When we last took a look, the Diageo World Class in Singapore had just flagged off. In the first round, aspirants had to create two cocktails from either the Bulleit Bourbon 10 years or Singleton of Glen Ord 12 years. One of the creations had to be an old fashioned twist, and the other had to be a contemporary drink.
Well, the call was answered by bartenders across the island, and we got to taste some of their concoctions. By our reckoning, some of the creations should go straight to bartending Valhalla, some were eerily familiar, and some needed a little tweaking. We’re not going to ramble on about everything we tried – just the highs and lows.
A quick disclaimer here: while it’s always been implicit in everything we’ve written, it’s important to note that these are our opinions. We’re not (for competitive purposes) judging anything- and you might feel something else entirely about these drinks.
Don’t agree with our assessments? Let us know in the comments.
Single to Mingle
By Josiah Chee of Jigger and Pony. Made with Singleton of Glen Ord 12, oriental vermouth and a couple of dashes of plum bitters.
We are not sure what oriental vermouth is, but we do have to concede that it helps to make an interesting drink. Unlike the acidity of lemon juice, which is both sharp and fleeting, the tartness from the vermouth is mellow and lingering. With the whisky and bitters, it makes for a simple, yet nuanced drink.
Oh right, the garnish is pretty amazing as well.
by Josiah Chee of Jigger and Pony. Made with Bulleit 10, Masala amaretto, chocolate Angostura bitters and whiskey-barrel-aged bitters.
It’s not surprising that many of the entries have picked up on Bulleit’s vanilla, oak and spice notes using rich chocolate flavours. That would be far too simplistic on its own; Josiah’s addition of the amaretto gives his tipple almond notes as well. Fortunately, the dangers of the whole concoction descending into a saccharine abyss were headed off with some much needed bitterness.
All said, this drink takes on the best aspects of a slice of tiramisu. Great stuff.
By Julian Serna of The Powder Room. Made with banana-infused-Bulleit 10 bourbon, smoked maple syrup and BBQ bitters.
We’ve actually covered this cocktail before, and there isn’t much to add; the biggest change to it since to it seems to be the use of Bulleit 10. Otherwise. it’s as good as we remember, with a beautiful banana flavour that melds with the vanilla in the bourbon. The ever popular ice cream “garnish” is also served to accentuate the dessert vibes of this cocktail.
If memory serves, the original was just a bit rougher around the edges, so there’s something to be said here for the Bulleit’s mellowness.
Thank You for Smoking
By Julian Serna of The Powder Room. Made with cigar-and-coffee-infused whiskey,port reduction, cherry hearing and chocolate bitters.
Like its sibling the BB King, this cocktail has been around for a long while. Unlike the BB, however, we couldn’t discern much difference from the original- from memory, at least. It’s still a great tasting drink; rich and sensuous with coffee-bittersweetness, smoke and tart notes of red berries. We just thought that a new original cocktail would be more interesting, though. A bit of a missed opportunity.
By Shin Tae Hwan (Shin) of Black Swan. Made with Milk-washed spiced Bulleit 10yr, acacia honey syrup and angostura bitters.
Now, this is a drink that doesn’t lack for imagination! Bartender Shin was inspired by memories of Acacia trees in his native Korea, and wanted to pay tribute to it somehow. We sensed the pride he had for his creation as he explained his creative process – but how did it measure up?
While honey is prone to overshadowing the other ingredients with saccharine brutality, Shin uses it to subtly accentuate the vanilla and oak of the bourbon in light floral and herbal strokes. The result is a drink layered with magnificent complexity. It’s creamy, sweet, floral, bitter and restrained- all at once. Glorious.
By Shin Tae Hwan (Shin) of Black Swan. Made with walnut-infused Singleton, smoked maple syrup, Waitrose orange curd, egg white, angostura bitters and a pinch of salt.
According to Shin, Chot-Bool means “candle” in Korean. We’re not clear on the nomenclature- the flavour is not…waxy at all. Instead, the cocktail is reminiscent of a rich bitter orange chocolate, leaning towards the orange rather than the chocolate. The maple adds a little complexity; a different kind of sweetness that helps to cut the overall thick texture of this drink.
Overall, the drink does not taste bad at all, but turned out rather too sweet for our liking.
By Adam Bursik of The Library. Made with Singleton, burnt honey and malted angostura bitters.
There’s a difference between toasting your bread and burning your bread. The latter seemed to have happened here with the honey, and the drink tasted like ashes to us.
By Cedric Mendoza of Manhattan. Made with Bulleit 10, peach liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white.
We were rather sure that we’d be seeing many sours – but this is actually the first drink we had that evening that used the classic lemon juice, spirit, sugar and egg white combination. There is a reason that sours are still popular today – elegant simplicity paired with endless customisability.
In this case, Cedric went with peach (apparently a favourite of his). The drink has a very pleasant bouquet- a kind of mellow, floral sweetness of peaches mixed with vanilla and cream. It tasted exactly like it smelled- except that, when imbibed, the peach imparted a subtle bitterness in the finish, helping to create structure and focus. We couldn’t help but imagine digging into a splendid fruit tart when sipping this.
By Cedric Mendoza of Manhattan. Made with Singleton 12, beer syrup and walnut bitters.
We’re not big fans of this one. The beer’s hops, walnuts and the harshest of the wood flavours are at the forefront, which makes for a bitter first impression. The moment passes, and the drink then swings into extreme sweetness. An interesting effect- and one worth noting, but as with our shirt and trousers, we prefer that the contents in our glasses meet somewhere in the middle.
By Tobbig Shin of The Other Room. Made with Bulleit 10, chamomile-tea-finished Bulleit Rye, caster sugar, dry curacao and lemon bitters. A competent drink, but nothing particularly unique or remarkable flavourwise- rather like this description.
By Tobbig Shin of The Other Room. Singleton 12, lemon juice, Bo-ri tea(Korea Roasted barley tea) syrup, basil leaves, himalayan salt water and egg white.
The official components above were provided by Tobbig Shin, but there’s also a dash of sesame oil added during the garnishing. There’s some surprising synergy between the light smokiness of the Singleton of Glen Ord, the roasted tea and the fragrance of the sesame.
That charred savouriness was a great dimension that would have set the drink apart from the more mainstream interpretations- but for what we see as a slight miscalculation. The amount of sesame added caused it to shroud the other flavours, making it a real effort to discern the interactions between the whisky and tea syrup. Some potential for greatness here, for sure.
Summing it all up
There were a great number of interesting cocktails to come out of just round one, which surely must be a testament to how great the bartenders in Singapore are. We particularly liked the Gold Fashioned and the W&P sour, both of which had complex, pleasing flavours and wonderful presentation.
If you’d like to try any of these cocktails for yourself, you can simply order them straight from the bars.
There’s plenty more in store for the next round, which should be this month. We’re looking forward to it.