In addition to being a total pig when it comes to good food, I’m also a bit of a lush. Long-time readers will already know about my love for good, well-made cocktails.
I’m a huge fan of starting an evening, before one eats, with a drink. Traditionally, an aperitif serves a couple of functions. First, it’s a really fun and festive precursor to a great meal. A cool cocktail or even just a really lovely glass of vintage Champagne adds that extra bit of oomph or pizazz to the evening’s undertakings. It also allows a host or a restaurant to show off a bit. Creating something exciting, innovative, and delicious hints at more tantalizing gustatory treats to come. Take for example one of the signature aperitifs from Tabla in New York City. Called the “Ginger Citrus Snap”, this cool concoction is a mixture of Stoly orange vodka and ginger eau de vie, which is then topped up with Billecart-Salmon Champagne. When served, a small helping of pomegranate seeds is deposited into the drink. As the bubbles collect around the seeds, they float up. Then as the bubbles fall away, the seeds sink. Some customers have likened it to an alcoholic, edible lava lamp.
Secondly, some pre-dinner drinks can open up one’s palate and stimulate digestion. Traditionally, an aperitif was made only with herb-infused wine-based products like vermouth, Lillet, Dubonnet, St. Raphael and Byrrh. Also, to properly stimulate your appetite, your drink should have a tinge of bitterness coupled with a touch of sweetness, to make it palatable.
Of course, I’m not one to argue whether a good cocktail is or really isn’t a proper “aperitif”. It if tastes good, pour me a double.
My current favourite cocktail is the Alberto #1, named after and created by Alberto Alonso, who spent 40 years working behind the bar at the famous but now closed restaurant La Caravelle. It’s a great but sneaky drink. It tastes deceptively light and refreshing. It’s very easy to drink. You could easily throw back 2 or 3 of these in a row very quickly. But it’s actually pretty strong. I once made the mistake of pouring a few too many of these for a good friend at the start of a dinner party my wife S and I were hosting. By the second course of our meal, he had stopped making sense, slurring and rambling on unintelligibly.
To make one, you will need fresh lime juice, mint, sugar syrup, vodka, and Champagne. Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add some lime juice, vodka, syrup and ice. (How much vodka, lime juice and sugar syrup should be up to you, to taste.) Shake and then strain into a large Champagne glass. Top with the Champagne.
I’ve very happily been able to convince the amazing bartenders at one of my favourite bars, Coffee Bar K, how to make this delicious drink. Yamato-san (pictured above), in particular, makes it supremely well. And if that wasn’t enough, he and his colleagues have come up with their own variation (which uses mojito syrup and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label), which they and I have dubbed The Titanium. You simply have got to go try and try one.
Two other places I enjoy throwing back a liquid pre-prandial are Mint Bar, at Graze, and the lounge bar in il Lido. It’s always useful when a good restaurant also has a good bar. It means that you can enjoy a couple drinks then walk directly to your dining table. Call me lazy, but I hate going to a bar that’s more than a 5 minute walk from the restaurant I’m eating in after. If it requires a car ride, then I get really huffy.
Both Mint and il Lido’s lounge bar are sleek, sexy places to cool your Jimmy Choos and quench your thirst. Best of all, the drinks are well-crafted and always served chilled.
So, what’s your favourite cocktail recipe? Please, please, please leave yours in my comments so we can all try it out. Cheers!
Coffee Bar K, 205 River Valley Road, #01-076 UE Square, Singapore, Tel: 6720 5040
Mint, 4 Rochester Park, Singapore, Tel: 6775 9000
il Lido, Sentosa Golf Club,Bukit Manis Road, Singapore, Tel: 68661977
OCBC cardmember offers:
Mint Bar (at Graze)
25% off for cocktails and house pours 6.30pm to 9pm.
From now until 6 April 2007.
il Lido lounge bar
1-for-1 housepours by glass and 10% off on all other beverages including bottles.
From now until 6 April 2007.
Coffee Bar K
Order the Titanium cocktail at the special price of $20 (the normal price for a champagne cocktail is $28).
Additionally, you get a 20% discount on housepour whisky, spirits(vodka/rum/gin) and wine, plus a 20% discount on the following: GLENFIDDICH Solera Reserve 15 years old; GLENFIDDICH Ancient reserve 18 years old; and GLENFIDDICH 30 years old. Additionally, the $15 cover charge will be waived from 6pm to 9pm.
From now until 31 December 2006.
Promotion is subject to Service Charge, prevailing Government Taxes and GST. General Terms & Conditions for all Dining Privileges apply. These promotions are valid every day except eve of and on public holidays. For more details, visit www.ocbc.com.