There’s never been a better time to be a cocktail aficionado – especially in Singapore, where the mixology scene has really grown in the past eight years. Unlike some of our regional neighbours, we’re able to get our hands on all kinds of produce and products, which has led bartenders to become incredibly innovative.
This rise in creativity complements the sustainability trend where bartenders are constantly challenged to think of new ways to minimise their food waste. A great spot to see this in action is Native on Amoy Street, helmed by Vijay Mudaliar. Not only do they use modern techniques, they find multiple uses for ingredients and have achieved a goal of just 100g of waste per night.
~52L: Amount of water needed to produce a single orange, according to the Value of Water Research Report in 2010.
We’re also seeing more bars using local produce. For instance, in Bangkok, they’re doing cool things like redistilling water beetles into new spirits, while in Singapore, regular sugar and molasses is being replaced by gula melaka (palm sugar). This approach is great as it amplifies the farm-to-fork aspect, reduces carbon footprints and highlights each city’s market-fresh ingredients, giving customers a different drinking experience wherever they are.
On the technique front, there are so many new approaches being utilised to extract new flavours. One style that is getting the limelight right now is rotavaping, where a rotary evaporator is used to redistill new flavours. For instance, you can infuse a neutral grain spirit with a distillate of chocolate, so the spirit now contains those chocolate flavours. The leftover chocolate is then turned into a garnish or secondary ingredient.
Another technique is clarification, where a centrifuge is employed to clarify freshly made juices so they last longer and attain a lighter, thinner texture. You end up with a cocktail that’s cleaner and more refreshing.
The industry is naturally evolving, but these innovations are also happening in response to the growing customer demands. People want an experience when they go out. A standard food and drinks menu just won’t cut it anymore – you have to give them something that they’ll remember. This means that bars have to build a compelling storyline – from the music to the style of service and even the glassware. It really has to be a whole package.
“A standard food and drinks menu just won’t cut it anymore”
At Junior, we change the theme every six months, and so far we’ve done four concepts: a focus on agave liquors, cocktails from New Orleans, a tiki bar and, most recently, a ’70s alpine ski lodge. While the physical change takes us just three days, the full concept takes us three months.
Our challenge doesn’t stop at coming up with a strong storyline; you have to be able to condense it into a one-liner – because if you can’t tell customers what it is in a sentence, then you don’t have a clear idea of your overall concept.
Illustrations by Stuart Patience
This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine