A FRESH TAKE

Cock­tail bars are cel­e­brat­ing the clas­sics in more ways than ever—and that’s a good thing, as June Lee dis­cov­ers

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Sip -

Clas­sic cock­tails are be­ing cel­e­brated in more ways than ever—and that’s a good thing

There’s no doubt that the boom in craft cock­tail bars has truly gone main­stream in Sin­ga­pore, with ev­ery bar aspiring to be the next big name in the “ar­ti­sanal”, “be­spoke” or “mixol­ogy” bar scene— jug­gling mul­ti­ple con­cepts to cap­ture the con­sumer’s at­ten­tion. A good decade af­ter these types of bars started pop­ping up in Sin­ga­pore, fol­low­ing in the spirit of cult pi­o­neers Milk & Honey (which opened in 2000 in New York, fol­lowed by its Lon­don lo­ca­tion in 2002) and the likes, the scene has ex­ploded and cock­tails have be­come an al­most-daily af­fair. Flip through the menus and you might find a Su­per­car—with the in­gre­di­ents listed as “but­ter, white wine, citrus, petrol, gin”—at Tip­pling Club. Or a Sea Beast—de­scribed as “black-ink co­rian­der soju, fizzy yuzu sushi” at MO Bar.

While such liq­uid cre­ativ­ity is ap­pre­ci­ated and con­sumed with en­thu­si­asm, there are clear signs that many drinkers to­day are look­ing for the true clas­sics—maybe with a slight twist, or maybe with­out any twist at all. Jig­ger & Pony has heeded the call with its swish re­open­ing at Amara, where quiet craft shows its hand. As group founder In­dra Kantono puts it: “A well-crafted clas­sic cock­tail will never go out of fashion in our books. Nev­er­the­less, we don’t leave the no­tion of ‘well-enough’ alone.”

To do this, the bar’s open­ing menu pits clas­sics ver­sus sig­na­tures right up front— and don’t ex­pect any In­sta­grammable con­coc­tions that look bet­ter than they taste. The bar’s whisky high­ball, which went through eight vari­a­tions, uses tech­nique to el­e­vate the drink rather than fancy car­bon­at­ing equip­ment. The Ja­panese serv­ing style of mae­wari mar­ries Ja­panese whisky with very soft Hokkaido wa­ter for three days be­fore car­bon­a­tion is added. The whisky is pro­nounced, with ef­fer­ves­cence play­ing a sec­ondary yet smooth role. Its mod­ern coun­ter­part is the Tokyo-hi, which is a bit more eye-catch­ing with umeshu, shiso, pep­per­mint, gari and soda for an ex­u­ber­ant but not-at-all-out­landish high­ball.

Prin­ci­pal bar­tender Gio­vanni Grazi­adei had the dif­fi­cult task of tack­ling the clas­sic mar­tini, com­ing up with five new twists

(as well as an ap­ple­tini) un­der the menu’s Retro Clas­sics sec­tion. He ex­plains: “The main weak­ness of the clas­sic ap­ple­tini is that de­spite the name, it doesn’t taste of fresh ap­ple. So we re­placed the ‘fake’ ap­ple flavour with fresh Granny Smith ap­ple juice, and swapped some vodka with Cal­va­dos to add more body. Lastly, we added cel­ery juice for one more layer (of flavour). Grated pe­cans on top lend a rich aroma, so that by con­trast, the first sip feels even more re­fresh­ing. The struc­ture of the clas­sic is still there—the clas­sic green colour we’re fa­mil­iar with, the taste of ap­ple, and the sour and sweet flavour com­bi­na­tion. We sim­ply up­dated it from the ’90s into the 21st cen­tury.”

BROAD AP­PEAL

Colin Chia, CEO of The Es­tab­lish­ment Group, takes a bold ap­proach at his bars, par­tic­u­larly Nut­meg & Clove in Sin­ga­pore and #Findth­e­lock­er­room in Bangkok—

“A well-crafted clas­sic cock­tail will never go out of fashion in our books. Nev­er­the­less, we don’t leave the no­tion of ‘well-enough’ alone”

UP­DAT­ING CLAS­SICS (Op­po­site, left to right) Jig­ger & Pony’s new Tokyo-hi and its up­dated Whisky High­ball; (above) the bar’s Ne­groni

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