Paying Homage to Singapore’s Heritage: Sim Sze Wei, Atlas
Composed of gin, cherry brandy, orange juice, pineapple juice, and lime juice, Singapore Sling, created in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, has its roots in gin sling, a drink of gin and lemon found in the U.S. in 1790. Today, three Singaporean bartenders gather to discuss the topic of heritage. Should our eyes be on what’s happening around the world, or should we go back and rediscover our roots?
To pay homage to Singapore Sling, Sim Sze Wei, 35, of Atlas
adds pink peppercorn, cardamom, fennel, and cinnamon to a gin for a drink named Straits Sling, after the spice trade in the Straits. (Note: this drink was created for this story only, and not available at Atlas.) The former bank teller had been moonlighting at a bar known for its laksa (spicy noodle soup) or rojak (sweet and spicy salad)-inspired drinks for four years, before joining the opening team at Atlas in 2016. “For a Singaporean, if you find milo or pandan in your drink, it is nostalgic,” says Sim. The former reminds one of an afterschool treat; the latter, traditional desserts that one grew up with.
“At my previous bar, the moment you step in, you’ll know they serve local flavours,” says Sim. “Here, you feel as though you’re brought to another part of the world, say, eastern Europe.” Consistent with its 1920s art deco architecture, Atlas focuses on European classics, carrying over 1,000 gins and 250 champagnes. He rarely gets a request for a pandan drink, but if a guest seems keen to learn more, he jots down a list of bars that specialise in local flavours. “If I go to [French restaurant] Odette, I do not want a chilli crab. But when I go to [modern Singaporean restaurant] Labyrinth, I’m there for bak chor mee (minced meat noodles), done with more finesse. And that’s the magic of Singapore.” It is this diversity that makes us unique.
Adapted from the Sep Oct 18
issue of Cuisine & Wine Asia.