In search of the next Singapore Sling

Shiok Collins by Mitzo Restaurant & Bar. — Picture courtesy of Sihan Lee via TODAY
Shiok Collins by Mitzo Restaurant & Bar. — Picture courtesy of Sihan Lee via TODAY

SINGAPORE, March 15 — At the inaugural Singapore Cocktail Festival, which begins tomorrow (March 16), cocktails take a local spin in an attempt to replace the iconic Singapore Sling. Chicken rice chilli, pineapple jam and homemade “kopi” syrup all feature in drinks from bartenders in Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail competition.

The public will get to decide which tipple they like best, and what they think could be Singapore’s next most-recognised drink, at the event’s Festival Village at 99 Beach Road. There, they will be able to try each drink for S$12 (RM38) at pop-up bars.

The Lion City Sour from speakeasy 28 HongKong Street takes its inspiration from chicken rice. The drink, conceptualised by bartender and chef de partie Sean Kwek, uses clear tequila and mezcal mixed with homemade chicken rice chilli, fresh lime and pineapple juice, homemade ginger syrup, fresh coriander, basil and sesame oil.

Senior bartender Charmaine Thio, 25, who will be at the pop-up store and mixing the drink, hopes that “the Lion City Sour captures that national pride and represents Singapore’s harmonious blend of diverse cultures with its blend of bold flavours”.

Meanwhile, Leo’s Flip by Nutmeg & Clove — known for incorporating Asian flavours such as salted egg yolk and red dates in its creations — is offering a pineapple-tart-inspired cocktail.

Lee Pan Ying, 21, a bartender at the Ann Siang Hill hotspot said that around Chinese New Year, the team had a jar of pineapple tarts behind the bar.

“It was a eureka moment,” she said, adding that the team at Nutmeg & Clove always wants to find flavours Singaporeans can relate to.

Leo's Flip by Nutmeg & Clove. — Picture courtesy of Photo:Nutmeg & Clove via TODAY
Leo's Flip by Nutmeg & Clove. — Picture courtesy of Photo:Nutmeg & Clove via TODAY

The drink, Leo’s Flip, has strong, fruity notes that come from homemade pineapple puree. The drink is rum-based, and also includes honey liqueur and amaretto, as well as fresh pineapple juice, cinnamon sticks and cloves. The cocktail also contains egg yolk, fresh pineapple juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and pineapple jam.

It is served in a coffee cup. And expect quite the experience at the pop-up bar, where Lee will be doing something special where presentation is concerned. “I’ll be bringing in a lot of props to create a whole experience around the drink,” she said.

Newcomer Crackerjack, launched by the team behind 28 Hong Kong Street, makes an entry with a cocktail called Kopi Ol’ Fashioned. The two-month old establishment, represented in this competition by bartenders Peter Chua, 28, and Australian-born Zachary de Git, 27, uses a homemade coffee syrup in its Cognac and rum-based drink, which also packs extra punch with Benedictine Dom.

In an ode to the humble kopi, “we serve the drink in a da bao (takeaway) plastic cup with plastic bag handles”, said Chua.

And, since a cup of kopi is often found served alongside a plate of kaya toast, those who sample the drink at the Festival Village will be given a brown paper bag containing that very Singaporean breakfast snack.

The bar manager of Mitzo Restaurant & Bar, Italian-born Marco Pignotta, 31, found himself drawing on classic Singapore spices for his creation.

His intention was to allow one to “taste the flavours of Singapore in one vessel”.

“Ultimate shiokness with the use of tangy ingredients,” he replied, when asked to describe his Shiok Collins, a gin-based cocktail with bitters that includes curry leaves, chilli padi and goji berry syrup.

Ivy Woo, 41, co-founder and director of the Singapore Cocktail Festival, said that organisers picked the top four based on criteria that ranged from originality to taste, and potential to win over both local and international crowds.

While each drink is creative and original, the flavours in each cocktail vying for the winning prizes are both “familiar and unique” and, thus, are a surprise to the palate, she said.

“We think everyone has done a great job in putting together a cocktail that represents Singapore,”
she said.

The winning drink will be decided “live” at the festival. The winner will be decided based on the most number of cocktails sold and the number of public votes by social media posts over three days.

The winning bar will be awarded S$5,000 worth of prizes. — TODAY

Singapore Cocktail Festival Village is open from March 16 until March 19, from 4pm to 10pm on Thursday and Friday, and noon to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.singaporecocktailfestival.com.

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