Gin and jellyfish? You could be in a bar in Singapore.


In the world of cocktails, Singapore almost inevitably evokes the pink Singapore Sling, based on gin and with grenadine, a drink born in 1915 in the elegant Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. In those strict colonial days, it was improper for women to drink in public, so a waiter made a cocktail that looked like fruit juice. Today, creative minds at idiosyncratic bars across the city are putting the same spirit of ingenuity to work, fueled by ecological awareness and the island's diverse heritage, and highlighting some unexpected ingredients. Here are six notable places.

“The fun thing about gin is that the possibilities are endless,” said Atlas head bartender Lidiyanah K, listing some of the many directions it could take: “Floral, citrusy, spicy, herbaceous.” Gin, although defined by the flavor of juniper, is not homogeneous. And if there was ever a place to learn about the diversity of gins produced with local botanicals, it's Atlas. Yes, it's in the lobby of Parkview Square, a large Art Deco office building that houses several embassies, but calling it a lobby bar feels a little like calling the Beatles a rock 'n' roll band or Georges Seurat a landscape painter. Think of it as a gin museum: it offers more than 1,300 varieties of the spirit, many of them displayed in a soaring 26-foot golden tower. The collection includes a veritable archive of historic bottles, pulled from one of the tower's high shelves when someone orders a selection from the “aged martinis” section. You can choose your own gin from any decade of the 20th century (between S$60 and S$275, or between US$45 and US$205).

The Gilded Age-inspired space also features a room with an epic champagne collection. Renovated in 2017 as a paean to early 20th-century Manhattan, it has leather furnishings, vaulted ceilings with Art Nouveau paintings, and large murals themed around Cleopatra and King Tut.

“Why do we eat caviar? Why can't we leave the sturgeon alone? asked Sasha Wijidessa as she poured a spoonful of vegan black garlic caviar over a block of kombu ice cream floating in a vodka mixture in a martini glass. She instructed me to let the ice cream melt so that it formed a cap. The scent of her umami permeated the drink.

Throughout the evening, he also prepared a Jellyfish Martini (gin with jellyfish; distillate from fish leaf, a spicy local plant; dry vermouth with spirulina; and oil with roasted seaweed: $25) and the So You Bought. Sad Corn ($25), a whiskey-based drink sweetened with caramel corn vinegar.

Fura, a narrow, minimalist bar on the second floor of a colonial-style shop, is owned and run by Miss Wijidessa and her partner in business and life, Christina Rasmussen, former head of food collection at Noma. The drinks and dishes they offer (they call them food of the future) border on the surreal, and their mission is to give an idea of ​​what consumption would be like if it focused on creating balance in the ecosystem. As such, they make smart use of sustainable crops like tonka beans and superabundant species like jellyfish. Yes, the owners will be happy to tell you all about lacto-fermentation and the vegan custards and meringues used in their fantastic recipes if you ask, but they are also determined to promise that this is a bar, not a conference room.

The eggshell-white setting of Analogue Initiative in Chijmes, a former 19th-century convent and girls' school, belies the bar's futuristic mentality, where everything is plant-based, including some of the furniture. (The tables are made of mycelium, the threadlike tissue of mushrooms, held together with wood chips and molded into shape.) The colossal, enveloping aquamarine wavy bar evokes ocean waves. It was 3D printed using over 3,500 pounds of recycled plastic.

The Earth's ecological future inspired co-owner Vijay Mudaliar to create a menu that attempts to answer a question similar to the one posed at Fura: What would happen if overfarming and climate change wiped out certain crops and foods? To that end, most drinks include an analogue (wink, wink) of a familiar ingredient. In addition to local yuzu, for example, kombuchas, vinegars and distillates replace fresh citrus. The Faux Espresso ($26) was based on roasted chicory, roasted barley and carob. (Coffee is one of the most exploited crops, Mudaliar said). Coconut nectar, not sugar, provided the sweetness (sugarcane is also overgrown), and whipped aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, replaced the milk foam. . And a dizzying, absurd drama of a cocktail ($26) whose name contains an insult mocking the fine-dining world's obsession with luxury, vaguely resembled a Bellini: a mix of peach-infused gin, peach juice, grape fermented with champagne yeast and a type of musky seaweed and with a slight truffle flavor, topped with “caviar” made of seaweed pearls. It was as delicious as it was silly.

On a suitably warm afternoon, Adrian Besa, the bar manager at the Jungle Ballroom, was telling me about his recent visit to a remote Cambodian distillery that makes gin using herbs and botanicals grown on a biodynamic farm without electricity. He grabbed a bottle from a high shelf and offered me a sniff; It smelled fresh and vegetal, only vaguely piney. Cambodia is just one Southeast Asian country whose flavors take center stage at Jungle Ballroom, a glitzy venue that takes on a DJ-driven club vibe later in the night. Mr. Besa also served me sweet, musky coconut wine from the Philippines; Sri Lankan arack, fragrant and spicy, distilled from coconut sap; craft gins from China, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore; and Soju, a fruity pineapple tart with a buttery cake aroma, from local distillery Compendium Spirits.

Besa has come up with a menu that represents different layers of a jungle: Canopy, which features bright, fruity, spicy drinks and various nutty ingredients; Understorey, which encompasses several fizzy drinks and spicy or spicy cocktails, including my favorite, the Shrub ($26), a tasty blend of Indian gin macerated with fresh and slightly nutty pandan leaves, vermouth and a vinegary pear bush made in home; and Forest Floor, where drinks with rich fruits and dense, spicy herbaceous flavors and fragrances reign supreme. It was a multi-sensory free fall and I didn't want it to end.

When Yugnes Susela was growing up in Singapore, his family had chicken curry for dinner almost every Sunday, sometimes accompanied by a shot of whiskey. So it wasn't too difficult for Susela, one of the founders of Elephant Room, to combine whiskey and curry in a glass. The Chicken Curry ($27), the bar's tasty take on an old dish, topped with a strip of fried chicken skin, may sound strange, even satirical, but to Susela it made perfect sense.

“If the finished product looks good, tastes good and smells good, it's a cocktail,” he said as he pulled a bottle of fenugreek-infused tequila from an apothecary-style cabinet displaying jars and bottles containing herbs, spices or twigs. soaked in liquids. She poured a few drops of tequila and the almond, earthy and slightly maple aromas resonated with the clarity of a bell jar. It was the signature ingredient in Goan Rabbit ($25), a subcontinental variation on the margarita. Indian spices were also the protagonists of Ramu's Fizz ($25), a version of the classic Ramos gin fizz, a citrus drink with a meringue-like texture that is obtained from egg whites, cream and a lot of whipping. In Susela's version, it was garnished with cumin-infused gin, ginger syrup and spiced cream. And the house strawberry-mangosteen cordial provided the Wild and Fresh ($27), a take on the familiar Negroni, with a sweet-tart dimension.

The neon sign behind Sago House's bar says, “Don't try it,” but that doesn't suggest you give up and drink your life away. It's the epitaph of writer Charles Bukowski (as bar manager Naz Zurimi explained, it's an order to be true to yourself, no pretensions allowed). It's no surprise, then, that the bar's relaxed atmosphere is like hanging out at an old friend's apartment, and not just because staff members write your name in chalk on the bar or table when you arrive, like if they were reserving your usual seat.

In October, Sago House moved to a spacious street-level location, a drastic change from the compact third-floor space where it debuted in 2020. But it lost none of its cozy charm. The three owners, local industry veterans, applied their original DIY approach to the new space, which features shelves made from wine boxes and sewing machine tables used as furniture. The six-drink menu (starting at $24), which is posted on the bar's Instagram account, changes weekly, but always offers different takes on the same classic cocktail styles: an old-fashioned, a highball, a sour , a tropical cocktail. , a margarita and a martini or a Manhattan.

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