashioned

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If you enjoy the taste of whisky, but have yet to venture into the world of whisky-based cocktails, the Old Fashioned is the best drink to start with. 

After all, it would be a crime to not include one of the world’s oldest and most famous classic cocktails in a listicle like this. 

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All it takes is a simple yet suave concoction of bourbon or rye whisky, sugar, and Angostura bitters (a botanicals-infused spirit used to flavour cocktails), finished off with an orange or lemon twist (or both). 

Strong and spirit-forward, but with a subtle sweetness that makes it oh-so sippable, it’s easy to see why this drink has never gone out of style.

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Photo: @jiggerandponysg/instagram

Newcomers to the drink can hit up Jigger and Pony for their excellent Old-Fashioned, which promises to be “deliciously bitter, smooth, rich, and balanced”. 

Photo: @livetwicesg/instagram

Live Twice adds a touch of complexity to the classic with their King Cole Old Fashioned, that features fernet branca (an Italian herbal liqueur, or amaro) in place of the bitters, yielding mild herbaceous notes.

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At the end of the day, this list only serves as a starting point for those keen on exploring these time-honoured classics. It’ll take time for you to discover what you like (and don’t like), but I bet you’re gonna have a blast, regardless.  

So, ready to test your newfound knowledge on classic cocktails and sip up a storm at Singapore’s best bars? 

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