Gin bars are gaining popularity in Singapore and at Boat Quay, facing the riverside, a new gin bar has popped up. But it’s not easy to spot the place, as it’s a speakeasy.
SINGAPORE (Apr 1): Here’s how you can get to BeGIN. Walk into The Penny Black, Singapore’s oldest English pub, and follow the “Gin this way” sign up the stairs. And as you get to the top, you are transported to an elusive industrial gin wonderland. Sporting modern rustic interiors and colourful art on the walls, this chic bar is a must-visit for all gin lovers.
BeGIN is Muddy Murphy Holdings’ first creative bar concept. The company is usually known for its traditional English bars — Muddy Murphy’s Irish Pub in Orchard and The Penny Black Victorian London Pub in Boat Quay.
On this new speakeasy bar’s concept, Bjorn Seegers, CEO of Muddy Murphy Holdings, says, “The interior alludes to the period during Britain’s Industrial Revolution and the Gin Craze from the 1760s to the 1850s, when elixirs were produced in rundown workshops to evade the impending ban on the newly derived ‘medicine of choice’.”
BeGIN’s bar is well stocked with over 50 different types of gin sourced from all over the world. Just tell the charming bartenders and servers how you would like to have your drink — neat, with tonic or in a cocktail.
Discover the history of gin by tasting it in BeGIN’s Gin Flight, which features four different types of gin, each the crowning glory of its era. At $28 for the tasting flight, you will be served neat a glass each of Bols Zeer Oude Genever, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Tanqueray London Dry Gin and Hendrick’s Gin.
Some notable gin-based cocktails created by head bartender Richard Li are the sweet and floral Lavender (image) and the smooth and tangy Yukie. You can also find other interesting and theatrical cocktails at BeGIN, such as the tequila-based Jagmohan that has spicy notes and is served smoking, as well as Koko, a rum-based cocktail that is literally a fiery concoction as it is set on fire.
Once you have settled down at a cosy spot, you will also be promptly served with the house Papadum with Onion Raita dipping on the sides. Inspired by British-Indian influences, the food at BeGIN is also worth a try, although the menu comprises only bar bites. Full meals are served at The Penny Black downstairs, where you can have your dinner (or lunch) before heading up to BeGIN.
“At the same period [of the gin craze], the spice trade from India brought colourful textiles and spices that influenced British culture. Hence, the progressive British-Indian small plates,” says Seegers.
Expect spice-filled bar bites at BeGIN, such as the Crab Bomb-a (Indian crab curry stuffed in a light round hollow crisp), Samboo-sa Pasties (chicken marinated in a tandoori masala spice mix in curry sauce encased by a fluffy choux pastry) and the Nacho Del Goa (lightly grilled prawns coated with a northern Indian butter sauce on top of a nacho-shaped papadum).
BeGIN is the place for gin lovers. And the sheer concept of this rustic chic speakeasy is sure to keep you coming back for more.
Other gin joints in Singapore to try
Located on the ground floor of Parkview Square, ATLAS is an award-winning bar that boasts a classic Great Gatsby-esque interior. Known to be Singapore’s largest gin bar, you would be spoiled for choice with over 1,000 types of gin to select from. Apart from its wide array of gin, ATLAS also houses one of Asia’s great Champagne lists, with more than 250 labels of Champagne.
CIN CIN derives its name from the sound of clinking glasses amid lively celebrations. This bar, nestled in the CBD’s Oasia Hotel Downtown, prides itself as Singapore’s first true gin bar and has about 100 different labels of gin from all over the globe. CIN CIN even has its own exclusive gin label — Kyro Helsin Gin, a Finnish gin with flavours of juniper, berries, cardamom, coriander, citrus and floral.
The Spiffy Dapper
A coffee house by day and a gin bar by night, The Spiffy Dapper is another speakeasy gin bar in Singapore. The bar can be found on the second floor of one of the old shophouses on Amoy Street — look out for the “Dapper Coffee” sign. The Spiffy Dapper, which has an impressive line-up of around 150 types of gin, is not just famous for its cocktails, but also hosts workshops to educate people on the history and science behind gin and tonics.
This story appears in Issue 875 (April 1) of The Edge Singapore.