Smoke & Mirrors’ latest cocktail menu of 16 new cocktails, Illusion of Flavours, is the brainchild of its new head bartender Jorge Conde.
The latest cocktail menu at rooftop bar Smoke & Mirrors on National Gallery Singapore is not its first-ever menu refresh since it opened in 2015; former head bartender Yugnes Susela created its first-ever menu, and then proceeded to tweak it in 2016 and then overhauled in early 2018 with a progressive menu called ‘The Playful Eye’.
But its new menu this year sees the most meaningful change; it signifies the first menu driven by new head bartender Jorge Conde who took over the reins from Susela at the end of last year. The Galicia, Spain native joins Smoke & Mirrors with over a decade of bartending experience, and was most recently with Casa Poncho on Keong Saik Road and The Secret Door in Ibiza, Spain before that.
Conde’s new menu ‘Illusion of Flavours’ looks at reimagining classic cocktails but using the most modern cocktail making techniques while staying true to Smoke & Mirrors’ approach of challenging the minds and palates of drinkers originally set by his predecessor. “My goal was to focus on traditional flavour profiles but exploring new ways to create them,” Conde shares. “By using techniques such as distillation, preservation and fermentation, we are able to create unconventional combinations that will surprise and intrigue our guests.”
‘Illusion of Flavours’ comprises of 16 different cocktails divided into six categories, each of which will raise your eyebrow – in a good way – when you sip them. There’s the Le Paix (S$28++), a heavily botanical take on the classic French 75 using dog fennel redistilled in gin and then combined with sparkling wine and olive brine.
The eponymous signature Smoke & Mirrors #4 (S$28++) is as mysterious as it sounds. The black yet translucent tipple comprises of agave spirit redistilled with strawberry, another spirit infused with cacao, and vodka. Flavours are a combination of fruit, smoke, earth, and even a touch of salt and bitterness.
The art and science behind Illusion of Flavours
Indeed the rotary evaporator looks to be a favourite toy of Conde’s – like many bartenders in cutting-edge bars like IB HQ and The Old Man – and used liberally to add unique (and sometimes unusual) flavour into spirits to use in his cocktails.
But the rotovap, as it’s better known in the industry, isn’t the only modern technique Conde uses. Dali’s Self Portrait (S$28++), is inspired by the surrealist artist’s work ‘Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon’ – the bar’s located within a sprawling art gallery after all – and is a twist on the Manhattan that uses the technique of fat-washing to add the notes of bacon into whisky. There’s artichoke used in this too, and for some this herbal, savoury tribute can be a little bit over the top in concept and flavour.
Better balanced is the Peel and See (S$28++) – inspired by Andy Warhol’s iconic piece for The Velvet Underground – even if it uses a range of ingredients that sounds like they’re part of a particularly difficult challenge on a reality TV cooking show. We’ve never seen banana, miso, and olive oil used in the same sentence, much less used together in a dish or drink; here Conde integrates their flavours into a gin through a multi-step process of sous vide, dehydration and fat-washing, and then combines it with quinine aperitif.
Thankfully there are simpler drinks. The Just a Thai Spritz (S$22++) – Thai tea-infused vodka, preserved lemon, apricot brandy, Bianco vermouth and sparkling wine makes it both refreshing yet complex at the same time, while La Fumata Bianca (S$28++) – made with smoky raicilla, gentian liqueur, and a vermouth blend – is a Negroni at heart.
“I find that people often have preconceptions about how a drink will taste, and I wanted to challenge those expectations with our drinks,” Conde explains. “While the presentation may appear to be simple, the flavour profiles are quite complex and layered, evolving as you enjoy the drink.”
“As you may expect from the name, there is more than meets the eye.”
Smoke & Mirrors
Address 1 St. Andrew’s Road, #06-01 National Gallery Singapore, Singapore 178957(Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 3pm to 1am on Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays; 3pm to 2am on Fridays; 12pm to2am on Saturdays; 12pm to 1am on Sundays
Tel (65) 9380 6313