06 Jan 2016 By Jamie Smith
Do we want our cocktails to be, erm…healthy? Well, if the tonic part of the G&T– with The Rabbit Hole bar’s new specialty premium gin menu – is house-made and uber-healthy, we’ll take our chances. And more chances.
The news of another speciality liquor bar in Singapore filled me with unease. The concept isn’t an easy one to peddle over the long term: shown by the fact that I know of a similar bar that recently came and quickly departed. When I heard The Rabbit Hole at Duxton Hill had recently turned to gin, my hopes were akin to that of a remorseful widow. But this is probably a good thing not to have expectations. As an astute gin fan, this was a happy find. So will this end in tears? Only one way to find out.
Nothing screams “gin” more than colonial Britain. So this location is perfect. Upon arriving in the evening, you will be met by a charming tunnel of lights leading to the newly revamped gin & wine garden bar. Having my head slightly bowed as I walked through the warren of lights was nostalgic: visions of running around in the woods as a kid came to mind. The main feature of this outdoor space is the bar.
Draped with plants and adorned with glass vessels filled with herbs and whatnot, the vibe is extremely organic: perhaps mirroring the botanicals present within the gin and contributing to that time-gone-by colonial feel. This is bolstered by the fact that the bar is located in the garden’s colonial chapel where some of the ingredients used in the kitchen and bar actually grow. In fact this chapel was abandoned until the owners remodelled it into the restaurant: The White Rabbit. With high ceilings and stained glass windows, the restaurant and this newly opened gin and wine garden bar will have us going back, but certainly not for confession.
Other than the ambiance of the establishment, the selection of gin available is quite special: some of which I have never seen before. The bar boasts a tightly curated collection of 20 varieties of gin and 15 signature gin & tonics. Admittedly, I am quite superficial when it comes to bottles: seeing new shapes and sizes from all corners of the world excites me. I learned here that London Dry Gin, in fact, does not have to be produced in London to carry this name. Other than having a rather unique selection of gin available, the champion for me is the house-made tonic water.
Gin connoisseur and bar mentor at The Rabbit Hole Bar, Julian Serna, explained how unhealthy a G&T can be due to the tonic used. One can of your bog standard (insert-well-known-tonic-brand) contains around 15 grams of sugar: Shock, horror! So this was the inspiration for their house-made tonic.
And for all those with the “moment on the lips – lifetime on the hips” mentality, this house-made tonic contains… only three grams of sugar. Even Jamie Oliver would approve of the ingredients used: juniper berry infused with orange blossom; rose water and coriander seeds imbued with citrus (lemon and grapefruit peel). And of course, the return of quinine: the fever-reducing and painkilling agent once widely used in the treatment of malaria that provides that slightly bitter twang to all tonics in the market today. Ladies and gentlemen, healthy tonic is officially here: we can all sleep more soundly.
Let me tell you that all this hubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble to make this tonic is worth the hassle. Once the base tonic is infused with CO2 the final result is heavenly. The gin-tonic is served in a large Burgundy glass to concentrate the scent and flavour. Furthermore, large blocks of ice are used to reduce dilution. Once the tonic is sprayed in the Burgundy glass, a creamy, spicy yet zesty froth is made.
The flavour of this is much like a lemon sorbet. Julian then added a healthy spray of basil to add an extra note to this botanic-festival. Admittedly, I couldn’t drink a lot of this tonic as it is quite rich, however you may also opt for East Imperial Tonic, as pictured above, instead. This is lighter and spicier than the house-made one: and perhaps more drinkable over the long term if you’re feeling really happy… or extra remorseful.
Gin and martini go together like Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence, and the Rabbit Hole Bar is the perfect matchmaker. I usually perfer a gin with a high volume of botanicals like Monkey 47 (47 botanicals!), garnished with a twist of lemon zest/peel (or grapefruit in the 47’s case). However, when I saw Gin Mare I knew I had to get…well… dirty. Gin Mare derives from Spain and is produced by the sea. Infused with olives, thyme, rosemary and basil it naturally lends itself to the saltier and more savoury Dirty Martini. It did not disappoint. The flavours married wonderfully. DIY:
- 3ml (Yes 3!) of chilled Dry Vermouth
- 60ml Gin Mare (stir together with large block of ice. Don’t let the ice dilute too much)
- Serve into a chilled martini glass with olives (I prefer non-pitted)
With around twenty high-quality gins available at The Rabbit Hole Bar, there are just too many good things to mention. This garden can be your gin playground, we recommend you go have some well-deserved fun.
The White Rabbit, 39C Harding Road, Singapore 249541. Tel: +65 6473-9965.