Spirited Away

Everyone’s got their go to drink when it comes to boozing. For some, it’s easy drinking wine and beer; while others, namely us, reach for something that much stronger to take the edge off. While we enjoy them all, we’re focusing on some of the hard stuff (only liquid goodness with a minimum alcohol by volume percentage of 20 percent need apply). Spirits aka liquors are produced by the distillation of fermented grain, fruits or vegetables. The process doesn’t sound terribly appealing but the end result certainly is. We break it down for you, one spirit at a time. (And before you say it, yes, we’ll get to whisk(e)y before too long.)
It’s not the most common drink in Asia but all the manly men know what this is. Hell, all of them drink it. This grain-based (usually wheat or rye) liquor is historically flavored with juniper berries. While there are various styles of gin, one of the most popular is London dry gin. Think Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire. If you’re looking to enjoy it simply, order yourself a gin and tonic. But the most world renowned gin cocktail is still the martini—just gin and dry vermouth for a stunner. Sure, there’s the eternal debate about olives versus lemon peels for garnish. Frankly, we’d go with the former, but don’t let us boss you around. And we certainly can’t forget the sexy spy who drinks a vodka-spiked rendition (never you mind that he’s entirely fictional).
Drop by Morton’s The Steakhouse (4/F Mandarin Oriental Singapore, Marina Square, 5 Raffles Ave., 6339-3740) for a taste of their legendary martinis.
Made from molasses or sugarcane juice, there’s light, golden and dark versions of this cask-aged spirit. We favor the fuller taste of dark rum, with a tinge of caramel to round out the flavor. Unlike gin and tequila, rum goes well with food. It’s no mere coincidence that this liquor is the essential ingredient in one of our all-time favorite drinks—the mojito. A good spot for them is Nueva Cuba (#01-03 Customs House, 70 Collyer Quay, 6535-0538). Try their signature Bulljito, which uses Mount Gay Eclipse rum and Red Bull, for that extra kick.
Blame it on spring break if you will, but just the thought of this one gives us the shivers. Admittedly, that’s because we were downing quantity, not quality, back in the day. Let’s just say we knew Jose very well. Made with blue agave plants which need to be harvested manually, tequila is often aged in oak barrels to impart a woody flavor. We reckon the best way to learn more about it, is to drink it. For 100 percent blue agave tequilas, you simply must hit up Café Iguana Riverside Point (#01-03 Riverside Point, 30 Merchant Rd., 6236-1275). Have it straight up if you’re feeling brave, or in one of their many margaritas.
We’re not afraid to admit it. This is our poison of choice. In fact, we’ve been known to have nothing in the freezer but a bottle of Belvedere (Polish quadruple-distilled goodness, thank you very much). And yes, the Russians do a superb job of making some of the best in the world. We wouldn’t expect any less from vodka’s birthplace. We’re partial to Russian Standard Vodka’s Imperia, made from only the finest winter wheat. There’s something to be said for pure, unadulterated classics. So (wo)man up, and pour yourself a stiff one. Enjoy ice-cold as a shooter or on the rocks. If you’re in the mood for something a little less lethal, head to martini bar @mezza9 (Mezzanine Level, Grand Hyatt Singapore, 10 Scotts Rd., 6738-1234) for a unique honey pandan martini (see recipe to right). Their 4b and tropical chocolate ones are fabulous, too.
Make your own
Honey Pandan Martini by mixologists Jamey Merkel and Vasantha Kumar
What you need: 
Main ingredients
• 45ml Russian Standard Imperia vodka
• 15ml Bols Triple Sec
• 20ml honey pandan syrup
• 1 lime, juiced
• Handful of ice
For honey pandan syrup
• 2 bunches of fresh pandan leaves
• 0.5kg honey
• 1.5l water
To make honey pandan syrup
1. Cut pandan leaves into small pieces, add to water and bring to a boil.
2. Turn off, cover and allow to steep for one hour.
3. Strain, then reheat liquid, add honey and stir until dissolved. Adjust sweetness with additional honey if required.
4. Allow to cool completely. Store in glass containers and keep in fridge for a maximum of two weeks.
To make Honey Pandan Martini
1. Shake with ice and strain all ingredients into a chilled martini glass.
2. Garnish with pandan leaf.