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16 Aug 2016 By

Most so-called ‘speakeasy’ bars copy the idea of an illicit joint during the Prohibition era. But what if there really was a Prohibition now? What kind of booze would you get? What would it look like? The Other Room might be the answer.

A speakeasy is, according to Dario Knox (the master bartender at The Other Room), mostly just marketing. We concur, as evident from our general response when someone calls a bar a ‘speakeasy. We simply ask: “Does it have an alcohol license?” Snap!

So Knox tries to subvert this notion by asking: “What if there really was a Prohibition now? What would you do with that precious bottle of whisky or rum you own?” (We’d bury ours, natch.)

Well, you wouldn’t make yours into a cocktail, that’s for sure. You wouldn’t add modifiers (Campari, lime juice) and just deplete it like that. What you might do, is maybe enhance the flavours of your spirit, and you’d do this by putting the mezcal, cognac or whisky in a cask to change its flavour profiles. (Likewise you’d infuse your gins as well.)

He’s done just that at this mad (also madcap) and masterly bar, where 150 spirits (rums, whiskies, gins, tequilas, cognacs, bourbons, ryes, vodkas and mezcals) have been either cask finished or spice finished to nurture an exhaustive array of different endings and taste profiles.

The Other Room_ Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Flight #1

A Diplomatic flight ($28++) comes with the original, an oloroso cask, and a PX cask version.

When you order a flight here, it comes in three versions (sometimes two): The original, and the others that have been barrel aged in different styles. “I have over 200 different unique creations here at The Other Room,” explains Knox. “For first-timers I would recommend to start with one of our cask-finished flights. It is the best way for you to get into what we do.” It’s a unique way to experience your favourite spirit and its nuanced changes. (A Springbank 18 flight is $58++, a Plantation rum flight is $30++.)

All 50 of his first-fill, two-litre casks are from the US of A. And since the spirits have all – yes, all – gone through some kind of aging process (solera even), each bottle offered here is limited edition because of its unique character achieved from these processes.

The Other Room

The cocktail experience is also unique, with over 30 choices, all singular creations. We recommend the Old Cuban (above, also gone through our solarised process).

Each cocktail here marks a tribute to a classic from a bygone era: Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Post-Prohibition, The Other Classics, Solera System and Aged. The Southern New York Sour ($21++), a cocktail believed to have been first created in the 1880’s in Chicago, is layered with black tea and French oak smoke. The Bloody Grail ($21++) explores sour, savoury, salty and umami notes derived from the use of unconventional ingredients such as black sesame seeds, kimchi and vinegar.

Knox, who speaks four miles a minute, is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic bartender, but we were able to get him to slow down to answer a few questions.

Parched: What are the three golden rules of cocktail making?

Knox: Less is more: Don’t try to reinvent the Wheel.

Trust classic cocktails: If it has lasted for several decades, or even centuries, and have become people’s favourites, there must be a reason.

Use the best ingredients: The end result will be completely different if you’re paying attention to the basics.

What do you drink after your shift?

Sherry cask finished Rum Old Fashioned.

Person you would most like to drink with? (Can be fictional)

El Senor Jose Mujica, former 40th President of Uruguay. That guy has something to enlighten each and every one of us!

Which bar is your local?

I close very late at night, when I close there’s no other bar for me to go to. My own home bar is pretty awesome though!

The Other Room_Fidel Castro 1

How do you like your tequila or whisky?

Neat, and I sip them with a water dropper on the side. (Editor: That dropper is served with your flights, definitely use it to open up even more flavours.)

Best hangover cure?

The best hangover cure happens the same night before going to sleep. Replenish your body with minerals and vitamins, and I guarantee you that the next day you’ll feel like you didn’t gulp that bottle of rum on your own.

What won’t you drink?

Energy drinks.

What’s a cocktail/bar trend that needs to stop/that’s overrated?

Again, I believe that bars nowadays tend to impress with the type of ingredients used rather than focusing on flavours. Less is more. And remember that the easiest drinks in terms of ingredients are the easiest ones to screw up. If you want to test if a bar is worth drinking at, order a Daiquiri. If that’s not good, simply go for a beer.

What is the best cocktail for a broken heart?

Time, shaken well with confidence, and garnished with the right attitude. And a shot of mezcal of course! (Para todo mal mezcal, para todo bien tambien!)

Have you ever cried in a bar?

I haven’t, but I’ve seen people who have, and I cured them with drinks.

What’ve you learned about life from behind the bar?

I refer to the quote by Harry Johnson: “The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customers.”

The Other Room, Marriott Hotel Tangs Plaza, 320 Orchard Road.

(There’s no signage at all, none – ask the front desk for directions).

Tuesday – Sunday; 6pm till late.

Like this? Here’s one of the original secret bars in Singapore

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