Drinking and nightlife in Southeast Asia

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Chinatown & the CBD

    Employees Only

    This outpost of the famous New York cocktail bar of the same name has brought a slice of big city buzz to Singapore, along with a dazzling array of innovative drinks. Some of the sting from the eye-watering prices is soothed by the free-pour mixing method; lightweights may be knocked from their perch. A neon 'psychic' sign marks the entrance. It's open for lunch and the modern American eats are worth sampling if you're hungry.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Little India & Kampong Glam


    Straight out of 1920s Manhattan, this cocktail lounge is an art deco–inspired extravaganza, adorned with ornate bronze ceilings and low-lit plush lounge seating. The drinks menu is filled with decadent champagnes, curated cocktails and some mean martinis. However, it's the 12m-high gin wall, displaying over 1000 labels, that really makes a statement – make sure you ask for a tour. Night-time bookings are essential; however, if you arrive before 5pm, you should still be able to nab a table. Doors open in the morning for coffees, and European-inspired bites are served throughout the day and well into the night. The afternoon tea (3pm to 5pm, from S$56) is also worth stopping in for. Dress to impress; no shorts or slippers after 5pm.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Kuala Lumpur

    Suzie Wong

    Push aside the heavy curtain at the end of a clubby bar to discover the wild goings-on at this old Hong Kong–style speakeasy cocktail bar. Expect a glamorous drag cabaret, live music and handheld fireworks to accompany the popping of champagne corks and swilling of drinks in carved-out coconuts. If you're lucky enough to find a seat, be aware that there will be a hefty minimum table charge on Friday and Saturday nights. The noodle stall just outside the main entrance is another fun touch for a pre- or post-party supper.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Singapore


    Step back in time to the golden age of fine drinking at this handsome Mad Men –esque bar, where long-forgotten cocktails come back to life. Grouped by eras of New York, the drinks menu is ever changing; however, waistcoated bartenders are only too happy to guide you. Sunday brings freshly shucked oysters, and an adults-only cocktail brunch (S$150) with make your own bloody Marys. Number 1 on Asia's 50 Best Bars 2017/18 list, this is not one to miss.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Chinatown & the CBD

    Operation Dagger

    From the cloud-like light sculpture to the boundary-pushing cocktails, extraordinary is the keyword here. To encourage experimentation, libations are described by flavour, not spirit, the latter shelved in uniform, apothecary-like bottles. Sample the garlic-infused Free 6lack, or the textural surprise of the Hot & Cold. Head up the hill where Club St and Ann Siang Hill meet; a symbol shows the way.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Colonial District, the Quays & Marina Bay

    28 HongKong Street

    Softly lit 28HKS plays hide-and-seek inside an unmarked 1960s shophouse. Slip inside and into a slinky scene of cosy booths and passionate mixologists turning grog into greatness. Cocktails are seamless and sublime, but note the large pours as they can send you flying. House-barrelled classics, hard-to-find beers and lip-smacking grub seal the deal. Email findus@28hks.com for reservations.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Chinatown & the CBD


    This hidden bar in hotspot-heavy Amoy St is the brainchild of bartender extraordinaire Vijay Mudaliar – formerly of Operation Dagger – and his concoctions have everyone talking. With spirits sourced from around the region – such as Thai rum and Sri Lankan arak – paired with locally foraged ingredients, expect the unexpected and be prepared to be wowed. The Peranakan, a modern take on the Nonya dessert kueh salat made with jackfruit rum, laksa leaves, candlenut and pandan, is the draw card here; however, the sweet and spiced Pineapple Arrack follows closely behind.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Kuala Lumpur

    Three Little Birds

    Top-tier coffee bar and micro-roaster Three Little Birds is manned by the pioneers of third-wave coffee culture in KL: Michael Wilson and wife Amirah Mohammad of Artisan Roast, as well as coffee geek Joey Mah. The trio takes a focused approach to roasting, catering to drinkers who are not only here for a quality cuppa but also a serious education on coffee. The cafe mostly uses beans from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Kenya for their coffee, and single-origin chocolate from Papua New Guinea for their chocolate drinks.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Chinatown & the CBD

    Tippling Club

    Tippling Club propels mixology to dizzying heights, with a technique and creativity that could turn a teetotaller into a born-again soak. Sample the Dreams & Desires menu before ordering by chewing your way through alcohol-infused gummy bears, which give a hint of what's to come. Our pick is the champagne-based Beauty, served with a cherry sorbet lipstick. The best seats are at the bar, under a ceiling of hanging bottles. The adjoining restaurant is highly regarded, though painfully priced.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Singapore

    Other Room

    You'll find this hidden drinking house, a throwback to a bygone era, behind a secret door in the Singapore Marriott lobby – ring the doorbell for entry. Peruse the 50-page drinks menu and settle in for a night to remember. Award-winning mixologist Dario Knox takes spirits seriously; the American oak-barrel-aged spirits in different finishings are where to begin. Night owls will rejoice at the late closing time by Singapore standards.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Bangkok

    Moon Bar

    An alarmingly short barrier at this rooftop bar is all that separates patrons from the street, 61 floors down. Moon Bar claims to be among the highest alfresco bars in the world. It's a great place to meet, greet and generally hang out with friends old and new. The hoppy house beer, called Banyan Tree IPA, is a must-try. Save your shorts and sandals for another locale.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Vientiane

    Le Trio

    Sip your piccolo latte to a soundtrack of jazz and the scent of cooking beans; tiny Le Trio roasts its own coffee and is the most atmospheric hang-out for caffeine cravers in Vientiane. A few pastries are usually also available.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Colonial District, the Quays & Marina Bay


    This legendary super club has been pumping beats since 1991 and draws in some of the world's biggest DJs and Singapore's seen-to-be-seen crowd. This is the place to go if you want to really let loose. Choose between the main, two-level, neo-industrial themed club with heaving dance floor and insane lighting, or the hip-hop-centric, graffiti-splashed Phuture. Start your night at low-key RedTail bar, which serves up banging cocktails and modern Asian nibbles in a casual setting. Lovers of luxury shouldn't miss Capital, a refined lounge with plush seating, whiskey bar and a smoking cigar room. Friday and Saturday night are crazy busy; prepare to queue (although it usually moves quickly) and dress to impress but don't wear your best shoes as they'll surely get trodden on.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Bukit Peninsula


    Perched at the base of the Bukit peninsula, Bali's hottest new day club is home to seekers of sunshine-fuelled revelry and house and hip-hop beats. The imposing architecture of the modern Cube bar is a stunning focal point, but a peek over its patio's glass barriers yields an eyeful of jagged cliffs, lush oceanside canopy and hypnotic azure waves. There's an impressive infinity pool that blends into a seamless panorama of the Indian Ocean, fringed with plush sun lounges. Cocktails are inventive and the food spans a broad range of cuisines and preparations. This playground is for adults only (21+). Reservations recommended.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Phnom Penh

    Samai Distillery

    The origins of sugarcane are in Southeast Asia, so the Venezuelan owners of this beloved rum distillery see themselves as bringing the tradition full circle. Samai opens to visitors on Thursday nights for lavish parties, typically with guest bartenders and live music. The artisan rums, including one with Kampot pepper, taste far superior to mass-market spirits. If you can't make it Thursday, you can still purchase a bottle from the Samai Store across the street (open weekdays from 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm). Private tours can also be arranged by appointment.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Colonial District, the Quays & Marina Bay

    Smoke & Mirrors

    Oozing style, this rooftop bar offers one of the best views of Singapore. Perched on the top of the National Gallery, the vista looks out over the Padang to Marina Bay Sands and is flanked by skyscrapers on either side. Arrive before sunset so you can sit, drink in hand, and watch the city transition from day to night. Book ahead. If you can't tear yourself away for dinner, there are some tasty treats on the bar menu; most are surprisingly reasonably priced for the location. Outdoor tables have a minimum spend of S$45 per person and tables change over every two hours.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Melaka City

    Calanthe Art Cafe

    Fancy a full-bodied Johor or classic Perak white? Sip a coffee inspired by your favourite Malaysian state at this perky place. The coffee is excellent, and it's worth dropping by simply to gaze at this temple to retro decor: you won't be the only customer photographing its vinyl-adorned walls or the fish tank framed by a vintage TV. Food is good, with a satisfying menu of Western and Malay food, including breakfasts (served until 11.30am), scrummy laksa and delicious desserts (try the tapioca pudding, drowned in coconut milk and gula melaka).

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Padang

    Bat & Arrow

    Overlooking the river in the colonial quarter, this sprawling, graffiti-splattered 'ruin pub' feels a bit like a bombed-out building, but instead is Padang's top traveller hang-out. The beer garden fills up nightly with surfers, backpackers and locals. Beer, pizza and pub food (mains from 40,000Rp) are on the menu, and there are pool tables, live music and even a half-pipe for skateboarders. Upstairs they have stylish rooms if you're needing a place to stay. It has a small surf and boutique shop at the front, too.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Manila

    Cubao Expo

    A precinct of cool bars, cheap eats and boutiques, Cubao X is a must for anyone interested in Manila's underground scene. Venues come and go, but boozy communist-themed bar Fred's Revolución is one constant. It hums with alternative rock and serves a few craft beers. Other options are refined Humidor (closed Sunday) with its Cuban cigars and single malts, and Habanero Kitchen Bar (also closed Sunday), where you'll find frozen mojitos, thin-crust pizzas and lechón.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Phuket

    Baba Nest

    Engulfed by beautiful Andaman and island views and bordered by glittering reflective pools, the elegant, intimate rooftop Baba Nest lounge-bar at Sri Panwa is a truly magical spot – and one of the island's (and Thailand's) prime sunset-watching hang-outs, with smartly prepared classic cocktails (500B to 1000B) and Mexican-inspired tapas (350B). Book several weeks ahead; reservations require a 2000B minimum spend. It's on the southernmost tip of Laem Phanwa, 12km south of Phuket Town.