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SINGAPORE – For foodies and cocktail aficionados, most of us would have at least heard of Tippling Club, which sits on a long strip of Korean restaurants along Tanjong Pagar Road. For the uninitiated, Tippling Club is a three-storey gastro bar featuring progressive cuisine and cocktails. Their offerings have always been crowd-and-food-critic-pleasers, landing them accolades in plenty of 'best bar/restaurant' lists.
To experience the venue's latest bar menu – "A Guide to Modern Drinking, Volume II", we sit down for an intimate tasting with Head Bartender Andrew Loudon.
A little introduction first. The cocktail menu is the second of the trilogy Tippling Club has launched. Each cocktail menu takes months of research and development, when the team puts together innovative techniques, distillation methods, exotic ingredients and edible garnishes to produce their creations. The final approved cocktails will be featured on this special menu for a year.
Loudon prefaced the session with an anecdote. Back in 1988, he was inspired by a dining experience where the candle in the middle of the table was actually made of beef fat, and diners were encouraged to dip their bread rolls into the melted beef fat as part of the meal. It has inspired the type of cocktails that he like to serve – those born out of experimental and innovative culinary techniques. I get the brilliant and crazy scientist (but for cocktails) vibes from him, and was excited to start the tasting session proper.
For my first cocktail, I chose The Cracked Cardinal (S$25), which was inspired by an artwork of the same name.
A heady little cognac-based cocktail, this tipple has fresh notes of sage, citrus, peach and vetiver. A light mist of Palo Santo infusion was spritzed onto the cocktail right before it gets served, adding a light musk to the concoction. It tasted like a strangely piquant white peach juice, until the cognac hits you. The cracker garnish was not an afterthought, the sweetness coming through the peach in the mouth. It was a beautiful drink to start with.
After the light and sweet start, I went for the Poker Game (S$26). The choice was inspired by flipping to the back of the menu (which also acts as a guestbook) and spotting several written references to how good the Poker Game tasted. So, I ordered it with high expectations.
For what looked like such a masculine drink, it was surprisingly smoother than expected in the mouth. What happened was that Tippling Club took bourbon and aged it in beeswax for 48 hours to "soften" the drink. Then, they added Hyogo acid, a vinegar, for tartness.
The olfactory experience of the drink is one to highlight – Frankincense was smoked in-house in a repurposed champagne crate and used in the cocktail. The result is a magnificent marriage of flavours – sweet, bitter, sour – with a strong scent that punched through yet worked. There's a truly good reason why this is one of the more popular choice mentioned on the guestbook.
It's not possible to stop at this stage. My third cocktail, Portrait and A Dream (S$24), is based on a Jackson Pollock artwork of the same name. I was clearly feeling the cocktails at that point, because the only photo I took of it was not in focus. Like the drink itself, it's a little forgettable and fuzzy.
In my notes, I jotted down, "forgettable highball with interesting ingredients" (lotus seeds, honey su pear, for anyone who's interested) and "garnish, yum!" – which probably summed up this drink.
To round up the night, we got to try a flight of Vieux Carré, a potent cocktail that originated from New Orleans. What's different about this one served in Tippling Club is that the cocktail went through different ageing processes.
Like Louden rightly pointed out, the initial thought of anyone would be, "why age a cocktail when it's already made of aged ingredients?"
But the next question should be "why not?", which really is why Tippling Club's cocktails are so interesting. We ended up with this particular flight of Vieux Carré aged in wood, leather, claypot and vibrations (sonic).
Suffice to say, there are marked differences between the different techniques of ageing the cocktail, and I came out of it like an excited child in this adult version of a science experiment.
I won't spoil the experience for you, but if you can only try one (though, the flight comes highly recommended by us), go for the Claypot or Sonic version, and maybe steer clear from the one aged in Leather because it's an acquired taste.
Cocktails can be a very performative experience, but Andrew Louden and the team came out of it without losing any substance. It's clear that a lot of experimentation and thought went into the crafting of each cocktails, and the results show.
Address: 38 Tg Pagar Rd, Singapore 088461
Phone: 6475 2217