Discrete entry leads to acclaimed speakeasy-inspired bar & an intimate and evocative cocktail experience

the library singapore

October 8th, 2013


Discretely located in a row of restored shophouses in the increasingly fashionable Keong Saik Road area of Singapore’s Chinatown, The Library is a cocktail bar that takes its inspiration from the Prohibition-era speakeasies of the USA, but deftly re-interpreted to appeal to a contemporary clientele of discerning cocktail aficionados. While somewhat in the mold of traditional speakeasies- The Library shuns overt publicity, notably with no direct social media presence or advertising, is somewhat difficult to initially locate, requires a password for entry, and exudes a darkly seductive aura, on the other hand, The Library shuns traditions and “old school” classic cocktails, instead taking an irreverent, trend-defying approach to the creation and presentation of their cocktails, matched with an informed, yet informal style of bartender service – without pretension.

 The Library is initially entered from the shophouse walkway through a minimally identified doorway- into a compact vestibule space with its rear wall of bookshelves evoking the “library” connection. Intriguingly, the space is utilised as a pop-up space for compatible concepts- at the time of writing the acclaimed local barber & shaving parlour- “Hounds of the Baskervilles” have installed a barber’s chair- and provide barber services by appointment. Guests for The Library need to furnish the weekly updated password before a section of the bookshelves hinges open to reveal the entrance to the bar space behind. The interior decor of The Library remains a “no-go” zone for photography- helping to maintain the enigmatic element of discovery for first-time guests.

The cocktail program at The Library is headed up by General Manager and Head Bartender- Stefan Ravalli- contributing his exceptional passion and creative curiosity to assemble into a multi-chapter “book”- both expansive and informative- the stellar drinks list. Each drink is hand-crafted with meticulous technique and attention to detail- with premium quality ingredients including house-made infusions and syrups, and top class spirits. A beguiling confluence of quirky names, inventive flavor and ingredient combinations, and imaginative presentation come together to delight and surprise a typically knowledgeable and adventurous clientele who appreciate the exceptional cocktail experience.

A few selections (together with tasting notes) that exemplify the attributes of The Library cocktail repertoire are featured below.

The Library enjoys a symbiotic relationship with its sibling next door- Keong Saik Snacks– staff there are able to assist with up-to-date password information- and satiate alcohol-fueled appetites with their delicious comfort foods. The Library opens Monday- Saturdays from 6 pm until late. Telephone inquiries are directed through the Keong Saik Snacks number.

Selected Cocktails from The Library

the library singapore

Square Root of Happiness-  Oude Genever, “Rootbeer” rum, oaked maple syrup, egg white, grilled lime, lavender-Islay fog.

Bartender Notes- by Stefan Ravalli
“This is a two-spirit egg-white sour. Fluffy and citrusy as per the norm, except all the flavours have been darkened. It’s even in a black cup, which renders the name rather curious (it was intentional; I could have easily called the drink “The Square Root of Evil”). The maltiness of Genever tends to pair beautifully with dark rum, which we infused with sassafras, vanilla and other ingredients most commonly found in root beer. I replaced the sweetening agent to maple syrup that we “oaked” (cooked with barrique chips used to enhance the oakiness in wine) and the souring agent with juice from limes that were grilled. A fog of lavender essence and Islay whisky is released when we break the egg. The smoky-floral aroma wakes up the nasal taste buds and creates an amazing dynamic with the drink’s dark spiced flavours. Egg white drinks are generally enjoyed in rounded glasses (wine glasses and coupettes). They don’t work as well in “martini” glasses. However, no one said squares wouldn’t work…”

the library singapore

In The Study With The Lead Pipe-  Cachaca, yellow chartreuse, cynar, celery bitters, wasabi peanuts.

Bartender Notes- by Stefan Ravalli
“My peers have told me that this particular formula is mad. These kinds of drinks are often called “bartender’s drinks” because you would never find them on a menu. We tend to list our more accessible cocktails and withhold these totally gnarly ones for fellow adventurers.  And, well, geeks.  However the result here is so pleasing, so familiar that the strangeness of it becomes all the more charming. Chasing down a wasabi peanut, the drink becomes utterly charming and more-ish in other ways. So here it is. Something bitter, sweet, savoury and enigmatic emerging from the mess of the madman’s study for the public to ponder over.”

the library singapore

Grand Theft Nacho- Doritos-infused tequila, dry sherry, Strega, lime, Creole bitters, spiced cherry tomato shrub

 Bartender Notes- by Stefan Ravalli
“Do you know what the world’s most commonly stolen food is? It’s cheese. This has been documented. I don’t know if that means “criminally” (ever heard of a cheese heist?) or just “taken from a friend or place of employment without asking.”  Either way, it made me think of the joke, “What do you call someone else’s cheese?  NACHO CHEESE!”  This clearly didn’t come from nowhere. We’re dealing with collective frustrations here.  As a tribute, I created a cocktail with many Mediterranean and southern/Latin American flavours. For the infusion we use, appropriately, “nacho cheese” flavoured Doritos and the Italian amaro Strega whose minty herbaceousness creates a wonderful “salsa” with the tomato shrub. Shrubs are an old-fashioned English fruit preserve of vinegar, sugar and herbs/spices. Sherry and Tequila are a match made in heaven and this also happens to elevate the crunchy, chippy characteristic of the Doritos.”

the library singapore

Shrub-A-Dub-Dub- Ford’s gin, Amaro Montenegro, peach puree, lemon, ginger shrub, Moroccan bitters, Moscato D’Asti

Bartender Notes- by Stefan Ravalli
“Three requirements of a cocktail in a bathtub: 1) it needs to be gin-based 2) it needs to taste like bathwater 3) it needs to have sparkling wine. Gin as a tribute to the prohibition-era process of making bathtub gin (pharmaceutical alcohol and juniper extract).  The bathwater characteristics need to be done carefully as it is easy for a drink to become obnoxiously soapy. Amaro Montenegro and geraniums are very rosy tasting and, when used responsibly, are a wonderful flavour in a lighter fresher, punch-style cocktail such as this one. Sparkling wine is to pay homage to the decadent Golden-era parties at places light New York’s St. Regis hotel where you can picture an actual bathtub full of champagne. When people see bubbling wine being poured into a tub they can’t help but picture how nice it would feel to splash around in it, playing into all those fantasies of excess that we can’t help but have.”


the library singapore

The Library- speakeasy cocktail bar, Singapore

Address:  47 Keong Saik Road, Chinatown. Singapore 089153
MRT station:   EW16/NE3 Outram Park
Inquiries: +65.6221 8338 ( Keong Saik Snacks)
Facebook Page:   www.facebook.com/KeongSaikSnacks
Opening Hours:    Monday to Saturday-   6:00 pm ~ late 

See also review article on Keong Saik Snacks