Underground cocktails – the end of the Singapore Sling
On a recent trip to Singapore I was treated to an experience I’m unlikely to forget. A nondescript entrance on an unassuming road, lead to a subterranean lair.
Thinking I was about to have my kidneys removed, beyond the door was a magnificent underground bar.
The first thing that awaits you is row upon row of glass pharmaceutical bottles, like those found in ancient apothecaries. These bottles are different, for they hold the fabulously scented and nuanced liquid gold that the barmen create on a daily basis to assail their patrons senses.
Each of the cocktails has a signature unique to this underground bar. We don’t know which brand of liquor is used in our cocktails; however with a sliver of knowledge of the industry (or heavy drinking) you might be able to pick out a unique scent or hint that gives it away.
No pink drinks, please
I’m not really a cocktail man, so when forced to go hunting for an underground bar I really wasn’t expecting what was about to happen to me.
First, let’s start with the menu.
The menu struck me like a creation of Roger Ballen and Die Antwoord.
Trying to decipher what each drink meant was a trial in itself, but when last have you looked at a drinks menu and thought “goodness what on earth is that?”.
So what springs to mind when you hear the word pollen? For me, it’s spring, which means headaches and serious antihistamines. Not so this time, it was my choice this evening to have a pollen infused “old-fashioned”.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients. Rye-bourbon mixed with bitters and bee pollen; served in a low-cut glass with a dinosauric* block of ice, then garnished with a dehydrated thyme twig dipped in dark chocolate, then dusted with lemon charcoal and bee pollen.
I’ve had worse, let me tell you. Since then, the ‘old-fashioned’ has never been the same for me.
Fast forward, Patrick, a good friend introduced me to an underground bar in the Mother City. (they aren’t all in Singapore)
‘This is absolutely THE place to have a splendid cocktail’ they pronounced.
‘Let ME be the judge of that’ was my retort.
To my surprise, there’s a pollen infused cocktail on the menu.
“Ha, these schweinhunds have been to Singapore and trying to copy what is not copyable”.
So I ordered a drink, and it was identical to what I had in Singapore, and tasted just as I remembered. Thank heavens for Instagram, because I reached out to the owner of the Singaporean bar and said, “I’ve just had this splendid cocktail that tasted just like the one I had in your bar.” And his response was that “Well, he’s just opened one in Cape Town.”
So, copycats averted, and better yet, the Cape Town version was half of what I paid in Singapore.
For those of you who are jaded or just need a fabulous cocktail, make sure that you hustle on down to the Cape Town CBD and visit “Outrage of Modesty”, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. And I didn’t even mention the snacks…
*for the uninitiated, this means f*ing enormous.