It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Bar Stories and with good reason too – good banter, tinkling laughs topped with cocktails fixed to your crave. Find me another place that can afford that level of personalised service or I’m not moving. Period.
Housed in the renovated shophouses of Haji Lane, its a gem of a find along the Lane I’ve come to love. The fact that its housed in a shophouse creates that immediate affinity. Shophouses strike a chord in me like no other and when I first entered I remember smiling to myself, looking around and taking in the intimacy, soft lighting and quirk of the place, wishing it were all mine.
On my first encounter, we were seated on couches by the window and I was expecting a menu of some sort listing available ingredients for selection. Refreshingly, no menu was produced and instead I was queried on my taste preferences to which I shared – sweet, refreshing, hint of mint and Jeremy, declared the Black Forest Mojito the first drink of the night for me. I’m not used to not knowing what to expect and was a little peeved when I tried to request for a drink that was more out-of-this world only to be put in place by Jeremy with a simple ‘The drink will surprise you enough.’ So I resigned myself to the order and allowed the eyes to roam before the first sip..
.. and Jeremy was right. The refreshing burst of berry flavors with the cool of mint leaves danced in my mouth and I was in ecstasy. The sorbet provided a sour twist of coolness on the tongue and I was thrilled till the very last sip. Fortunately, we managed to get our seats ‘upgraded’ to bar side and I would recommend for everyone who visits Bar Stories for the very first time [and subsequently as well] to always sit by the bar. Full access to bar side entertainment, drink creation and even the occasional test taste of concoctions. It be sheer delight.
The second drink I had that night was a specific request for something with cucumber and a refreshing twist. Lead bartender/ mixologist, Jeff, fixed me a Cucumber Saketini of sorts that included the following ingredients – crushed cucumber, sake, galangal and lemon. It did not live up to what my palette was craving but I give him full credit for creating a drink in mere minutes from my ridiculous request. Call me a snob, but I do believe that same drink would have tasted better if he had used Japanese cucumbers instead of our regular species of cucumbers which lacks that certain level of freshness and flavour.
On my next visit, I sat myself right at the bar counter and challenged Big Zach to give me a drink to pick-me up, specifically, a recreation of liquid toasted marshmallow. I saw him register the challenge, I felt myself place faith in his skills and on a delightful journey he brought me on. Watching him create the drink was as fulfilling as tasting it, indeed the journey is as rewarding as the end result. There were points I thought to myself this is not going to work out as he pulled out cream and milk which were products I shy away from every single day of my life but in his hands, magic. After layering the flavors in a glass to create the body of the drink, he frothed a good amount of milk and gently topped the glass with it before flambéing the concoction before me. You know that feeling of warm love, of contentment and satisfaction? I experienced all of that in that one glass.
That same night, I was blown away by another of Big Zach’s creation. I was going to go down the regular route after being satisfied with the Toasted Marshmallow Flambé with a Kyoho Grape Martini but Big Zach challenged me back with a taunt. Why go for something regular? Licking my lips, trying to make sense of what my palette craved, I was struggling to come up with words/ ingredients to guide Big Zach on the next creation and so I said – ‘Go crazy, create me something you think I’d like.’ Silence. A serious look crossed his face and again, ingredients flew. It was a blur, I didn’t quite manage to register all the ingredients but I noted rose syrup [another ingredient I absolutely loathe], organic apple juice and topped with saffron. Viola, he placed the drink before me and declared it The Lover. I smiled, took a sip, felt my smile grow wider as I savored the nuances and notes of the different ingredients. Sheer genius this one, sheer genius the creator, sheer genius the place.
Since then, I’ve been back numerous number of times, each time with different folks as I shared my excitement at discovering this gem of a place. Bar Stories brought out the alcoholic in me, so much so I returned there 3 nights in the same week. I did tone it down and my most recent visit on Saturday reminded me of the simple joys this place brings me.
Turning up on a Saturday is never wise and I was glad Jeff opened the space downstairs, belonging to A Thousand Tales to accommodate us. Settling ourselves at the counter, I declared my want for something sour and refreshing and Jeff declared a Mai Tai [pictured above] to start. Jeff then proceeded to recommend the Mangosteen Martini [pictured below] for my pal as the fruit was in season. What bummed me was that I couldn’t watch them create that Mangosteen drink. Nevertheless we were off to a good start.
We tackled our next drinks with flourish. Anything with Pimms for the pal and a cocktail of gooseberries and passionfruit [pictured below] for me. By then, we were a good way intoxicated and I was itching to get bar side.
Patience paid off and Jeff arrived triumphantly announcing we’ve been upgraded bar side and I trooped on in glee. Seated, we picked up the pace with an order of Kyoho Grape Martini each and that sweetness, well, it’s unrivaled.
Whilst polishing off our martini’s, we spied a concoction of strawberries and frangelico in the mix and our curiosity was piqued. A quick query and we learnt that the drink in progress was a dessert in a glass – Strawberry Shortcake and an order was placed. I must say, these guys are good at recreating desserts in a glass. Now the question I have is, which do you think holds lesser calories? – The actual dessert or the liquid recreation? Any case, be sure to give the strawberry shortcake a shot.
Having craved that Toasted Marshamallow Flambé for a week-ish now, I was not going to be denied the drink and signalled to Big Zach for two orders of that wondrous creation that lifted me on that dark day. Unfortunately, recreation is not one of his fortes and that spirit of inspiration was amiss that night. Nevertheless, I am confident that that magic touch will return.
We rounded off on a good note though. Despite being on break, Big Zach went back behind the bar to create a Jam Donut Shot and I urge you to give it a whirl if you’re seeking something sweet. I do have a person in mind who I know will fall head over heels in love with this shot.
Oh and if you’re looking for some chow to keep the alcohol at bay, don’t fret. Bar Stories serves up a simple menu of bar foods and even desserts to keep the hunger pangs at bay.
So you see, I’m addicted. While the concept of bespoke cocktails is definitely not new but the experience is rare on this little red dot of ours. I’ve since learnt that there’s another establishment along Telok Ayer that serves bespoke cocktails but till I visit, Bar Stories will remain a staple for me. And oh! What makes Bar Stories unique? The place is kitted out with designer pieces and you can purchase any of the furniture there or below, at the A Thousand Tales furniture store to take a piece of the pleasure home with you.
PS. As the boys chime, I repeat, ‘Please avoid Fridays and Saturdays!’