Singapore celebrated the inaugaral Singapore Cocktail Festival in March, a development of the already popular Singapore Cocktail Week that was first launched in 2015. With a purpose build ‘Cocktail Village’ and a series of events, tastings and masterclasses organised across the city, it was a resounding success, further catapaulting the city’s reputation as one of the world’s finest drinking capitals. The team behind the event was spear-headed by two dynamic visionaries, whose hard work, creativity and professionalism led to a successful event that was embraced by both the industry and the general public like never before. We met up with this dynamic duo, co-founders Ivy Woo and Wai Mayleng, to ask them their thoughts on how the festival was received.

Ivy Woo

NS: How did you plan and design the Festival Village? How long did this take and what were the challenges?
ML: From the start, we were determined to find a special venue for our Festival Village. And after multiple site visits and an assessment of different locations, we decided on the Old Beach Road Police Station at 99 Beach Road. Built in the 1930s, the Old Beach Road Police Station is a unique venue with a rich history. The space allowed us to design an immersive visitor journey. We converted the old offices to different themed cocktail rooms, each presenting a different concept and experience. The outdoor courtyard allowed us to create an alfresco area where visitors could enjoy food and drinks while enjoying the music from our live stage.

The venue came with zero infrastructure. Our team went through multiple technical and production meetings to ensure water and electrical power supply to meet the demands of a four-day Festival. To bring the Festival Village to life, we designed a unique identity for each room through set styling, sound and light effects, multimedia content and engagement activities. The Festival Village also featured a diverse spirit and cocktail programme. Visitors experienced a wide spectrum of cocktails from leading brands, and also sampled handcrafted artisanal spirits. They voted for Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail and met top bartenders from across the region at the Asia Bar Battle.

From conceptualization to fruition, we worked with multiple partners and stakeholders for four months to deliver a memorable Festival experience.

Wai Mayleng

NS: Were you happy with the venue’s reception? Which part of the venue did you especially like?
ML:  We received a lot of positive feedback from visitors about the venue. They really enjoyed the atmosphere and the festival programme. Many commented that they never knew this venue existed and it was like discovering a little hidden gem in town.

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 Festival Village - Asia Bar Battle Room

NS: The food at the venue was excellent, how did you curate the choice of restaurants?
IW: We wanted every aspect of the Festival Village to be memorable and top notch. So we spent a lot of time bringing together some of the best restaurants in Singapore to showcase their food in a more casual, fun setting. Variety, quality and value were our top considerations so we chose to work with chefs and brands that we knew and were confident with.

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 Festival Village at 99 Beach Road_004

NS: What were your favourite new cocktails at the festival and where can readers go to sample them?
ML: My personal favourite was the Shiok Collins. It’s a competition cocktail created by Mitzo Bar and Restaurant for Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail. It’s a twist of the classic Collins with ingredients such as goji berry and curry leaves. It’s a very refreshing drink with local flavour.
IW: I really enjoyed the “The Birds of the Bees”, which is made with a basil-infused gin, by Terry Kim of Alice Bar. To try it, you will need to go to Seoul! Other than that, I also really enjoyed the “Natural Wines” on Operation Dagger’s new menu, which was launched during Singapore Cocktail Festival. It showcases some delicious and organic in-house ferments such as coconut wine, pear and fig wine and tomato beer!

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 Festival Village at 99 Beach Road_003

NS: Was there a winning cocktail at the festival? Which drink surprised you the most?
ML: Leo’s Flip from Nutmeg and Clove won the hearts of visitors who voted for it to win Singapore’s Next Top Cocktail. For the Asia Bar Battle, the teams surprised us with many delicious concoctions during the Mystery Box Challenge, where their creativity and understanding of flavours were tested with unusual ingredients such as bak kwa, fish sauce and wasabi.

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 - Singapore's Next Top Cocktail Winner - Nutmeg _ Clove - Leo's Flip

NS: What was different about this year’s event? How will you develop the concept further next year?
ML: The six-day calendar this year was centred around the pillars of “Taste”, “Learn” and “Play”, aimed at attracting a wider demographic. The programmes for the festival were set in a more immersive format, with the inaugural Festival Village at its heart. Around the city, festival goers enjoyed guest bartender shifts, cocktail tours and master classes across 45 of Singapore’s best bars.

The positive response from consumers and the strong support from the trade has been very encouraging. We want to make it a go-to festival in Asia for both trade and consumers. We want the world to know that Singapore is home to many top-notch cocktail bars and have them join us at Singapore Cocktail Festival.

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 Festival Village - Brand Ambassadors for Bols, Malika Saidi (left) and Ivar de Lange (right)

NS: What are the strengths of the Singapore cocktail community? Can Singapore become a world cocktail capital?
ML:  The Singapore cocktail scene is very progressive. We have outstanding local talent who are constantly innovating and improving the craft. Today, Singapore is home to some of the best bars in Asia, many of whom have brought a global spotlight to our little red dot.
IW: Singapore is already a cocktail capital in Asia, evident by the number of bars we have on the Asia’s and World’s Best Bars list. Rather than push towards any form of international ranking, I believe we should work towards shaping a cocktail culture and identity that is unique and influential on its own.

Singapore Cocktail Festival 2017 - Singapore's Next Top Cocktail Finalist - Mitzo Restaurant _ Bar - Shiok Collins

NS: Gin, vodka or whisky – what’s your favourite cocktail base?
ML: I like gin-based cocktails – classics like a good Negroni, Vesper or Tom Collins.
IW: Rum & Mezcal; but mostly, I enjoy a good spirit-forward cocktail.

Tess Bar & Kitchen - Boo Jing Heng

NS: Name some of the emerging local talent in Singapore who impressed you – where can we sample their drinks?
IW: Pan from Nutmeg & Clove. It wasn’t just her cocktail that won my palate. She won my vote with all the hard work and effort she put into serving the finest “Leo’s Flip” to every customer in line at the Festival Village. Boo Jing Heng from Tess Bar as well; I watched him move from a bar back to become a bartender, and now the Head Bartender of Tess Bar. Jing Heng has such great attitude, and never fails to serve me a good cocktail when I visit. Joel Newin from Hopscotch; he is really creative with the use of local flavours on the menu.

Guest Bartender - Terry Kim, Alice Bar (Korea)

NS: Which three new cocktail bars do you think visitors should sample while in Singapore and why?
ML: Some new must-visits include Native, known for their use of regional ingredients. Ask for their signature Antz cocktail created by owner Vijay Mudaliar. Also visit the art-deco styled ATLAS, helmed by head bartender Roman Foltán. I promise you will be in awe of the bar’s centrepiece – a ceiling high tower of the finest gins in the world.
IW: Highball, the all-ladies run bar on Kampong Bahru Road! The Other Room, one of my favourite getaway at Marriot Singapore, and Fat Prince, which serves the perfect combination of great cocktails and awesome food.

The Library - Lukas Kaufmann (left) and Adam Eddy Bursik (right)

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