Words by Julia Chan
The world’s highest alfresco bar shares insights to reinventing the classic cocktail
Since the turn of the Millennium, Singapore’s bartending scene has grown, from a handful of mixology bars to hosting high-profile events; steadily gaining a reputation as home to some of the world’s best bars. In 2018, the first edition of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony was held here, with 12 out of 50 bars of the list coming from Singapore.
Opened in July 2010, 1-Altitude has stood witness to the transformations disrupting the bartending scene in the last decade. Occupying 16,000 square feet across three levels at One Raffles Place, 1-Altitude is a multi-concept lifestyle destination in Singapore.
The 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar is the highest alfresco bar in the world at 282 metres above sea level. It boasts spectacular 360-degree views of Singapore and nearby islands of Indonesia and Malaysia, and is popular for sunset-gazing.
Other concepts include Stellar, a fine-dining restaurant with views of the Marina Bay area, and ALT Café & Bar, an after-work pitstop on the ground floor in Raffles Place.
Under Thirsty Tuesday, an ABSS and e2i initiative to build Bartender 4.0 skills, Mr Khairul Salim, Group Bar Manager of 1-Altitude, hosted a group of visiting bartenders at the rooftop bar. He explained the concept behind 1-Altitude and demonstrated how the bar is reinventing its cocktails.
Khairul himself started in the F&B industry in 2005. He participated in bartending competitions in Bulgaria and Japan, and one of his proudest moments was placing 1-Altitude on the map in the bartending scene.
How does 1-Altitude gain inspiration to innovate its own cocktails?
He gains inspiration to innovate new cocktails from observing people’s profiles. Examples of cocktails he has created from profiles are Pure Heaven and Bitter Sweet Lips.
In a tribute to the evergreen trend of bubble tea, 1-Altitude also created its Bubble Tea Soirée series of four cocktails, each including popular toppings such as cheese foam and aloe vera jelly.
1-Altitude cocktail ingredients
● Pure Heaven: Cognac, kyoho grape sake, rose syrup, fresh yuzu juice
● Bitter Sweet Lips: Fermented raspberry, gin, Campari, hibiscus syrup, fresh yuzu juice, tonic
● Temasek Smash: Fresh mango, fresh red chilli, fresh ginger, gin, pineapple liqueur, pineapple juice, sugar
● Cha Cha Bomb: Gin, Elderflower Liqueur, mango syrup, jasmine tea, yuzu foam, topped with aloe vera jelly
● Florals in Bloom: Pomegranate seeds, gin, triple sec, cucumber syrup, pink grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice
Reinventing 1-Altitude’s cocktails
Khairul remembers how the bar scene has dramatically evolved since the early 2000s. “The bar scene has changed in 20 years, from classic cocktails to trends such as fat wash, sustainable and eco-friendly cocktails,” he said.
While Covid-19 has affected the bartending scene, Khairul has been busy experimenting for an upcoming revamped cocktail menu. During the Thirsty Tuesday visit, he presented two cocktails that used fat wash to infuse culinary flavours into spirits like whisky and vodka.
Fat-washing is a process where whole spirits are infused with a taste of oil, such as truffle oil. This process of using fat to extract flavour actually dates back to a technique used by perfumers during the 19th century, and was popularised in the bartending scene by Bartender Don Lee.
According to gastronomerlifestyle.com, Bartender Don Lee of New York’s Please Don’t Tell (PDT) wanted to gain inspiration for his drinks. He spent a lot of time talking to chefs, one of whom shared about this technique that perfumers use to extract difficult flavours. Don was inspired to fat wash bourbon with bacon, creating Benton’s Old-Fashioned, a bacon-infused bourbon cocktail.
Looking internally for inspiration, Khairul discovered that his chef colleague used A-Grade Wagyu beef and truffle fries in his menu. Using beef and truffle oil from the kitchen, Khairul proceeded to fat wash different oils and spirits to come up with new cocktails for his new cocktail menu.
Besides fat-washed cocktails, 1-Altitude is also innovating new dessert cocktails with unconventional ingredients such as popcorn, salted caramel, and coconut, and taking inspiration from nostalgia like the ice cream potong.
Moving forward, Khairul is excited about exploring using eco-friendly products and food pairing with cocktails. He wants to use more technical skills in kitchen and culinary techniques, such as sous vide, to create new cocktail recipes.
Initially, Khairul planned to put 1-Altitude on the list of Asia’s Top 50 bars, but his plans were put on hold due to Covid-19. Nevertheless, he is planning to hire more local bartenders, even inexperienced newcomers, and is willing to train them, saying he has hired a few trainees so far.
The future of Singapore’s bartending scene
Mr Benjamin Tan, Vice President of the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS), who was a visiting bartender under Thirsty Tuesday, was optimistic about the future of bartending in Singapore.
Appreciating the 360-degrees view that 1-Altitude for one to admire Singapore’s cityscape by day and night, he pointed out how much Singapore had changed in the past 50 years and hopes to see the bartending scene evolve further.
“We could use a classic cocktail to reinvent into something renowned. Like elevating Negroni to the next level and influencing the older generation to appreciate the new Negroni 2.0. Singapore Sling could also do the same, being reinvented into something that still looks simple but tastes complex,” he proposed.
He reminded us that “cocktails are like life — sometimes sour, sweet, bitter. It’s how we do a lot of self-reflection, knowing at the end of the day what you wanna pursue, not overdoing anything excessively, but appreciating what we have in life, just as with cocktails.”.
With Singapore bars now occupying eight of the World’s Top 50 Bar 2019 list, the future looks promising for our bartending scene, especially the growth of our local talents.
Read more about 1-Altitude at 1-altitude.com
About Bartender 4.0
In 2019, a survey of over 100 professionals revealed the key skills that bartenders ready for the Industry 4.0 should possess, among which were customer interaction (adaptive), molecular mixology beverages and familiarity of cocktail components (technical).
Hence Bartender 4.0 was launched as an initiative by e2i to upgrade bartenders’ adaptive, technical and technological skills to be prepared for Industry 4.0.
About Thirsty Tuesday
Thirsty Tuesday is a series of visits to Singapore bars which exemplify skills in Bartender 4.0.
These visits, customised for visiting bartenders from various backgrounds, are arranged by Mr David Chan, Honorary Secretary (General) of the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS), and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
The aim of Thirsty Tuesday is to expose Singapore’s bartenders to skills under the Bartender 4.0 initiative, and build a network of bartenders across Singapore.