Say the name “Employees Only” to a New Yorker, and watch their eyes light up. For more than a decade, the West Village bar and restaurant has been teaching hospitality professionals the art of mixology (and how to rock suspenders, a waxed mustache, or both).
Employees Only (EO) is now a global operation with locations in Miami, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It’s in that Asian city-state that EO founder Igor Hadzismajlovic, a Bosnia-born ex-New Yorker, has made his home.
He worked hard to get here.
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“I moved to New York from Bosnia in the late ’90s as a war refugee and worked odd jobs for years,” Hadzismajlovic says. “My first restaurant job was bussing tables at a sushi restaurant in Midtown [Manhattan].” He moved on to barbacking and later bartending, eventually working at some of 1990s Manhattan’s hottest destinations.
“I cut my teeth at Pravda,” Hadzismajlovic says. He later tended bar at two other early-aughts NYC hot spots, Schiller’s and The Park. “In 2004 I opened Employees Only with some industry friends,” Hadzismajlovic says, “And the rest is history.”
A stylish departure from the thumping clubs that dominated downtown Manhattan at the time, EO was and remains a beacon of creativity and cool. The drinks are expertly made and the vibe is chic but welcoming, like a party hosted by everyone’s coolest friend.
Now, a decade or so later, Hadzismajlovic is carving out yet another new life in Singapore with his wife and baby. Needless to say, he’s a busy guy. But in between parenting and running one of Singapore’s most talked-about cocktail bars, Hadzismajlovic somehow found the time to show us around.
Here is a Bartography guide to Singapore with Igor Hadzismajlovic, a man who knows how to find (and create) what’s cool.
The Other Room
“The Other Room is a small cocktail bar tucked away inside the very stately and sizable Marriott hotel on the busy Orchard Road. It’s the perfect place to seek refuge from the pandemonium of a notoriously busy intersection, and also one of the few cocktail bars open until 4 a.m. My go-to cocktail here (and at most bars) is a classic Negroni.” Location.
“Skinny’s is a dive bar beloved by the industry for its karaoke room and warm hospitality. They do great cocktails as well, but I like to get a beer here.” Location.
Jig-A-Jig Bar and Restaurant
“Jig-A-Jig is a true dive bar that became my local after-hours spot when I first moved to Singapore, if only because it was across the street from my apartment and never truly closed. They would “close” and lock up at 2:00 a.m., but would unlock the doors for regulars and trusted friends. What I love about them is their total embrace of being the local dive; the owner Marco offers you, in his own words, shitty pizza, which is not to be missed. It’s a thin-crust frozen pizza with a random topping, but it’s the best pizza you will have in Singapore at 4:00 a.m.” Location.
Employees Only Singapore
“Our staff is comprised of local bartenders who are some of the most hardworking, endearing. and fast-learning I’ve ever come across, not to mention some of the youngest, which is very impressive. They have managed to cultivate the fun-loving vibe of EO into their own brand of hospitality, and added some localized spins to the menu as well (using Asian ingredients like green tea and kaffir lime, growing their own herbs on our rooftop, etc.). As with every location of EO, I feel at home here.” Location.
“We just opened a small taqueria called Papi’s Tacos, where I have been spending all of my time lately. Our chef Mauricio is a Mexican immigrant who moved over to Singapore with me via New York, so his tacos are the most authentic you’ll find anywhere here; after two years of living here with no real Mexican food, my partners and I at EO Singapore started to get severe withdrawals, so I guess this was the solution! My go-to order is a mushroom quesadilla and a set of tacos de pescado.” Location.
Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House
“Luke’s is a fancy chophouse right behind EO where I’ll go to celebrate an occasion or if we’re feeling like a dry-Martini-and-oysters kind of a night. It’s a beautifully done space, which is worth visiting in itself. But you also can’t sleep on the smoked trout dip. They also do the best veggie burger in town, which unfortunately is only available at lunchtime.” Location.
Suju Japanese Restaurant
“Suju is a tasteful and elegant (but not too bougie) Japanese restaurant located, like many great restaurants here, inside a shopping mall. I almost don’t want to tell people about it because it still feels like a well-kept secret amongst the Japanese community in Singapore. Every time I visit, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be the only non-Japanese patron … they’re known for their miso soup and copper pot-cooked rice, and have super fresh sashimi. I’m a sucker for their chicken teriyaki. My go-to order is agedashi tofu (deep-fried tofu in dashi broth) and a negitoro don (Japanese rice bowl).” Location.
The Warehouse Hotel
“I love The Warehouse Hotel for sentimental reasons; my wife and I spent our wedding night there. They’re also one of the nicer-designed boutique hotels in town.” Location.
The Capella Resort
“Despite it now being known as where the Trump-Kim summit took place, Capella is arguably the most beautiful property in Singapore, nestled on acres of lush greenery so you forget you are on Sentosa (a Disney-like island tourist attraction here). We splurge on a staycation here once a year. It is understated but still completely luxurious. They have a killer Chinese restaurant, Cassia, which is worth a visit whether you’re staying at the hotel or not.” Location.
This old housing estate serves as one of Singapore’s most beloved hangouts, thanks to its galleries, cafés, street art, and indie businesses. Hadzismajlovic spends some of his free time here for obvious reasons; take some time to walk around and explore sans agenda.
Much of Singapore’s bar scene (along with its rich history) is concentrated here, making it a clear favorite of Hadzismajlovic’s. If you’re into temples and noodles, this is the place to be.
Singapore’s buzzy, modern Tanjong Pagar neighborhood is comprised of perfectly manicured park spaces, clusters of office and residential buildings, shops, and, of course, great dining. Hadzismajlovic recommends hanging out here for a change of scenery from some of his usual haunts.