The cocktail bar component at Origin Grill & Bar in Shangri-la Hotel takes drinkers on a cocktail deep dive of the bountiful spices and fruits that made the Far East even as it explores Singapore’s own illustrious history of trade.
Putting together a cocktail menu leveraging on local ingredients and inspirations can get incredibly cliché, but a couple of bars in Singapore have done that pretty well without turning the experience into a history lecture or a botanical lesson. Nutmeg & Clove, for example, recently unveiled a menu that tapped the illustrations of the flora in the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings for inspiration.
Origin Bar explores a similar track. Bar manager Adam Bursik – cocktail hounds will remember the gentle Slovak giant previously from Nutmeg & Clove and the now-defunct The Library – has put together a drinks list that gives a glimpse of Singapore through history. You’ll find drinks inspired by five different districts in the country; each cocktail will capture gastronomic, cultural and historical anecdotes of the district that inspires it.
Origin Bar’s namesake cocktail Origin ($22++), for example, is a tribute to Orchard Road’s history – it was fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations, and pepper farms all over in the early 1830s until those gave way to development. The drink itself is gin-based, and incorporates nutmeg, pepper, charred pineapple, and wine made from lime husks.
Otherwise there’s Leaf the Curry (S$23++) in the Little India section, a powerfully aromatic rum-based drink that’s concocted with curry leaves, cardamom, and tamarind for a spicy kick.
Those who enjoy their aperitifs should desire to turn to the Buona Vista (S$23++) in the Boat Quay section. Boat Quay was, of course, where every one landed when they first came to Singapore, but interestingly for history buffs, Buona Vista was where the first Italian immigrants settled. And true to its Italian roots, this cocktail is delicate and bittersweet from notes of coffee, fig, distilled hazelnut, chocolate, and Campari, and perfect for a tipple before the evening repast.
For those who prefer something more fruit-forward there’s the Safari Tea (S$22++) – made of jackfruit marmalade, bamboo, and osmanthus fortified wine, citrus, and Monkey Shoulder whisky – from the Chinatown section.
We’re baffled by The Pearl (S$26++) though. Listed in the Marina Bay district section, this “experimental” drink comes in a shell-like ceramic globe and is made with silken tofu. Indeed it has the texture of the local favourite soybean drink, but also incorporates floral elderflower and briny sea grapes for a confused form of complexity. But we suppose Marina Bay, with its frenzied development that sees a confluence of old and new, has that kind of strange allure.
Our friends at Parched Asia think the classics at Origin Bar are great too.
We hesitate to say this, but while these inspired cocktails have fabulous stories behind them – and some even taste pretty good – it’s the classics here that we heartily recommend. We tasted the Sazerac (S$22++), Vesper Martini (S$22++), as well as the Martinez (S$23++), all of which are spirit-forward, punchy with flavour, and full of pizzazz. And in case you get pally enough with Bursik, ask him for the off-menu Crystal Russian – his clear take on the White Russian/Black Russian is subliminal.
Classic or original though, Origin Bar is unlikely to disappoint.
Address Lobby Level, Tower Wing, 22 Orange Grove Rd, Singapore 258350 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5pm to 1am Sundays to Wednesdays, 5pm to 2am Fridays and Saturdays
Tel (65) 6213 4595