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Gin journey around the world

Atlas Grand Lobby & Bar at Parkview Square wants to be a centre of learning about the spirit

The newly opened Atlas Grand Lobby & Bar at Parkview Square hopes to be a physical encyclopaedia of gins.

It is hard to miss the imposing, ceiling-high gin tower that is the centrepiece of the resplendent 124-seat, Art Deco bar straight out of the 1920s. It holds 950 types of gin and, by the time the bar officially opens on Saturday, it will have a collection of 1,000 bottles.

Current bottles include standard London dry gins to harder-to-procure labels such as one from Bolivia, distilled with botanicals from the Andes, and a mezcal gin from Oaxaca in Mexico.

The bar's "master of gin" Jason Williams, 33, says: "The Juniper Society aims to be a centre of excellence and learning for gin and juniper-based spirits."

The Atlas team has been sourcing for the best gins for more than a year, since the bar was first mooted two years ago. It took over the space formerly occupied by wine bar Divine and underwent extensive renovation work in August last year for an undisclosed amount.

Both bars are operated by the building's owners, the Hong Kong- based Parkview Group run by the Hwang family.

The gins are listed in a tome that has 1,500 items, including Atlas' collection of premium champagnes and other spirits. There are also plans to set up an online reference tool, listing the gins according to the alcohol by volume, key botanicals and who distils it.

"It'll hopefully be the go-to reference for gins," says Mr Williams, who is Australian.

Other than the extensive catalogue, the Atlas team also hopes to spread the word on quality gin through education and a programme of events that will happen every few months.

The staff can take customers up the gin tower to pick out a bottle they fancy. Like the opulent, five-star European hotel bars of the 1920s and 1930s, Atlas chose to highlight gin because it was frequently featured in cocktail lexicons from the era, such as The Savoy cocktail book (1930) from The Savoy Hotel in London or The Artistry Of Mixing Drinks (1934).

"These are legendary books that bartenders treasure and a higher proportion of the cocktails from this period used gin as the base spirit, so we took some inspiration from that," says Mr Williams.

"Gin is also the quintessential cocktail spirit. A lot of whiskies are consumed neat, on ice or in mixers, while rum is consumed neat or goes into fruity tropical cocktails. But gins go in all drinks, whether it's a stirred drink like a martini or a tall, refreshing one like a Tom Collins."

The bar programme is headed by Mr Roman Foltan, 26, formerly from the award-winning Artesian at The Langham in London.

Cocktails start at $22. The signature Atlas martini ($24) is made with London dry gin, a sweeter bianco vermouth instead of a dry vermouth, orange bitters and a touch of champagne vinegar for acidity.

The bar in North Bridge Road officially opens on Saturday, but it is already operating as an all-day bar and serves lunch, high tea and bar snacks.

While the fancy decor and wait staff in smart, white jackets might seem intimidating, Mr Foltan maintains that, as an all-day concept, "we want to be relaxed and cheeky as well". But that does not mean sloppy service. "Whether you have champagne, martini or a beer, you're going to get a high standard of service."

  • Atlas Grand Lobby & Bar is at 600 North Bridge Road, open: 8 to 1am (Mondays to Thursdays); 8 to 2am (Fridays); and 3pm to 2am (Saturdays).

MEZCAL

Mezcal, a spirit made from the heart of the agave plant, was once dismissed as the poor man's liquor. But it has since seen a rise in popularity and is the spirit du jour at Junior at Crackerjack and Super Loco Customs House.

Mexican restaurant Super Loco Customs House in Collyer Quay carries only agave-forward spirits, with 80 artisanal tequila, mezcal and raicilla (which is similar to tequila) options. It also uses only organic agave nectar instead of sugar in its cocktails.

The cocktail list has nine signature margaritas (from $15 each).

From the third quarter of the year, the restaurant also plans to offer Agave Spirit Master Classes for guests to sample tequila and mezcal to discover their flavour profiles, as well as learn about production methods. Classes for groups of eight to 10 start at $90+ a person.

Junior, a pocket bar hidden in the recesses of all-day bar, coffee joint and diner Crackerjack in Tanjong Pagar Road, will explore different themes of spirits or cocktail styles twice a year.

The first edition, called Norma, will present mezcal, tequila, raicilla and agave-based cocktails.

The space is open to anyone who wants to learn about the spirits from head bartenders Zachary De Git and Peter Chua, who were inspired by a recent trip to Mexico.


WHISKY

Making whisky accessible to everyone is the aim of The Wall in Tanjong Pagar Road.

Here, you find one of the largest non-private collections of Yamazaki 18 Year Old, along with rare Karuizawa, Hibiki and every bottling of Glenfarclas since 1952.

But for all the rare whiskies, it also offers drams starting at $14.

The East Meets West Whisky Flight ($37), which highlights one dram each of whiskies from Scotland, Sweden, Japan and Taiwan, for instance, is a great way to get acquainted with them. An additional $12 includes a sumiyaki pairing.

Independent bottlings also get their place, with prices ranging from $200 to $800 a bottle.

On the first floor of the two-storey shophouse is a relaxed, 10-seater bar, where you can get whisky-forward cocktails by head bartender Jeremie Tan. The second floor houses plush seating for a more VIP experience, where guests can enjoy rare whiskies that can be purchased in-house.

There is also a cellar of exclusive wines, including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, and a hidden private room where the owners host guests.

Meanwhile, Quaich Bar at South Beach offers a staggering range of more than 500 whiskies by the glass. They include everything from rare bottlings such as Kilkerran single malt to up-and-coming names such as Indian whisky, Paul John.


RUM

From Jamaica to Haiti and Guyana to India, more than 150 rums, French-style Rhums and Spanish-style Rons can be found at Bago in Carribean restaurant Lime House.

The bar, housed on the second floor of the Jiak Chuan street establishment, offers rum by the glass, starting at $14, including those by Diplomatico (from Venezuela), Caroni (Trinidad) and Appleton Esate (Jamaica).

Rum-based cocktails, including the classic daiquiri, Dark 'n' Stormy and mojito, are also available from $18 to $22.

Sugarhall in Amoy Street offers rum experiences via flights, ranging from $26 to $57. For instance, the Conquistador flight features elegant, Spanish-style sipping rums, namely Ron Zacapa XO, Diplomatico Ambassador and Brugal 1888. Each flight comprises three 20ml pours.

For bigger groups, the bar also serves punch bowls at $220 each. These are enough for 15 to 20 people.

The Hurrican Punch, for instance, is a classic New Orleans recipe made with Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, Cana Brava Rum, passionfruit, lime, grenadine, bitters and soda.


GIN

If gin is your spirit of choice, Cin Cin at the lobby of Oasia Hotel Downtown Singapore has more than 100 bottles of it and offers 500 ways to customise the drink.

You can build your own gin and tonic or martini with the variety of gins, tonics and vermouths available, or ask bartender Fadly Sujebto for a recommendation.

The 75-seat bar carries recognisable gins such as the range from Tanqueray, as well as boutique ones such as Iron Balls from Thailand.

It is the only bar to carry Hel Sin Gin by Finland's Paradise City Beverage Company and Kyro Distillery Company.

Another hotel lobby bar, Tonic at the recently opened JW Marriott Hotel Singapore, houses more than 50 gins (above) and exclusively offers East Imperial tonic and soda to mix them with.

The beverage menu comes with recommendations on what flavour tonic (including Yuzu, Grapefruit, Old World and Burma) works best with the selected gin.

Correction note: This story has been edited to update the opening hours of Atlas Grand Lobby & Bar.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Gin journey around the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe