Smooth with a subtle nutty flavour that reminded me of rice grain, Smoke Lab Vodka was memorable at first sip. Growing up, I’ve had my fair share of lousy vodka that did little but left my throat with a burning sensation, and this one sure didn’t remind me of them. Making its debut in Singapore, this vodka is the only one in India to be crafted with basmati rice, along with pure Himalayan spring water. Produced by NV Group, one of India’s largest and most successful distillers, the spirit undergoes a five-step distillation and is finished in a modern filtration system to ensure a soft finish.
In celebration of International Women’s Day in March, it seemed fitting that the vodka’s Lion City launch highlighted the achievements of four successful ladies across different fields. From now until to March 31, participating bars The Old Man Singapore, Sago House, The Elephant Room, and Lime House will each be serving a martini inspired by the stories and achievements of Aarika Lee, Alyaa Rauff, Jana Yar, and Petrina Loh, respectively.
Three flights of stairs later, I found myself at Sago House, a hole-in-the-wall bar nestled in the heart of Chinatown just across Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. Nary a sign board in sight, I entered a narrow door and into a cozy space filled with colourful murals, a bar counter decked in Peranakan-style tiles, and banquettes upholstered in coffee bean sacks sourced from local coffee companies. The writing’s on the wall; a rotating cocktail menu of six core drink styles including Martini, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, sours, highballs, and flip, all scribbled with a marker on green stained-glass windows. A neon sign at the back of the bar reads “Don’t try”, a homage to the bar’s unpretentious vibes. Helmed by Jay Gray, George C Abhishek, and Desiree Silva—all veterans of the local bar scene, from Spiffy Dapper to 28 Hong Kong Street—Saga House has a wonderful magnetism about it.
There, I let my guts (and hair) down with a glass of their collaboration cocktail, aptly called Brown Girl Magic as inspired by local fitness and yoga instructor Alyaa Rauff. An influencer in her own right, her fun personality shines through the refreshing concoction which pairs Smoke Lab Vodka with watermelon liquor, Campari, lime juice, and honey. Citrus-forward with the slightest hint of bitter aftertaste, the cocktail comes garnished with a slice of dehydrated watermelon for a dash of sweetness.
For my second drink, I went for the Shaken Not Stirred, a whisky-based cocktail crafted with raspberry, lemon liquor, and egg white. It was an easy-to-drink libation on the slightly sweeter side and rather enjoyable with the bar’s creamy and savoury mac and cheese. If you’re feeling peckish, the hearty steak sandwich comes highly recommended.
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