Singapore Cocktails Revisited

I have not been out in weeks. WEEKS! Family events, the flu and a new job has kept us indoors. And I am starting to get a little bit numbed. But there is no immediate salvation in sight. This weekend is going to be a home weekend as well, and we just need to rely on our own cellar to entertain us. In the lack of a nice restaurant environment, I thought I would revisit some of the great moments we had on our trip to Asia. To be more specific, our cocktail night out in Singapore. I just noticed, I had skipped the whole topic, even though I have great things to say about the new places we visited. So here we go, a dive back to Asia and the cocktail nights of Singapore. Continue reading “Singapore Cocktails Revisited”

Bangkok Bar Secrets

Secret bars – what do I think about them? To be honest, I am a bit torn. I don’t want to go to a bar because it is hidden, I want to go because the drinks are good. Of course its a fun concept, I don’t mind that, but sometimes it attracts a bit of an odd crowd. In Bangkok though, the best bars are hidden ones, and I dare to claim that I can now give a very competitive top-3 view. Continue reading “Bangkok Bar Secrets”

Winter Cocktails at the Old Apothecary

Usually, I drink cocktails in the summer. I like them fresh and crispy; with flavors like elderflower, mint, citrus and ginger. And, I always end up choosing Gin as my base. I have become like a broken record when it comes to cocktails, always the same thing, just dressed up a bit differently. But I finally read about the winter cocktail menu at Pharmarium, and could not hold back my excitement for something new. Their quirky cocktails are a legend in Stockholm, and I just cannot wait to go for a seasonal drink. Continue reading “Winter Cocktails at the Old Apothecary”

Hanging out at Quince BKK

For those who are already sick of my post on Bangkok, this is the last one I swear. For this year at least. However, since this time around we found much better places for wine in the city, I don’t think it’s fair to keep them all to myself. Quince Eatery & Bar is a very typical expat hangout right inbetween Thong Lo and Phrom Pong sky train stations. The look is early hipster: modern bistro with some edgy industrial details – a look you have seen a thousand times in London and Scandinavia. But we did not come to Quince for the decor, we came for the wine list.  Continue reading “Hanging out at Quince BKK”

Cocktails and Ships at Bottles Pop-Up Bar, Stockholm

Imagine old wooden chairs and tables, figureheads and miniature ships. And imagine holding a rum cocktail with zesty lemon peel and a huge ice cube floating in the middle. There is no music, just steady murmur coming from the other tables and the clinking of ice against your glass. There is no rush, and the calm bar invites you to relax.

Bottles Pop-Up bar is all about the drinks. It is run by three Stockholm bartenders with merits from Little Quarter, Shibumi and Lilla Nygatan. The Pop-Up bar has an interesting concept, it moves around within the Gamla Stan restaurant scene, and the theme changes with every venue. Right now it is located in the Victory Hotel (the Congress Center) and houses a theme loyal to the venue style. I have previously written to you about Tweed, the semi-speakeasy cocktail bar inside the hotel (review here). Bottles current style is similar, however it feels less clubby and more genuine. Other venues will include restaurants (by the same owner) in the Gamla Stam/ Lilla Nygatan are: Pubologi, Djuret, Svinet, Lejontornet, Tweed and Burgundy.

I was at Bottles for some afterwork drinks with fellow Yelpers. We arrived early, around 6pm and had no trouble finding a seat. Ok, we even had a reservation, but we would have found a seat nonetheless. We were offered a drinks menu with around seven different cocktails that all were named after ships of past and present. Ingredients included all of the usual suspects: rum, gin, tequila and bourbon. I was perhaps a bit disappointed that the spirits used were quite main stream: Bacardi, London Dry and other big brands (very un-hipster). The mixers were the ones to set the mood with tastes of rosehip, marinated fruits and ginger ale. Every cocktail was named after a boat and had a story, which the bartenders introduced when serving the drinks. I had a Carina II with variations of old wine (tasted a bit like fortified wine), grapefruit and champagne, and a Rumbullion with Bacardi, Havanna Club, Captain Morgan, Barbancourt and Gunroom and Sour. Both cocktails were very good and fit the historic atmosphere of the hotel.

All in all, a fun concept with spiced with tasty drinks and great service. I am already excited about where the bar moves next and looking forward to exploring what kind of drinks the other venues have to offer.

Memories from the Luggage Room – London

It is Thursday, the day of the week when I start thinking about the weekend and cocktails. I must admit, I have nothing new. Cocktails are often my second choice (if good wine is not available). However I do have some memories to share from the time I lived in London. It was a time that wine and cocktails did not single each other out, but it was rather common that one followed the other.

One of our favorite late night hangouts was the Luggage Room at the Marriot Grosvenors Square. Yes, I know, a Marriott sounds a bit boring. However, as with Punch Room (review here), the Luggage Room is not your average hotel bar. To start with it is a speakeasy. You enter the bar by knocking on a door (with the letters LR) on the side of the building. A little window slides open, true speakeasy style and you are escorted in by a well dressed host/ hostess. There is an entrance from inside the hotel as well, but it is just a pair of closed doors that in no way give away that there is a bar behind them. The Luggage Room is a rather silly name, but that is what the space used to be, the room where luggage was kept.

The bar is 20’s inspired with leather couches and fine furniture. There are initials on all of the tables and they are there after the famous Bentley Boys, a group of wealthy British motorists, who brought the Bentley brand on the world map. The staff explained that the group used to cruise around the area. The staff are also dressed accordingly to the look of the 20’s and 30’s with flap-dresses and smart bow ties. The ambiance in the Luggage Room is fancy but comfortable.

As you sit down, the host brings you a seasonal aperitif and snacks: crispy veggie chips and gourmet nuts, all served in a beautiful silver platter. Food – no better way to be greeted. The selection of drinks is also mirroring what was popular at the time: punches, swizzles, juleps and coolers. The ingredients are fresh and every drink is made with enormous care at the bar. The price tag is rather high, 12-14£. However, I at least feel that it is worth it. All the small extra snacks and spotless service is worth the extra buck. They also have some champagnes on the menu, however I am not convinced of the value for money (especially with the strong Pound). A bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvee is 95£, so I would rather invest that money into many many cocktails.

The wonderful service and good drinks are enough to convince me to visit. However there is something extra with the luggage room, and that is that it is open until 2 am. Now this might sound like nothing for us Finns and Swedes. However in Great Britain bars often close already at 11 pm. Yes, I know, it is really frustrating. But the Luggage Room is the perfect place to go for a drink after a late dinner in the center.

Bloody Mary Bliss at Geronimos FGT

I must confess, I have never been a true fan Bloody Mary. Tomato juice and celery, not my favorite combination and I have not always been convinced that it actually does much to balance (or hide) the flavor of alcohol but sometimes rather enhances it. However, as I have discovered with many drinks (and foods), it is not until you actually taste it ‘well made’ before you realize that you have been wrong all along.

A few weeks back, I received an invite from my friends at Yelp to join them for some cocktails an early evening at a bar, Geronimos FGT, in the old town of Stockholm that is, trying at least, to build a name for themselves with among other things an excellent Bloody Mary. Despite the choice of drink, I went, as it is the good company that was most important. Also, I heard some rumors that Geronimos Bloody Mary is well worth a try. The bar is underground, decorated with stuffed mounted animals and other ornaments from the prairie. There is a lot of space to sit down and even a nice chambre séparée, so this place is good for groups. A stage in the corner suggest that there are also bands playing now and then. All in all a nice looking bar, not perhaps my style, but still nice.

The entrance
The entrance
Decorations
Decorations
The stage
The stage
Chambre Separée
Chambre Separe
Some mood lighting
Some mood lighting

The menu is some sort of mix fast food Mexican and American food with some inspiring details. There is slightly more effort put into using herbs, spices and good produce than at the your average taco stand. However it is still simple enough dishes for an honest after work meal. We ordered one Bloody Mary special (a Bloody Mary with a hamburger sticking out of it – yes, you read it right, a hamburger), some tacos and a burger. We also tried the Mexican Mule (a tequila-version of a Moscow Mule). The cocktails were great! The Bloody Mary tasted like a spicy gazpacho and the Mexican Mule was fresh with lime and ginger. To my disappointment, the Bloody Mary started tasting a bit too diluted after a while, I think it had a bit too much ice in it and it was perhaps not properly mixed as the alcohol flavor came through strongly at times . Next time round I will have a Virgin Mary as I think it will actually be tastier. The food was as expected, good but not great. Value for money wise it is ok for Stockholm, but be aware that some of the dishes (like the tacos) are quite small.

Tiny Tacos
Tiny Tacos
The Bloody Mary Special
The Bloody Mary Special

All in all mission accomplished: my feelings towards Bloody Mary have perhaps softened a bit and I am curious to try out some more if I see potential. So please don’t be shy to share all of your favorite Bloody Mary hangouts in the comments box. I heard of some place in New York that had a stick of crispy bacon accompanying the celery in the Bloody Mary. That sounds awesome! What comes to Geronimos, I might be back. Taco Tuesdays, with 25 SEK tacos, sounded like something that could tickle my fancy.

Cocktails at the Black Swan, Singapore

It is cocktail Thursday again; and even though it’s soon two months since our trip to Asia, I still have places to review. Today we have something cool for the banker types, the Black Swan in the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore.

We were originally headed for the Powder room, which is a separate lounge inside the Black Swan. It is run by the same owner, so the cocktail list is pretty much the same. Unfortunately we were misguided by false information on their website and the Powder room was not open on a Monday. So we went for the second best thing, the bar at the Black Swan itself. It is a pretty venue, so I didn’t mind, as long as I got my cocktails. The Black Swan is located in a 1930’s Art Deco space, the former home of the Kwangtung Provincial bank, so it is worth visiting just for the look of it.

The drinks list is original, not your average Mojito but not as innovative as some of the other places I have reviewed (like Operation Dagger). I went for a Pie in the Sky with apple, rhubarb, orange bitters and some bubbly; and M for the Salty Sea Dog with house spiced-rum, ginger syrup, orgeat, fresh pineapple juice and angostura bitters. Both drinks were good, but perhaps a bit uninspiring after the week of crazy innovative cocktails in the speakeasy scene of Singapore. The prices were not that bad though with 19 SGD being on the lower side of what we had paid for our drinks in the past week. A friend of ours who came to help with the sampling opted for a beer as he was not too fond of the sweet flavors clearly dominant on the drinks list. Fruity is not for everyone.

You can also order food at the bar, and they seemed to have some Happy Hour oysters on promotion. We had just had dinner (and I don’t really like oysters anyway), so we skipped the snacks this time, but in general I like having the option to eat something in between my cocktails. Perhaps next time I can try out the food menu.

We were not that impressed, so we skipped the second round of drinks (and headed for Hong Kong 28). I am not saying the drinks were bad, but they were just plain boring in look and flavors compared to everything else we had had that week. In general the bar is nice, and I could imagine sitting there with colleagues after a long day at the office (if I worked in Singapore). This is definitely the place for groups as there is much more space than in many of the other cocktail spots in the city. However there are better places if you look at quality or creativeness of drinks, so depending on the company the Black Swan would perhaps not be my top choice.

Reviving the reputation of Punch

It’s Thursday again and I am in the mood for cocktails! I think I will be having some wine tonight, but still writing about cocktails gets me in the appropriate holiday mood. However, today I will not be writing about a traditional cocktail bar, the Punch Room is something else! It is not only a bar, it is the revival of a drink long forgotten on the restaurant scene, the punch.

The bar is located in the new Marriott London Edition hotel in Fitzrovia. It is a back room bar, not really visible from the street and it is reservation only. I am sure you can get a seat when its not that busy even without a reservation, but if you are intent on going, don’t leave it up to chance. The bar is located past the reception through a door on the left. If the doors is closed you may need to ask to be escorted in. The bar consists of two rooms, the first is fairly small and does not really look that nice or cozy. The inner room however has a fire place and a nice looking bar with comfortable seating.

Upon being seated we received a small glass each of the seasonal special punch as a welcome drink. Nice little touch and something I appreciate. As the name suggests the focus is on punch that can be ordered to share. Other things can be ordered as well, like wine, beer and some cocktails (and they also do food – made by the kitchen from Berner’s Tavern) but we were there for the real deal, the house punch. Traditionally punch consisits of five ingredients (one of which is definitely not tinned fruit salad): an alcohol base, tea, some sugar to sweeten, lemon to sour, and spice. The House Punch was faithful to this combination with London Gin, lemon, oak moss syrup, orange blossom water and jasmine tea.

The punch was served in a really nice looking bowl with cool glasses and the appropriate decorations. The taste was fresh with light sweetness. The drink had a kick to it and there was plenty so we had to be a bit careful and not gulp it down too fast. The concept would perhaps work even better for a large group as one could then sample loads of different ones. Service was fast and attentive. Price level was as to be expected in London with around 14£ per person for a punch bowl (right now though the exchange rate would kill me).

Perhaps it is the house parties of the 90’s or my student years that steered my low expectations for punch, but the Marriot Punch room was the one to revive them. I am sure I will be back as I appreciate the different concept and being able to book a table (I am the planning type). So if in London, give it a try, you will not be disappointed.