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So much to learn at cocktail festival

The Singapore Cocktail Festival taking place next month offers creative concoctions as well as masterclasses by some of the world's top bartenders

To cater to the modern, savvy cocktail drinker, the upcoming Singapore Cocktail Festival (SGCF) is stepping up the educational aspect of cocktail drinking by introducing masterclasses by some of the world's top bartenders.

The fifth edition of the festival, which started out as Singapore Cocktail Week in 2015, will take place from May 10 to 18. Activities will be centred on a festival village, which runs from May 10 to 12 at Empress Place.

According to the organisers, Food News Integrated Marketing Agency and The Events Artery, the village drew 8,000 visitors last year and they are expecting the same turnout this year.

Other than pop-up bars, a food street and live entertainment acts, the village will be hosting 50-minute masterclasses, called 50 Minutes With 50 Best, by bartenders from six of the world's top bars. They include American Bar at The Savoy in London (No. 2 on The World's 50 Best Bars 2018 list), Floreria Atlantico in Buenos Aires (No. 14 on The World's 50 Best Bars 2018 list) and The Pontiac in Hong Kong (No. 31 on Asia's 50 Best Bars 2018 list).

While masterclasses have been held in previous years, this will be the first time the festival is partnering The World's 50 Best organisation for the 50 Minutes With 50 Best sessions.

Ms Ivy Woo, 43, co-founder of SGCF, says: "Consumers' needs have definitely evolved... Four years ago, the festival's aim was to spotlight the city's cocktail culture, but today, Singapore has successfully earned its place as the cocktail capital of Asia."

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE COCKTAIL FESTIVAL 2019 FESTIVAL VILLAGE

    WHERE: Empress Lawn, 10 Empress Place

    WHEN: May 10 to 12, 4 to 11pm

    ADMISSION: From $35 for a Day Pass (includes one-day Festival Village entry and one welcome drink) to $50 for a Jumbo Pass (includes three-day Festival Village entry, one welcome drink and four sampling shots at the Artisanal Spirits room); party packs for groups of four or more are also available via www.singaporecocktailfestival.com

It is a sentiment shared by Mr William Drew, 47, director of content for Asia's 50 Best Bars: "There's an eager and growing audience of increasingly discerning drinkers in Singapore and the region who are keen to take their interest in drinks to the next level, especially with the booming regional cocktail scene."

At the masterclasses, which can cater for 20 to 30 people a session, the bartenders will present the recipes and stories behind their signature cocktails and a theme that is close to their hearts. They will also demonstrate how to make two drinks and field questions from the audience.

For instance, American Bar's new head bartender Maxim Schulte, 28, will share how music has had a major influence on the historic bar, while demonstrating two cocktails from its new menu, named The Savoy Songbook.

"The gin, yuzu wine and Creme de Menthe-based Sun Sun Sun is inspired by The Beatles song Here Comes The Sun, and the ingredients reflect the change of seasons from winter to spring," Mr Schulte tells The Sunday Times in an e-mail interview.

Meanwhile, The Pontiac's owner, Ms Beckaly Franks, 34, will be talking about creating original and highly drinkable craft cocktails in the high-volume environment of a dive bar.

"The Pontiac is a very small venue and we don't have a kitchen, so we focus on what I call 'back bar and terroir' - that is, what is already in the bottle and how we can introduce that to the guest in an accessible yet entertaining way," she says.

For Mr Renato Giovannoni, 45, of Floreria Atlantico, the drinks he will present highlight Argentinian ingredients.

"The bar is inspired by heritage and immigration, and the Balestrini negroni I will be making represents Italians and the way they assimilated into Argentinian culture. Hence, the drink includes pine nuts and seawater from the town Carilo. My mother sends me (the seawater) in containers regularly."

Limited tickets at $90 for the masterclasses are available via sgcf2019.hungrygowhere.com and include single-day entry to the festival village, a welcome drink and a cocktail shaker set.

There are also giveaways on SGCF's Facebook and Instagram (@SGCocktailFest) pages.

Other than patronising pop-up bars at the festival village by the likes of local bars such as IB HQ, Cook & Tras Social Library and Brass Lion Distillery, visitors can also sample signature cocktails at $12 each.These will be served up by bartenders from Shanghai's Sober Company, Kuala Lumpur's JungleBird, Oslo's Himkok as well as home-grown names such as Atlas and Jigger & Pony.

During the festival, there will be guest shifts by international bartenders at bars across town. For instance, star bartender Simone Caporale from Seoul's Marque d'Amour will be making drinks at Skai Bar at Swissotel The Stamford on May 13.

Themed bar tours ($98) - each will hit four bars - will also be running across the festival period.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'So much to learn at cocktail festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe