The Singapore Cocktail Festival is coming soon, and one of its most exciting elements is the search for Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail- a cocktail that can stand proudly next to the Singapore Sling on the global stage.
It’s been a horrible few weeks. Illness followed by an intense workload combine into a perfect storm of slow, tooth-gritting writing.
Still, I felt that it wouldn’t be right to see cocktail week off without a quick recap of the many great moments throughout. It wouldn’t be very much fun if I just gave a recount of everything I did, though. So, I just chose the three things I loved most about the entire week.
I’m a big fan of cocktails, as you can tell by now. One would consider very few of these mixed drinks to be “serious”, so they’re always more than appropriate when going out to have some fun.
It seems that many Singaporeans are too, judging by the sheer number of cocktail joints popping up over the past few years. I covered a good lot of them during last year’s Cocktail Week (here and here), and I’m glad that this year, I (and everyone else) get to once again enjoy some great drinks at very, very reasonable prices.
Like last year, bars will be serving up their best drinks and, if we’re lucky, some created specially for the occasion. Now, it’s your dollar and you should spend it however you like. If you have a favourite bar, then sitting there all week long is a great option. To really maximise the experience, why not do a little hopping around and try a few different bars? There’s plenty to see and do.
The recent years have seen an explosion of interest in Cocktails here in Singapore. The quality of bars specialising in cocktails, bespoke or otherwise, have definitely gone up, and Singapore now hosts dozens of very fine establishments.
So, perhaps it’s timely that Cocktail Week has come to Singapore!
I won’t bore you with the details, but other than a whole series of cocktail events and workshops held this week (7th to 14th March), the 30 or so participating bars have also created special menus just for the occasion. I didn’t need much of an excuse to go check out the bars, but I surely didn’t mind the added incentive, either.
(As a matter of transparency, I am not affiliated with any of these bars. I paid my own way through the entire week.)
On account of my advanced age, I elected to skip the opening party at Tanjong Beach on the opening Saturday, and went straight to the part I enjoy most: actually drinking. My first, and only, stop was Tess Bar and Kitchen along Seah Street, near Raffles Hotel. I had only been there once before for a sip of scotch-they have a pretty good range, by the way- so this was my virgin cocktail experience there.
Tess Bar was set up by award winning bartender Steve Leong, formerly of Bitters and Love. With its modern, industrial look, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s some upscale Italian restaurant. Fortunately, the atmosphere is anything but snooty-or even very western, for that matter. The cocktail week menu had some very Singaporean-themed concoctions.
I started with something very simple and light. Zest Up was pretty refreshing- basically a daiquiri lightly spiced with Cardamom. Pretty tasty, though not exactly wild and adventurous.
My second drink of the night was much more interesting. Called [email protected], it was a combination of Jose Cuervo tequila, fresh lime juice, pineapple and chilli syrup, egg white, salt and pepper. This one I really liked- it had so many contrasting, yet well balanced elements- spicy, sweet, savoury and sour. The salt brought out the sweetness of the pineapple, the traditional combination of tequila and lime worked well as always, and the pepper and chilli rounded it all off with a punch. Fantastic. The best part of it was the lovely cup it came in, of course.
Isn’t she pretty?
Not bad at all for an opening night.
I also signed up for a cocktail making workshop to revisit some of the fundamentals of drink making on day 2.
Build, Stir, Shake and Muddle – the Basic Techniques of Cocktail Making. Conducted by the affable Knut Randhem, KU DÉ TA’s Regional Head Mixologist, the workshop had 20 cocktail enthusiasts (including me) stirring, shaking and muddling through 4 different classic cocktails.
First up was the London Buck, which is a variation of the classic buck cocktail, featuring gin instead of rum as the base spirit. A pretty good start- something light, refreshing and pretty simple to make.
90ml Ginger Beer
Half a lime worth of fresh lime juice
Add the ingredients and cubed ice into a highball glass and stir till mixed.
Of course, you can’t really call a cocktail workshop a cocktail workshop unless you feature the grandfather of all cocktails: the old fashioned. In this case, Knut gave us the option of his own blended dark rum or whisky. Being something of a purist when it comes to this particular drink, I stuck with the classic whisky- though I would normally prefer bourbon for Old Fashioneds.
Classic Old Fashioned
40 ml whisky
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Mix the ingredients, then stir over ice in a rocks glass until sufficiently diluted. Garnish with orange peel and serve.
So far, so good. Knut wasn’t about to let us off so easy, though. He ramped up the difficulty just a bit with the next concoction: a Clover Club. I’ve never actually made this one before, but it was created in the eponymous Clover Club in Philadelphia sometimes in the late 1800s as a drink for its gentlemanly patrons.
20ml lemon juice
15ml raspberry syrup
15ml dry Vermouth
1 shot egg white
Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds, then strain into a chilled champagne coupe.
I rather enjoyed this one. It had a nice, tart lemon and raspberry taste, balanced with vermouth and gin. The egg white definitely added a good amount of texture to what would otherwise be a very thin and runny drink.
For the last cocktail of the day, we were given something of a challenge, with a fair amount of work needed for its preparation.
3 lime wedges
5-8 mint leaves
15ml honey syrup
15ml Creme de Cassis
Muddle lime, mint and blackberries at the bottom of a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and ice. Shake for about 20 seconds, then strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and blackberry.
Refreshing, with a minty berry flavour. Not tart at all, more like a smooth, slightly creamy piece of blackberry candy.
As a reward for my effort, I treated myself to a nice honey rose daiquiri and lounged on the Marina Bay Sands skydeck (where KU DÉ TA is conveniently located). The view here is breathtaking- an unbroken view of the coast and the Marina Bay. That alone was almost worth the price of admission.
Not too shabby for my first weekend at the Singapore Cocktail Week 2015. Looking forward to trying out as many bars as I can throughout the week!
Tess Bar and Kitchen
38 Seah Street
KU DÉ TA
1 Bayfront Ave
Level 57, Marina Bay Sands