SINGAPORE - A former police station serves as the unlikely setting for the festival village at the first edition of the Singapore Cocktail Festival.
While the festival runs from Thursday to March 21 across the island, a 5,000 sq m village located at the old Beach Road Police Station will run from Thursday to next Sunday.
It will host nine themed cocktail rooms, pop-up food stalls and entertainment by DJs from club Ce La Vi. Cocktails will be on sale at $12. In a sign reflecting the growing sophistication of Singapore’s cocktail scene, about 45 bars are participating in the entire festival by playing host to bar tours, masterclasses and guest shifts by some of the top bartenders in the region and beyond. There will also be promotions, one-off cocktails and discounts at the bars.
What started off in 2015, as an eight-day-long cocktail week spread across bars around the island, is being consolidated into a free festival village for the first time this year.
While last year’s edition of Singapore Cocktail Week drew about 4,000 visitors across 200 events and 60 participating bars and restaurants, co-founder Ivy Woo, 41, says the organisers were “encouraged by the support to launch a Festival Village that allows consumers to immerse in a world of cocktails surrounded by music, art and food”.
They are expecting 15,000 visitors to the entire festival.
FESTIVAL VILLAGE, SINGAPORE COCKTAIL FESTIVAL 2017
WHERE: 99 Beach Road (next to Shaw Towers)
WHEN: 4 to 10pm (Thursday and Friday), noon to 10pm (Saturday and March 19)
Stirring in the weird and wonderful
London mixologist Matt Whiley, 37, is a tastemaker back home, having co-founded award-winning bars Peg + Patriot, Purl, Worship Street Whistling Shop and Dach & Sons.
He may have come from a centuries- old cocktail culture, but he is glowing in his assessment of Singapore’s young scene and its prospects.
GUEST BARTENDER SHIFT / MATT WHILEY OF PEG + PATRIOT (LONDON)
WHERE: Smoke & Mirrors, 06-01 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Road
WHEN: Saturday, 8 to 10pm
LIKE MINDED CREATURES
WHAT: A Pop-up Party by Alex Kratena of P(our), Matt Whiley of Peg+ Patriot and Luke Whearty of Operation Dagger, where each bartender will showcase one bottled cocktail, one freestyle cocktail and one short serve (shot). The three will also curate a list of wines and beers.
WHERE: Operation Dagger, B1-01, 7 Ann Siang Hill
WHEN: March 20, 7 to 9pm
“I can see that Singapore is really pushing forward with the cocktail game and, with the great scene here, I think it is also pushing the rest of Asia and the world,” he says. He will be in town next weekend for the Singapore Cocktail Festival. It is his first time here.
Peg + Patriot is known for in-house distillates made with an advanced laboratory tool, a rotary evaporator. One of his current menu items, called Jam Tart, uses a distillate made of shortbread.
“I like looking at ingredients individually and working out what they actually taste like,” he says.
His next venture, Scout, is due to open in London next month and will champion British produce and “living off the land”.
“We will be using produce when it is at the height of its season, but we will also be fermenting and preserving produce as it goes out of season,” he says.
Some of the weird and wonderful ingredients he will be bringing for his guest shifts in Singapore include foraged British medlar berries, parsley seeds and caramelised white chocolate bourbon.
“The aim is to make a tasty drink. I love it when guests think something won’t work, but still try it and find that they actually love it.”
Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail
The search is on for a cocktail that can be the next Singapore Sling. Visitors can taste four shortlisted cocktails– Kopi Ol’ Fashioned by Crackerjack, Shiok Collins by Mitzo Bar&Restaurant, Lion City Sour by 28 Hong Kong Street and Leo’s Flip by Nutmeg & Clove– before voting for the winner, who will be announced next Sunday.
Nine themed cocktail rooms
Forage for ingredients in a vertical garden in the Snow Leopard Room by Snow Leopard vodka to make your own cocktail with bartenders from Red Tail and Native.
The Artisanal Spirits Room offers tasting portions of handcrafted spirits from around Asia such as Nusa Cana white rum from Bali. A $19 tasting card can be used for four 15ml shots.
There is also the Cuts & Booze room, inspired by local barbershops and hair salons, where men can sit down for a trim or shave while having a cocktail. The 1980s-inspired Disco Fitness room with exercise equipment and aerobic videos will be serving up colourful cocktails.
Food priced at $10 to $15 will be available from eateries such as &Sons, Chef’s Table by Chef Stephan Zoisl, Dapper Coffee, IZY Dining & Bar, Ninja Bowl, Ninja Cut, The Disgruntled Brasserie and Tiger’s Milk.
Tours that can take up to 15 people at a time are priced at $98 each with stops at four bars. There will be nine themed tours which will run across all six days.
Gin-centric Gin There Done That, on Thursday, Saturday and March 20, is a four-hour-long tour that will make stops at Cin Cin,The Library, Kuvo and The Other Room.
For whisky lovers, Whisky Business on Friday, March 20 and 21 will stop at Bar Stories, La Maison Du Whisky, The Wall and B28.
Visit the newest entries to Singapore’s burgeoning bar scene with New Kids On The Block on Thursday, Saturday and March 21. Stops will be at Fat Prince, Crackerjack, Native and Red Tail.
To book tours, go to singaporecocktailfestival.com. You can also book up to two hours before the tours at the Festival Village.
Guest bartending shifts
Guest bartenders from around the world will be making a stop in Singapore for bar takeovers. Among the highlights are Alex Kratena, former head bartender at Artesian in London, who will be going behind the stick at The Library (Friday) and the new Atlas (Saturday). Tokyo’s Bar Benfiddich, Bangkok’s Q&A, Taipei’s Woo Taipei, Hong Kong’s The Pontiac, Manila’s ABV and Seoul’s Alice will also have representatives across bars.
Masterclasses and workshops
There are about 20 masterclasses and workshops happening over the course of the festival,where you can discover new spirits and try cocktail and food pairings alongside picking up bartending techniques. Learn quick hacks for the perfect house party ($75) at Pyxiemoss on Saturday with easy-to-prep cocktails and homemade canapes.
Alternatively, join the founders of Maracatu Cachaca from Brazil to learn the history behind the spirit, try different varieties of cachaca and make your own caipirinha. The masterclass ($46) is on Friday at Fat Prince.