Here’s what to expect when Asia’s best bar comes to Sydney next week

Next week will see Asia’s number one bar, Singapore’s Manhattan, popping up for a two night only guest shift at Sydney bar Grain at the Four Seasons, on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 March.

Manhattan was awarded the title of Best Bar in Asia at the World’s 50 Best Bars last year, and next week, as part of their Friends of Manhattan Series, bar manager Philip Bischoff and head bartender Cedric Mendoza will be behind the stick at Grain to do their guest shift. They’ve also collaborated with Grain’s bar manager, Roderick Boerma, on a special cocktail list that will run at Grain from Monday 5 March to the Sunday 11 March. You can expect three signature drinks from Manhattan along with food to match, and another two cocktails created by Boerma and Bischoff just for this event.

“Singapore and Manhattan Bar more particularly are at the forefront of cocktail and food trends in the Asia-Pacific,” says Boerma. “Therefore I am eager to collaborate with Philip as an industry leader to create some really cool cocktails and break barriers with techniques, ingredients and the ways in which they are used.”

In addition to the guest shift on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Bischoff and Mendoza will be holding an industry masterclass during the afternoon on Wednesday, from 1pm to 3pm at Grain.


We asked Bischoff some questions over email to find out what we should expect from the collaboration next week, and he shares with us some tips for staging guest shifts at bars across the globe.

What’s the main idea behind Manhattan, and how do you plan to bring a bit of that on the road to Sydney?
Home to the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse, Manhattan at Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel, is a grand hotel bar inspired by the 19th century’s Golden Age of cocktails and fine drinking. Delivering on its name with a glamorous yet modern space reminiscent of old New York, craft bartending meets artisanal spirits to pay homage to classic and forgotten cocktails that leap from the pages of history. A lot of work goes behind the development of our menu at Manhattan. When we first opened the bar, the menu was centred around the various districts of Manhattan. Having just celebrated our third birthday in April 2017, we’ve since revamped the menu and now take guests on a journey through the evolution of cocktails with ‘Eras of New York’ – a reflection of how cocktails have developed from the 1800’s to the Golden Age of Cocktails. For the upcoming guest shift at Grain Bar, guests can look forward to experiencing signature Manhattan cocktails and food; getting a taste of ‘The Big Apple’ right in the heart of ‘The Harbour City’, while soaking in the mood of golden glamour with soulful jazz tunes.

What is it that you think places Manhattan at number one in Asia?
The team. Without a doubt, it is the people who are responsible for Manhattan’s local and international recognition. They are our strongest asset. They make all the difference with the passion and hard work they put in every day to ensure our guests have a memorable experience. It all boils down to our Four Seasons Golden Rule of having people who, by nature, believe in treating others as we would have them treat us. To be recognised as #7 in the world and Asia’s best has been a humbling experience. The global cocktail industry is a very competitive one with many stellar bar teams and establishments around. When Manhattan opened in April 2014, it was the first hotel bar of its kind here in Singapore.

Signature rooms like the Rickhouse, where we age cocktails in some 105 customised white American Oak barrels, was considered new and unique. Now we have to take care of it and treat it respectfully as we likewise, take care of our guests. At the end of the day, all we really want to do is make great cocktails and be part of even greater memories for our guests, and that needs knowledge and teamwork. We have a strong training programme and we are proud of where we are working, and going the extra mile. Over the past three years, we really learnt a lot. But as a team, we never stopped striving to learn more and get better. Manhattan’s style of service is all about engagement. Both our floor staff and bartenders are equally adept and knowledgeable on each other’s roles, thus being able to support one another seamlessly. The hotel management has also been very supportive as well as other departments in the hotel, such as PR, who are all contributing to Manhattan’s growth.

What should Sydney’s bartenders expect when you guys come to Grain?
Fun! And of course, we hope to showcase some of our hospitality too. The drinks we bring are really classics from our current menu as well as one or two drinks that have a regional inspiration and have been worked out with the team at Grain Bar. We would like to share some things we do back here and want to be great ambassadors for the evolving and happening Singaporean bar scene.

Guest shifts and popups are happening more and more — can you tell us a bit about how you found collaborating with the guys at Grain? What tips do you have for bartenders working with other bars in general?
Guest shifts and pop-ups are a very popular way of exchanging knowledge, experiences and for the travelling bartenders, a great opportunity to experience new places. In general, I do think that guest bartending can be something valuable for all parties involved. Pop-ups are the more complex version of that, where it’s really about bringing the entire experience from one place to another and that includes set-up, room decor, design etc. In addition, you’d usually need more staff (not just 1-2 bartenders) to run a pop-up successfully. With any collaboration, we would usually bring a complete Manhattan menu – cocktail creations that we can design here – so that guests can experience something new and unique. The collaboration with Four Seasons Hotel Sydney and the Grain Bar team has been good and we are in the final stages of finalising the menu. The only challenge we face here is in creating something with local products, which we do not have access to. But we’re definitely looking forward to providing a great experience, which we hope to successfully bring to the tables in March!