Fresh from a spate of hyper-modern, sensory-driven cocktail menus, Tippling Club is taking a step back to explore a bit of history. This one come from new head bartender Andrew Loudon, who has drawn inspiration from Escoffier's A Guide to Modern Cookery, or in French, Le Guide Culiniare. It's not all boozy analogues from recipes in the book though, as some of the cocktails are inspired by the not-so-mundane life of the godfather of French cookery. To draw an example: there's a spirit-forward combination of marsala, scotch, white port, and vermouth that's named the Titanic as Esocoffier designed the menus for that ill-fated ship. There's also the Banh Mi Sazerac, so named — perhaps questionably — because Ho Chi Minh allegedly once worked under Escoffier as a pastry chef. The tipple is given an intriguing, savoury lift with shio koji and maple, and foie gras to replicate the pate in a banh mi sandwich.
While the inspiration might be historical, the techniques certainly aren't. Tippling Club's vaunted sonic prep makes a reappearance (the crowd favourite sonic negroni is no longer on the menu) in something called the Three Emperors, where it's used to infuse oak into a concoction of Shiraz, Lillet, vodka, and a house blend of botanicals.
If you're a fan of highly-perfumed drinks, head for the Bombe Glacee, which is purportedly inspired by a moulded ice cream dessert, but comes closer to a compelling, high-fashion fragrance in highball form with the inclusion of vetiver, fig leaf, bee pollen, vanilla, and citrus all sitting on a base of tequila.
Flavour might be important, but a cocktail really comes alive through its story — the history of its ingredients, the inspiration, and clear, logical intent behind every step of the process of creating a drink. Jigger & Pony group's Gibson does that exceptionally well with their new menu, which takes its cue from combining classic cocktail structures with regional ingredients. The new drinks draw their flavours from a mix of ideas: locally-found produce, traditional Asian ingredients, and just sometimes, cultural phenomena.
We're particularly fond of their Mango PX, a tropical spin on the syrupy Spanish sherry typically made from Pedro Ximinez grapes. The bar's take some liberties with the term, although the results are no less compelling and quite clever — mangoes from the Philippines are fermented to produce a wine, which then gets fortified with malt whisky that's undergone secondary ageing with American oak for a creamy, coconut-y finish that screams tropical and digestif at the same time.
For sometime closer to a traditional cocktail, head for the guava highball, an aromatic, refreshing tall drink made with tequila, white malaysian guava, salt, and the leaves of ulam raja, a locally-found herb that tastes strikingly similar to green mango. There's also the Don Don old-fashioned, made with bourbon infused with everyone's favourite roasted sweet potato from that particular Japanese grocery store.
It's official: rum is in. Probably the best indication of this is the new rum-focused programme at Shangri-la Singapore's Origin Bar. Together with his team, head bartender Adam Bursik has amassed an astounding collection of 340 rums from over 40 different countries, and an additional 13 house-made versions of the sugarcane-based spirit. The rums run the gamut, from young white rum like the 3-year-old from the Philippines-based Tanduay — currently the best-selling rum distiller in the world — to rare, aged bottles that can hold its own against any of the great scotches. What's interesting though, are their house-distilled, and house-aged rums.
Origin's taken white rum, added different blends of botanicals, and re-distilled them with a rotovap to create a clear spirit that's somewhere between traditional spiced rum and gin, sans juniper.
They're also putting rums through a secondary aging process, where in a stroke of almost-mad genius, the spirits sit in vessels carved out of pure chocolate, or in an emptied-out young coconut. The results are compelling. The chocolate works almost like an alien oak — not only imparting everything from dark fruit and chocolate flavours (clearly) to the liquid, but also smoothing out the edges of the spirit. Flavour-wise, the coconut-aging comes across more strongly, turning the rum into rounded, tropical wonder that tastes like a much more natural-tasting Malibu. You can, of course, taste all of these in cocktails — we're fans of the re-distilled botanical rums with tonic, which tames the spirit's edge and adds a refreshing bitterness for an extremely sessionable drink.
Lobby Level, Tower Wing, Shangri-la Hotel Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road. Tel: 6213-4595
Stories might be fun, but there's also something comforting in something uncomplicated but tasty. For rock n' roll vibes, great, well-priced cocktails and Asian-inspired bar grub there's Bao Boy. The bao concept is chef Andrew Walsh's third effort (after Cure and Butcher Boy), and the most casual one yet — although it doesn't mean any less effort. Cocktails here are relatively straightforward — classics given a slight twist while erring on the side of balance. There's a tannic, earthy note to their Bao Boy negroni, thanks to gin that they infuse with roasted green tea; while their bourbon Old Fashioned gets thematic, with an umami-edged soy sauce syrup.
Also keep a lookout for their wine list which, while lean, is perfectly on trend with a compelling selection of biodynamic/organic/natural labels that includes everything from champagne, to something further left like the wines from Hochdeutsch — where botanicals are steeped in grape must before the whole thing is fermented.
Food is also a draw here: expect moreish comfort food including a boldly-spice chilli crab mac & cheese; as well as a very satisfying good beef short rib bo ssam. Baos, of course, are the highlight here — we like the intensely meaty lamb bao with Korean hot sauce and pickles; as well as the sinful dessert creation of deep-fried buns with peanut butter parfait and strawberry jam.
Most might be familiar with Jesse Vida as the man who put New York bar BlackTail on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, but few are aware of his childhood dream to be a history teacher. “During show and tell, I would share about the Whisky Rebellion of 1791 with my classmates,” says Vida. It seems fitting then that Vida, now head bartender of Atlas, was tasked to overhaul the bar’s cocktail menu to reflect the venue’s stunning art deco-inspired interiors. Taking on the dual role of historian and mixologist, Vida happily delved into the annals of history, emerging months later with 23 new cocktails reflecting the spirit of the interbellum period, an era bookended by the devastation of World War I and World War II.
Instead of turning his lens towards the grimmer realities of the interbellum era, Vida chose to encapsulate key cultural moments of the time, ranging from the flight of the zeppelin to the release of Aldous Huxley’s literary masterpiece Brave New World.
Here, classic cocktails from the art decor period are given a modern update by Vida, with the Atlas French 75 blending gin and champagne with lemon, peach, and a touch of salt. The Boy King, loosely based on a negroni sbagliato, is a crisp, bitttersweet combination of champagne, oloroso sherry, and black lemon bitters. Consider too, the R.E.M cocktail. With a warming base of cognac mixed with fortified wine, raspberry liqueur, angostura bitters, and a float of freshly whipped cream topped with dark chocolate shavings, this creation takes all the best elements of a Black Forest cake and distills it into one charmer of a nightcap.
Parkview Square. 600 North Bridge Road. Tel: 6396-4466