Singapore’s cocktail culture is undoubtedly one of the best in the world — a cocktail capital with a slew of award-winning bars making the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, even outnumbering big cities like Shanghai and Tokyo. But given Singapore’s small size and insanely hot weather, this is the last place you might expect liquor to be made. Maybe you’ve heard about the handful of micro-breweries producing ‘Made in Singapore’ lagers and ales, but you’d be surprised to know that aside from craft beers, this city-state makes its own white and brown spirits as well!
Singapore-based craft distilleries and breweries have been popping up in the last few years, adding Singaporean gin, whisky, and everything in between to the growing craft beers and spirits market. Took us long enough! Breaking new ground, these local distilleries aren’t merely going with the grain. They’re on a mission to create uniquely Singaporean flavours by infusing botanicals and spices native to the region into their artisanal spirits — think chendol-flavoured gin or mead inspired by chrysanthemum tea.
Here are 5 of the best local distilleries and breweries adding a Singaporean twist to iconic spirits, with all the reasons for us to #supportlocal!
1. Tanglin Gin
The OG of the local distilling scene, Tanglin Gin is Singapore’s first gin distillery. Named after “Twa Tang Leng”, meaning “Great East Hill Peaks”, Tanglin was once cultivated to grow sireh, pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Paying homage to that, Tanglin Gin incorporates Asian ingredients, such as chili and ginger, along with traditional gin botanicals to create award-winning blends. The first gin made in Singapore, their Orchid Gin, uses the dried stems of the Dendrobium Orchid and vanilla beans extracted from the fruit of the Vanilla Planifolia Orchid. Truly Singaporean, we must say!
Since then, they have also introduced the Mandarin Chili Gin, as well as a limited release, Apple Pie Moonshine, which is a flavourful blend of spices, ginger and gula melaka.
Compendium evolved from Rachelle The Rabbit Meadery, which has since transformed from making only meads to producing gin, liqueur, arrack, and even vodka. Unlike the usual gin-making process that uses grain-distilled base liquor, Compendium uses fermented artisanal honey, gula melaka and molasses in their unique-tasting spirits. Inspired by the local hawker culture, they launched their flagship Rojak Gin and Chendol Gin in 2019.
More avant-garde flavours ensued, such as Kopi-O Liqueur and Teh-O Liqueur, in-house distilled rum cold-brewed with ground coffee (tea leaves for the latter) and filtered through the iconic ‘kopi sock’ (or tea-making sock). Their Straits Vodka is fermented with wildflower honey and aromatic spices from Southeast Asia, with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.
3. Brass Lion Distillery
Unable to find a spirit crafted locally, founder Jamie Koh took six years to create a spirit that she believes can truly encapsulate the heart of Singapore. Most of their ingredients are sourced within a five-kilometre radius of the distillery — from the wet markets to the traditional Chinese medicine shop, and from their own herb garden as well.
The second gin distillery in Singapore (established after Tanglin Gin), Brass Lion Distillery seeks to represent the cultural melting pot that is Singapore through their flagship spirit, the Singapore Dry Gin. The gin is crafted with herbs and spices specially selected to represent the different cultures, a fragrant concoction of 22 botanicals such as lemongrass, galangal, and torch ginger flower.
Variations of the gin include the Butterfly Pea Gin, blue-hued with a mix of lavender and butterfly pea flower and Pahit Pink Gin, their take on the classic Pahit Gin with a distinctively Singaporean twist.
4. Singapore Distillery
The newest entrant to the local distilling scene, Singapore Distillery debuted in 2020 with not one, but six craft gins. That’s pretty bold. Making full use of fresh, exotic fruits and spices found commonly in Singapore, they promise there’s a gin for everyone. Their gins, like the Coconut Pandan Gin or Lime Garden Gin, have a distinctly Asian flavour profile.
Other interesting variations include the Singapore Sling Gin, made to be the perfect gin for a Singapore Sling, and Stolen Roses Gin, an ode to the well-loved drink by locals, Bandung. The wider selection of gins available, coupled with their colourful and vintage-looking labels, is certainly making an impression on the local craft spirits market.
5. Lion City Meadery
Although not a distillery, Lion City Meadery is one of the select few breweries that produce meads among a crowd of craft beers in Singapore. This frothy golden liquid, often mistaken for beer, is made from fermenting honey with yeast. For this meadery, they use a custom eucalyptus honey blend to create a unique taste you can’t find elsewhere. Their usual variations include Classic, Hibiscus Blueberry, and Spiced.
Look out for their seasonal flavours though; the “Liang-teh” series (“Asian herbal tea” series), which includes Chrysanthemum Mead, inspired by how Asian grandmothers would brew homemade chrysanthemum tea. The latest in the series is Longan & Red Dates Mead, which pays homage to the Longan Red Date Tea. The mead is a slightly-hazy blonde colour, having a strong note of red dates with hints of dried longans.
Taste the first gin made in Singapore!
In Kampong Glam, hidden on the second floor of an old shophouse, is Oriental Elixir, a speakeasy dedicated to creating gin infused with all sorts of funky ingredients. Here, you can taste the first gin made in Singapore, Tanglin’s Orchid Gin, while learning how to craft your own gin cocktail! Hear about all things gin while surrounded by vintage curiosities and old-school tunes. Find out more here.
*Hero image from Brass Lion Distillery and index image from Oriental Elixir.
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If gin isn’t your thing, how about a whiskey appreciation session at Singapore’s first Whisky Ambassador accredited venue, located in the historic Caldwell House at CHIJMES? With Culturally x The Single Cask, learn about whisky's origins and immerse yourself in an unforgettable tasting experience.