Gin and Jellyfish? You Might Be at a Bar in Singapore. | Viral Trending Updates

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Gin and Jellyfish? You Might Be at a Bar in Singapore. | Viral Trending Updates


In the cocktail world, Singapore almost inevitably evokes the pink, gin-based, grenadine-spiked Singapore Sling, a drink born in 1915 at the stylish Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. In those strait-laced colonial days, it was improper for women to imbibe in public, so a bartender formulated a cocktail that looked like fruit juice. Today, the creative minds at idiosyncratic bars across the city are putting the same spirit of ingenuity to work, driven by eco-consciousness and the island’s diverse heritage, and highlighting some unexpected ingredients. Here are six standout spots.

“The fun thing about gin is that the possibilities are endless,” said Atlas’s head bartender, Lidiyanah K, ticking off some of the many directions I could take: “Floral, citrus, spicy, herbaceous.” Gin, while defined by the flavor of juniper, is hardly homogeneous. And if ever there was a place to learn about the diversity of gins produced with local botanicals, Atlas is it. Yes, it’s in the lobby of Parkview Square, a grand Art Deco-style office building that houses several embassies, but calling it a lobby bar feels a bit like calling the Beatles a rock ’n’ roll band or Georges Seurat a landscape painter. Think of it as a gin museum: It offers more than 1,300 varieties of the spirit, many displayed in a soaring, 26-foot gilt tower. The collection includes a veritable archive of historic bottles, pulled from one of the tower’s high shelves when someone orders a selection from the “vintage martini” section. You can choose your own gin from any decade of the 20th century (60 to 275 Singapore dollars, or about $45 to $205).

The Gilded Age-inspired space also features a room with an epic Champagne collection. Renovated in 2017 as a paean to early-20th-century Manhattan, it has tufted-leather furniture, vaulted ceilings with Art Nouveau-style paintings, and grand Cleopatra- and King Tut-themed murals.

“Why are we even eating caviar? Why can’t we just leave sturgeon alone?” asked Sasha Wijidessa as she spooned a dollop of vegan black-garlic caviar onto a block of kombu ice cream floating in a vodka mix in a martini glass. She instructed me to let the ice cream melt so it formed a cap. Its umami essence permeated the drink.

Over the course of the night, she also prepared a Jellyfish Martini (gin infused with jellyfish; distillate of fish leaf, a peppery local plant; spirulina-infused dry vermouth; and oil infused with roasted kelp: 25 dollars) and the So You Bought Sad Corn (25 dollars), a Scotch-based drink sweetened with corn-vinegar caramel.

Fura, a narrow, minimalist bar on the second floor of a colonial-style shophouse, is owned and run by Miss Wijidessa and her partner in business and life, Christina Rasmussen, the former head forager at Noma. The drinks and dishes they offer (they call it future food) border on the surreal, and their mission is to provide a glimpse of how consumption might look if it focused on creating balance in the ecosystem. As such, they make clever use of sustainable crops like tonka beans and overabundant species like jellyfish. Yes, the owners will be happy to tell you all about lacto-fermentation and the vegan custards and meringue used in their fanciful recipes if you ask, but they are also resolute in their promise that this is a bar, not a lecture hall.


The setting of Analogue Initiative at Chijmes, an eggshell white former 19th-century convent and girls’ school, belies the futuristic mind-set of the bar, where everything is plant-based, even some of the furniture. (The tables are made of mycelium, the threadlike tissue of mushrooms, bound with wood chips and molded into shape.) The colossal, wraparound undulating aquamarine bar evokes ocean waves. It was 3-D printed using more than 3,500 pounds of recycled plastic.

The earth’s ecological future inspired Vijay Mudaliar, a co-owner, to create a menu that tries to answer a question similar to the one posed at Fura: What if overfarming and climate change wiped out certain crops and foods? To that end, most drinks involve an analogue (wink, wink) of a familiar ingredient. Aside from local yuzu, for instance, kombuchas, vinegars and distillates stand in for fresh citrus. The Faux Espresso (26 dollars) relied on toasted chicory, toasted barley and carob. (Coffee is among the most overfarmed crops, Mr. Mudaliar said.) Coconut nectar, not sugar, provided the sweetness (sugar cane is also overfarmed), and whisked aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, took the place of dairy foam. And one giddy absurdist drama of a cocktail (26 dollars) whose name contains an expletive poking fun at the fine-dining world’s obsession with luxury, vaguely resembled a Bellini — a mixture of peach-infused gin, grape juice fermented with Champagne yeast, and a species of seaweed that’s musky and vaguely truffle-tasting, crowned with “caviar” made of seaweed pearls. It was as delicious as it was silly.


On a fittingly steamy evening, Adrian Besa, the bar manager at Jungle Ballroom, was telling me about his recent visit to a remote Cambodian distillery that makes gin using the herbs and botanicals grown on an electricity-free biodynamic farm. He grabbed a bottle off a high shelf and offered me a whiff; it smelled fresh and vegetal — only vaguely piney. Cambodia is just one Southeast Asian country whose flavors take center stage at Jungle Ballroom, a glitzy spot that assumes a D.J.-driven, clubby vibe later in the night. Mr. Besa also poured me tastes of musky-sweet coconut wine from the Philippines; fragrant, tangy Sri Lankan arrack, distilled from coconut sap; craft gins from China, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore; and fruity, butter-pastry-scented pineapple-tart Soju from the local distillery Compendium Spirits.

Mr. Besa has devised a menu that represents different layers of a jungle: Canopy, which features bright, fruity, zingy drinks and various nut ingredients; Understorey, which encompasses various fizzes and spiced or tangy cocktails, like my favorite, the Shrub (26 dollars), a zesty mix of Indian gin steeped with fresh and slightly nutty pandan leaves, vermouth, and a housemade, vinegary pear shrub; and Forest Floor, where drinks with rich fruit and dense, piquant herbal flavors and fragrances reign. It was a multisensory free fall, and I didn’t want it to end.


When Yugnes Susela was growing up in Singapore, his family would have chicken curry for dinner almost every Sunday — sometimes accompanied by a nip of whisky. It wasn’t too much of a stretch, then, for Mr. Susela, a founder of the Elephant Room, to combine whisky and curry in a glass. The Chicken Curry (27 dollars), the bar’s savory riff on an old-fashioned, topped with a strip of fried chicken skin, might sound bizarre — satirical, even — but to Mr. Susela, it made perfect sense.

“If the end product looks good, tastes great and smells great, it’s a cocktail,” he said as he took a bottle of fenugreek-infused tequila out of an apothecary-style cabinet displaying jars and bottles containing herbs, spices or twigs steeping in liquids. He poured a few drops of the tequila, and the almondy, earthy, ever-so-slightly-maple aromas rang out with the clarity of a crystal bell. It was the signature ingredient in the Goan Rabbit (25 dollars), a subcontinental variation on the margarita. Indian spices also played starring roles in Ramu’s Fizz (25 dollars), a twist on the classic Ramos gin fizz, a citrusy drink with a meringue-like texture that comes from egg whites, cream and a great deal of shaking. In Mr. Susela’s version, it was jazzed up with cumin-infused gin, ginger syrup and spiced cream. And the house mangosteen-strawberry cordial provided the Wild and Fresh (27 dollars), a spin on the familiar Negroni, with a salty-sour dimension.


The neon sign behind the bar at Sago House reads, “Don’t try,” but that’s not to suggest you give up and drink your life away. It’s the epitaph of the writer Charles Bukowski (as the bar manager, Naz Zurimi, explained, it’s a command to be true to yourself — no pretense allowed). No surprise, then, that the bar’s easygoing vibe feels like hanging out at a longtime friend’s apartment — and not just because staff members write your name in chalk on the bar or tabletop when you arrive, as if they were saving you your regular seat.

In October, Sago House relocated to a roomy street-level location, a drastic change from the compact, third-story space where it debuted in 2020. But it lost none of its cozy charm. The three owners, local industry veterans, applied their original D.I.Y. approach to the new space, which features shelves made of wine crates and sewing machine tables used as furniture. The six-drink menu (starting at 24 dollars), which is posted on the bar’s Instagram account, changes weekly, but always offers different versions of the same classic cocktail styles: an old-fashioned, a highball, a sour, a tropical cocktail, a daisy, and a martini or a Manhattan.


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