From 4 to 13 May 2018, I attended Singapore cocktail festival and even organized my first two events in the cocktail world. Below are my highlights of the festival, which this year lasted a staggering 10 days! It was the most event-filled cocktail fest yet, with Asia's 50 Best Bars kicking everything off May 3.
Asia's 50 Best Bars
Asia's 50 best bars at Capitol Theater was the hardest ticket in town. I was amazed with how well organized the event was, with everything running very smoothly. Props to Ivy Woo and her colleagues for making all the guests feel like VIPs as they entered. A slightly smaller gathering than W50BB in London, it was still a very energetic event, with all the top industry people joining together to celebrate the best bars in Asia.
I was happy to see Manhattan claim top prize and my other favorite Singapore bars placing well (Atlas 4th, Tippling Club 7th, Native 8th, 28 HKS 12th, Operation Dagger 19th, Gibson 22nd, EO 23rd, D.Bespoke 32nd, Nutmeg and Clove 33rd, Jigger and Pony 42nd, The Other Room 50th).
Martin Hudak at Ritz Carlton
Martin Hudak World Champion Coffee in Good Spirit and formerly of The American Bars served some delicious coffee-based cocktails at the Ritz Carlton during their luxurious brunch. I was able to sample all the drinks with my favorite being "In The End of The World" with blended scotch, fernet, coffee liqueur, lime and orgeat syrup. I was blown away with Martin's skill at engaging with his customers - he is surely one of the most charismatic bartenders I've met.
Diego Ferrari of Rotonda Bistrot at Caffe Fernet
Caffe Fernet is a new Jigger and Pony project which focuses on Italian-inspired dishes and favourite Italian cocktails. On May 9, Diego Ferrari of Rotonda Bistrò Milano and Cocktail Art held an afternoon master class on the Italian culture of drinking, which was very well attended by both trade and consumers alike. The highlight of the event was at the end, when Diego and Caffe Fernet bartender Cherrie handed out Italian espresso to all the guests, asking them to "correct" their coffees with a grappa, amaro or liqueur from one of the sponsors. Since representatives from Pallini, Marzadro, Castagner, Luxardo and Cocchi were in attendance, it was a nice opportunity for the participants to ask questions directly to the producers. Later that evening, Diego had his guest shift “A Negroni Affair with Diego Ferrari", where he presented 5 different Negroni-style cocktails using the ingredients provided by the sponsors.
Seedlip guest shift at Proof Flat
The spirit making the most waves in the cocktail world these days turns out to have no alcohol in it. Seedlip was invented by Ben Branson, who explained during a master class at the Proof Flat the origin of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirit.
He was inspired by the 17th century book called The Art of Distillation, describing how both alcohol and non-alcohol remedies are made using distillation. This idea inspired him to set up a copper distil at home and experiment distilling stuff from his garden.
Seedlip's most popular spirit is "garden 108" with peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary and thyme, which works great with tonic water.
My favorite cocktail by Ben was the NoGroni featuring Seedlip Spice 94 (all spice, cardamom, oak, lemon, grapefruit, cascarilla) with no-alcohol Bitter Aperitif and Sweet Vermouth, which I sampled at his stand at Asia's 50 Best.
Fastest Hands in the East at 28 HongKong Street
The flagship event of SGCF is Fastest Hands in the East at 28 HongKong Street. In the wild and drunken competition, teams from different countries attempt to sell the most drinks to the lively crowd. China kicked ass this year, in part thanks one gentleman purchasing 100 drinks. Italy was my favorite team, using their version of "extreme mixing" to prepare a bloody mary style cocktail. Thanks to Dennis Zoppi for pouring one batch all over me. After showering off in my nearby hotel, I came back to see team Philippines, who incorporated a rice cooker in their cocktail making. Sadly the rice cooker was stolen partway through the round, forcing Yoma Rivera to improvise his drink preparation. Next year I am told there will be a security guard added to keep things under control.
Curator guest shift at Employees Only
Having got to know the Curator boys Giann Divino, David Ong, and Jericson Co the previous evening at Yan Kee Noodle House, I had to stop by for their guest shift at Employees Only. I was surprised to find that David and Jericson, now based in Manila, grew up in my hometown of Vancouver. Other than the nice coffee-based cocktails by the Curator boys, it was cool to finally meet Steve Schneider and witness his magical free pouring.
Benjamin Cavagna of 1930 at Marcello
Benjamin Cavagna of 1930 Milano was at Marcello, talking about digestivi and amari, as both stand alone spirits and in cocktails. Benjamin gave his master class on the after dinner Italian drinking ritual and then served cocktails during a fun guest shift, where consumers and trade packed the intimate Marcello bar. The industry turn out was huge for the fun event, which was supported by the awesome head bartender Palmira.