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Shaking up Singapore's cocktail scene

Asia's 50 Best Bars will hold its first ceremony in Singapore and the Singapore Cocktail Festival returns with a festival village

Singapore's flourishing cocktail scene continues to shake itself up - the first edition of the Asia's 50 Best Bars awards ceremony will be held here. And Singapore Cocktail Festival will also return this week.

The awards ceremony, an invite-only event, will name the top bars in Asia. It will be held on Thursday at Capitol Theatre.

The cocktail festival runs from Friday to May 13 at various bars around Singapore, as well as in a purpose-built festival village at Empress Lawn from Friday to May 6.

The Asia's 50 Best Bars list has been published annually since 2016 and takes into consideration votes from more than 200 industry leaders across Asia's bar sector.

But this is the first time it will have an awards ceremony attended by the region's top bartenders, bar owners and industry figures.

Singapore was the natural choice to host it as it is "home to one of the most exciting bar scenes in the world", says Mr William Drew, 46, group editor of the 50 Best brand, which also publishes other lists including World's 50 Best Restaurants, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants and World's 50 Best Bars.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE COCKTAIL FESTIVAL 2018 FESTIVAL VILLAGE

  • WHERE: Empress Lawn, 10 Empress Place

    WHEN: Friday to May 6: 4pm to 1am (Friday and Saturday); 4 to 11pm (May 6)

    ADMISSION: $28 (one-day entry with three-piece SGCF cocktail shaker set and cocktail passport), $50 (three-day entry with three-piece Singapore Cocktail Festival cocktail shaker set, cocktail passport, onecomplimentary cocktail and one tasting card for the Artisanal Spirits Tasting Room) via www.singaporecocktailfestival.com

Last year, Singapore had a strong showing on the prestigious list with 13 entries, and The Regent Singapore's Manhattan snagging the No. 1 spot.

"The cocktail scene in Asia is now not just catching up, but also challenging that of traditional major cocktail destinations in Europe and the United States," says Mr Drew.

"Bartenders in Asia are providing elevated cocktail experiences by introducing local flavours, foraging for local ingredients and even through the use of its own state-of-the-art techniques and equipment in various aspects of cocktail-making."

Over at the Singapore Cocktail Festival, consumers will get to experience Asia's world-class bar experiences and distinctive cocktail culture at Empress Lawn in front of Victoria Concert Hall. There will be pop-up versions of bars from Singapore, Thailand, India, China and more.

Signature and festival-exclusive cocktails will also be on sale at $12 a pop by home-grown names such as Native, Operation Dagger and Nutmeg & Clove, which will have booths set up alongside the likes of Bangkok's The Bamboo Bar and Manila's The Curator.

What started off as Singapore Cocktail Week in 2015 has grown into the Singapore Cocktail Festival, with organisers Food News Integrated Marketing Agency and The Events Artery exploring a festival village in Beach Road for the first time last year.

The village drew 14,000 visitors over four days. This year, the organisers are expecting more than 8,000 over three days.

Visitors to the village can also expect experiential spaces including a giant cage by whisky brand Monkey Shoulder and a botanical garden by Hendrick's gin as well as the Artisanal Spirits Tasting Room where, for $19, visitors get four tasting shots of handcrafted spirits from around Asia. There will be a silent disco and music by Ce La Vi's stable of DJs.

Festival village tickets start at $28 for one-day entry to $50 for three-day entry, which includes a three-piece cocktail set (comprising a shaker, strainer and jigger) and a "cocktail passport" that entitles the holder to discounts on 45 signature cocktails in participating bars around the city over the 10 days.

Among them is Caffe Fernet at Customs House, which serves Italian food and cocktails. It is offering a free-flow Aperol Spritz package ($45++) all day on Saturday until 2am and will offer a dark chocolate negroni throughout the festival period.

There are also bars running guest shifts by foreign bars and international bartenders.

For example, Origin bar at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is hosting Oslo's Himkok Bar.

The Norwegian bar champions local produce and Nordic flavours and will be serving cocktails at $23++ each.

"We want to showcase a few of our ingredients in Singapore such as a Campari that is infused with cloudberries - a berry that can be found only in Nordic countries - as well as Kraftkar blue cheese, which is a Norwegian cheese produced in Tingvoll and awarded the best cheese in the world four times," says head bartender Maros Dzurus, 30, who will be here along with senior bartender Thomas Stenback, 29.

"Himkok is also a distillery that produces aquavit (a Scandinavian flavoured spirit), gin and vodka, so we also want to introduce Singapore to our spirits," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'Shaking up the cocktail scene'. Print Edition | Subscribe