Good Spir­its

There’s more to en­joy as bar­keeps widen their reper­toire to in­clude for­got­ten spir­its and re­dis­cov­ered lo­cal favourites

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - News -

Why th­ese four unique spir­its from var­i­ous cor­ners of the globe are the hum­ble dis­til­la­tions you should be get­ting into now

Our lo­cal cock­tail scene con­tin­ues to gar­ner a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion, with 12 bars in Sin­ga­pore mak­ing it to the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2018 list. We have to thank our ul­tra­tal­ented bar­tenders for that, as they con­tinue to push cre­ative bound­eries us­ing a va­ri­ety of world class spir­its. And un­less you’re a sea­soned cock­tail hound, chances are you’re un­likely to be fa­mil­iar with the stag­ger­ing breadth of spir­its—from across con­ti­nents and time—that bar­tenders are adopt­ing in the world of mixol­ogy to­day.

But, if you’re look­ing for in­sight into more ad­ven­tur­ous al­ter­na­tives to the norm— hum­ble dis­til­la­tions that are fast gain­ing favour at some of the city’s hippest wa­ter­ing holes—th­ese four unique spir­its from var­i­ous cor­ners of the globe are start­ing to make their mark on cock­tail menus is­land-wide.

AQUAVIT

Aquavit—or ak­vavit—is a spirit of Scan­di­na­vian ori­gin that’s dis­tilled from grain and pota­toes, and in­fused with herbs and spices such as car­away, dill, aniseed, or fen­nel. It’s in the same fam­ily as gin, but un­like gin, whose pre­dom­i­nant flavour comes from ju­niper berries, car­away is the main flavour in this spirit.

Aquavit may sound all mod­ern and fancy, but its ori­gins go as far back as the 15th cen­tury. It is en­joyed through­out Scan­di­navia as an aper­i­tif and es­pe­cially dur­ing spe­cial fes­tiv­i­ties, but in­creas­ingly mixol­o­gists are lev­er­ag­ing aquavit’s herba­ceous, dry qual­ity to add com­plex­ity to their cock­tail cre­ations.

To taste aquavit in its purest form, grand lobby bar At­las—bet­ter known for its tow­er­ing col­umn of gins and a sprawl­ing cham­pagne col­lec­tion—car­ries Linie

Aquavit from Nor­way. But if you pre­fer to try it in a cock­tail, rum bar Su­garhall uses Aal­borg Ak­vavit in its Plum Sour to pro­vide a spicy punch to round out its whisky and umeshu plum liqueur base. If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous though, ask bar­tender Sam Loh to put to­gether his de­li­cious yet-un­named off-menu riff of a Yoko­homa, also made with Aal­borg Ak­vavit; we hear it’s so good, it’s go­ing into the next it­er­a­tion of Su­garhall’s cock­tail menu.

ARRACK

Com­monly spelt arak, and not to be con­fused with the sim­i­larly named anise-flavoured, grape-based al­co­holic spirit pop­u­lar in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, the high­lyaro­matic arrack of the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent and South­east Asia is made from dis­till­ing the fer­mented sap of co­conut flow­ers, sug­ar­cane mo­lasses, in­dige­nous grain such as red rice, and/or fruit. Arrack is one of the old­est known dis­tilled spir­its and, in fact, pre­dates rum; dur­ing the 17th cen­tury, Bata­vian arrack—which orig­i­nated from the is­land of Java—was com­monly used to make al­co­holic punch.

Rum may have rel­e­gated arrack to the back bar, but bar­tenders tend to have a bot­tle or two hid­den for ex­per­i­men­tal pur­poses. At Na­tive, which has amassed mul­ti­ple awards for its ap­proach to us­ing for­aged in­gre­di­ents and spir­its in­dige­nous to this re­gion, arrack is of­fi­cially on the cock­tail menu. Its Pineap­ple Arrack—a Cey­lonese co­conut arrack-based tip­ple that helped sky­rocket the cock­tail bar to star­dom since it opened—is no longer avail­able, but the Arak Bali is a new of­fer­ing that em­ploys a Ba­li­nese rice-based ver­sion of the spirit that’s just as tasty.

CACHAÇA

The hum­ble Brazil­ian cachaça is one of the most widely-con­sumed spir­its on the planet, pos­si­bly be­cause it’s the spirit of choice for pretty much ev­ery Brazil­ian. With a pop­u­la­tion of over 180 mil­lion in Brazil and cachaça be­ing present in ev­ery Caipir­inha drunk at ev­ery street party from Rio De Janeiro to São Paulo, we can imag­ine why that’s the case. A type of rum, cachaça has also come a long way in its 500-year his­tory, and that story is in­tri­cately linked to the coun­try’s sug­ar­cane in­dus­try, and its his­tory of slav­ery.

Cachaça is made by huge in­dus­trial con­glom­er­ates that sourced them from tiny small-batch, fam­ily-owned pro­duc­ers across the coun­try. Qual­ity also ranges widely, with un-aged in­dus­trial cachaça pro­duced us­ing

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