Three years ago, Tiger Beer was still unchallenged as Singapore’s drink of choice. But the easy-drinking lager has since faced competition from a boom of craft cocktail bars and an influx of young, hungry wine talent, both of which are disrupting the balmy island’s status quo. The tiny nation, known for its enterprising spirit and lightning-speed development, is finally carving a place for itself in cocktail consciousness beyond the Singapore Sling.
Like many young nations, immigration and commerce have defined Singapore. The country has seen continual financial growth since the 19th century, when merchants first recognized its prime location as a Southeast Asian port. Ever in the midst of some new fascintation, Singapore’s diverse population (made up of a Chinese majority with Malaysian and Indian minorities) seems forever welcoming to the new ideas and products that wash ashore, from Parisian Ladurée macarons to Japanese Takashimaya home goods. Global drinking trends are no exception.
Recall any cocktail-related fad from the past decade and you can find it represented somewhere in Singapore. From the speakeasy-style 28 Hong Kong Street to the friendly, café-like Bar Stories, bartenders are riffing on international influences and creating bespoke cocktails guided by guest cravings and what’s local and seasonal. While all of these practices have become common in New York or London, it’s astonishing to think how quickly the city-state’s bars have implemented and perfected them.
On the wine front, Singapore has embraced everything from Australia’s avant-garde natural producers at Burnt Ends to grower Champagne—at restaurants like Luke’s Oyster Bar and Osteria Mozza—to Burgundy, which awaits in abundance within Iggy’s. These growing obsessions have turned the city-state into more of a wine destination than it’s ever been before.
All of this rapid appropriation speaks to Singapore’s identity as a hybrid nation quick to welcome other cultures’ practices as its own. Rather than disavow their capricious consumerism, Singaporeans are finally learning to embrace it as an integral, authentic part of their culture. The city-state’s growing number of bars and savvy restaurants are merely helping them drink their way there. —Echo Thomas