Overlooking Marina Bay and the downtown core, Smoke and Mirrors perches atop the National Gallery, and the sweet scent of palo santo eases you into the dimly-lit enclave. This is the work of new Head Bartender Jorge Conde, who has spent 20-odd years tending bars around Europe, finally settling in Singapore to launch his progressive Illusion of Flavours menu. Jorge was once a graphic designer, and that comes through in each abstract art piece illustrating the menu.
The menu features 16 deceptive libations in total, traversing the fruity and refreshing to the savoury and strong. And keeping in-line with the bar theme, his illusory creations always leave more than meets the eye. “By using techniques such as distillation, preservation and fermentation, we are able to create unconventional combinations that will surprise and intrigue our guests. I find that people often have preconceptions about how a drink will taste, and I wanted to challenge those expectations with our drinks.”
One curiosity, the agave-based The Heart of Vincent (SGD$28++), tickles the palate with savoury notes of sea salt and pickled purslane, giving the sparkling wine cocktail a fresh, grassy burst of acidity. The inspiration behind this layered tipple comes from van Gogh’s famous quote in The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: “The heart of a man is very much like the seas. It has storms, it has its tides, and, in its depths, it has its pearls too.”
Those looking for a stronger drink to mull over as the night deepens can look to the spirit-forward Dali’s Self Portrait (SGD$28++). Inspirited by his own obsession with surrealism, the twisted Manhattan pays homage to the renowned “Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon,” with the added creamieness of bacon fat to a base of whiskey and vermouth. Lacing the glass with an olfactory garnish of burnt rosemary smoke.
Just a Thai Spritz (SGD$22++) is another light(er) concoction, with the spritzer-like quality of Thai tea-infused vodka balanced precariously with preserved lemon, apricot brandy, Bianco vermouth and sparkling wine — garnished with citrusy sorrel growing straight off the bar.
Those who loves roasted rice tea will appreciate the whispers of black sesame and rice, fat-washed in butter and whiskey in the The Japanese Gang is Still Alive (SGD$25++), with a creamy head of froth created from rice vinegar and aquafaba (aka chickpea water).
The Farm is Burnt (SGD$28++) is a slick and spicy variation of the Bloody Mary with a flourish of unexpected additions like fermented tomato, radish brine and smoky mezcal combined with celery, spices and chipotle topped with a reimagined in a float of citric ash basil oil, elevating the umami treat with a charred smoky finish.
Smoke & Mirrors is located at National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, #06-01 National Gallery Singapore, Singapore 178957, p.+65 9380 6313. Opens Mon-Thu 3pm — 1am, Fri 3pm — 2am, Sat 12pm — 2am, Sun 12pm — 1am.