Singaporeans love cocktails. Think of Singapore’s nightlife and what comes to mind are award-winning cocktail bars, trendy nightclubs and world-class music festivals. It’s vibrant here for sure. And what is one of the most popular cocktails? The Gin & Tonic.
Given Singapore’s title as cocktail capital of Asia, it’s not difficult to imagine that we distill our own gin. Uniquely Singaporean ones, I must say. Of course, simply having a ‘made in Singapore’ label doesn’t quite fit the bill of a gin that defines this city-state. It has to be something that captures the essence of living in Singapore — our food, our culture, our way of life. So, what makes a gin Singaporean?
When I think of Singapore, I think of our hawker culture. An intangible cultural heritage that we must protect. It has been such a big part of Singapore life since the 1800s, I can’t imagine where else to find chicken rice, rojak, briyani, and pasta in the same place!
Local distillery, Compendium, agrees. They have defined Singaporean gin as those with flavours unique to Singapore, particularly our hawker food. You’d never have guessed the flavours of their flagship gins. Chendol and Rojak! Yes, you read that right. Their flavours are avant-garde, and definitely won’t be found anywhere else. Can you imagine walking into a bar and seeing shelves of spirits named after hawker dishes? That’d be phenomenal.
Equally unique, Tanglin Gin chose to represent Singapore with our national flower, the orchid. The first-ever gin distilled in sunny Singapore was their Orchid Gin! Collaborating with The Spiffy Dapper, Oriental Elixir—a speakeasy—was born. Not only have they ventured into variations of the Orchid Gin, such as Pandan Gin and Chrysanthemum Gin, find yourself tasting Singapore’s first gin paired with Song Fa bak kut teh cordial and laksa leaves at this watering hole.
Intrigued? Taste the first gin made in Singapore here! Get sassy with local flavourings and concoct your own version of an Orchid Gin-based G&T.
For others, it may not be the flavour of the gin that makes it Singaporean. Instead, it’s what goes into the spirit. Herbs from the neighbouring traditional Chinese medicine shop and ingredients from the wet market — all less than five kilometres from Brass Lion Distillery. Most of the botanicals that make up their Singapore Dry Gin come from areas frequented by Singaporeans. It is where we grew up that makes us Singaporeans, so what better way to represent Singapore than that!
Each distillery has their own take on creating a gin that’s truly Singaporean. In our pursuit of capturing Singapore in a bottle, we have explored different ways to define these shores. Just like rojak, there will always be a mix; and a good mix at that.
How about you? What do you think should make up a Singaporean gin?
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