The (New) Library @ Keong Saik

If you haven’t been to the library recently, it’s time to revisit. 3 months ago, it underwent a change in bar manager, and with that, a change in menu and concept.

It is still a secret bar, so you still need a password to enter. Most times, you can find it on their Facebook page if you know where to look. Otherwise, it isn’t hard to get in if you are game enough. The door bitch will give you a task and if you complete it, you are free to enter! We had the password, but we had fun making friends with the door bitch – and even gave her a mini concert because we wanted to do a task.

The difference between the library now and the library before, is that they have downsized their menu from the previous list of over 40 complicated drinks, to a shorter and simpler menu. So now, they spend less time shaking and stirring, and more time chatting and giving you a friendly and memorable experience.

This change was driven by the understanding that customers just want to enjoy a good drink, they do not want to wait 30 minutes especially on weekends for bartenders to mix 20 different ingredients and then blowtorch the damn thing before serving.

As a result, they now pre make all their drinks before the bar opens, and put them in tumblers. When someone orders the drink, they pour it out and add the finishing touches and serve. This cuts down on prep time and everybody is happy.

I realize this is a departure from many other bars who pride themselves on showmanship and freshness. But does it really make a difference whether they prepare it 15 minutes earlier or 15 minutes later, since you are not actually involved in prep anyway? If you are curious, ask them about their techniques and methods. They are more than willing to share. If you want them to show you prep from start, I’m sure all you need to do is ask. But for the sake of the majority, they will premake all drinks.

Personally, I am among the minority. I badger the bartenders to know every detail and ingredient. Otherwise, I would have nothing to write after paragraph 1.

The first drink I ordered, “butter rye effect”, contains burnt butter rye whiskey, fernet branca, fresh lemon and maple syrup. Great recommendation from my bartender aloysius. This drink is prepared by first melting the butter over heat, then adding whiskey and freezing it again. When the fat solidifies on top, remove the fat. Then add maple and lemon.

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My companion chose “rumford and sons” purely for the name. She is a Mumford groupie. And so is the bar manager! He even has the beard going on. Name aside, many people choose this drink for it’s homemade caramel raspberry jam. But I find it’s ginseng liqueur content more intriguing. I was surprised that a western company, Kamms and Sons, created this liqueur. Ginseng is usually preferred by Asian palates. Aloysius noticed my interest and gave me a tasting portion of the liqueur. It was medicinal yet degenerate in one.

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At this point, our friendly bartenders aloysius and armin decided to shower us with shooters. Thank you! When I asked what they were made of, they gently informed me that the name of the drink is “shut up and drink”. To encourage customers to just drink! But I guessed the ingredients and aloysius confirmed that the main ingredients were Pisco, aperol, lemon juice and grenadine.

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I was seduced by “the silver screen”, which is their twist on the old fashioned. But I decided to be adventurous and aloysius gave me their strongest. It’s called the “Mai o Mai” – containing homemade pineapple juice infused beer, passion fruit, lemon, green chartreuse, absinthe, a blend of Caribbean rums including 55% abv rum, 60% abv rum and a 78% abv rum. This is so strong that they have a limit of 3 of these per guest. Through out my drink, aloysius kept checking on us to see if we were okay. I was. In case you’re curious. When chatting to another customer, he informed me that this used to come with dry ice and stuff.

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We were very lucky, because the people next to us returned their drink (there was a mistake) so we benefited and gained a free drink. It was the “bloody Andy”, which is obviously a twist on Bloody Mary. It contains roasted tomatoes, horseradish infused vodka, yellow peppers, tobasco, Worcester sauce, and celery bitters. Spicy drinks don’t sit well with my tummy, so this was a nono for me. But I’m sure it has its fans.

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One of the first questions I asked when I realized the menu changed was, “is there still the bath tub drink??”. The bath tub is still around, but now serves a different drink from before.

All cocktails are $23, while the Mai I Mai cost $35.

Cheers guys.

Steph & Ging’s Infinite Bar List 3

Today my friend asked me why I’m posting so many pictures of myself up here. Am I mistaking this for Instagram? I realized I should stick to what this blog was made for. So I’m going to do one of those classic infinite bar lists right now.

The Library
47 Keong Saik Road

You must have heard of The Library by now, it is the bar that requires a password for entry. Some people complain that it is gimmicky and exclusive. But it’s just a very simple marketing strategy at the end of the day. Their password is always posted as a status on their Facebook page. So essentially they just want you to check back constantly for updates. There was one week when the password was about the newest dish on the menu at Keong Saik Snacks. Now we all know about that don’t we? Their scheme worked.

I’m also not dissing on their password gimmick because I’m head over heels in love with this place. I’ve learnt that the best seat at a bar is always at the bar counter where you watch the bartenders in action. These bartenders are serious about their drinks and really know what they are doing. Organized, orderly and in the zone. They are generous with the alcohol, use high quality ingredients and are really detailed about the presentation. It was impressive.

There was one drink I ordered that came with a banana note (currency used in WW2 in Singapore) laminated and used as a coaster. Of course, their most distinctive and signature drink is the rubber ducky drink that comes in a mini bath tub with a floating rubber ducky inside, meant to be shared among four. It’s gin based, and I usually don’t drink anything besides whisky so this was a change. But wow it was so good. If you can’t take ginger though, you might want to tell the bartender to tone the spice down by a notch.

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The decor at this place was private, dim and classy. But the funny thing is they manage all of that WHILE being young and quirky too. That’s one reason why I’m taking more to this place than 28 HKS, another top choice.

I need and want to go back again. And given that there are so many bars in Singapore, a repeat visit to any one shows how good it is!

Cufflink Club
6 Jiak Chuan Road

This is just a few steps away from The Library, but worlds apart in terms of standards. I suspect that the rejects from The Library usually end up at Cufflink Club out of convenience and resignation. The bar is pretty open, you can just walk in and plop down on a seat and no waiter would notice you. When I ordered, it tasted diluted and watered down. I paid waaaay too much for what I got.

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View the Infinite Bar List 1 here, and part 2 here.