After reviving the craft cocktail movement over a decade ago, this remains one of the most revered bars around (just last year, it was number four on Drinks International’s World’s 50 Best Bars list). Known for its roaring ’20s aesthetic and aura of after-hours frivolity, its unique, eclectic experience has now been entirely recreated here: glittering serpentine bar, Art Deco pressed-tin ceiling, white-jacketed hipster mixologists serving signatures such as the Provencal (lavender-infused gin, herb-soaked vermouth and Cointreau), and even an on-site fortune teller (ok, he’s a mentalist) – a feature that helped set the original West Village branch apart.
Co-founder Igor Hadzismajlovic moved to Singapore to see the venture through, partnering with former New Yorkers Josh and Sarissa Rodriguez Schwartz – Singapore’s F&B power couple (Bang Bang and Match are just a few of their many night spots). As these things go, Josh had mentored Igor back in the day and they’d kept in contact, Igor travelling regularly to Singapore and subsequently falling in love with the increasingly dynamic bar scene here.
They were all there at the soft launch for family and friends last Wednesday night – Igor sporting a full tux and his signature twisted handlebar moustache. Principal bartender and New York icon Steve Schneider (he starred in the hit doco Hey Bartender) is here too, with plans to train the Singapore staff. After a severe accident in the military, he got into bartending to help develop his cognitive movements and didn’t look back. Joining Employees Only eight years ago, he now represents the US at cocktail competitions worldwide. On Wednesday night, he could be found almost dancing behind the bar at an unwavering speed – a style of free-pour creative bar-tending perhaps not seen since the roaring twenties speakeasies it’s modelled on. Rows upon rows of the classics like Manhattans, Negronis and Gimlets were served up to the heaving crowd throughout the night.
Chef Julia Jaksic has also made the move to the red dot and dining options (available till 2am) include her famed bone marrow poppers, hand-cut steak tartare and – in a Singapore twist – the Employees Only Staff Meal, adapted from the local staff’s “family recipe”. And when 4am hits, knock back the complimentary homemade chicken noodle soup, a nightly gift to the last ones standing and another feature that put the NYC watering hole on the map – except now, you don’t have to travel across half the world to try it.
All images: courtesy of Employees Only.