If you walk into a bar and are handed a leather-bound tome in which spirits are listed by country of origin, you know you’ve entered a serious operation.
If, on the other hand, the drinks list is accompanied by squiggly line art of tiki mugs and volcanoes, you can rest assured these folks don’t take themselves too seriously.
Is the menu a rumpled, sour-mix-stained leaf of copy paper with half the specials crossed out? Put your elbows on the table, because they don’t stand on ceremony here. And if there is no menu at all, expect to drink well (and probably pay handsomely).
Whether they are ornate or understated, all bar menus are quite literally designed to give you a sense of place. At Tippling Club, a wildly inventive Singapore bar and restaurant that appears on several world’s best lists, innovative menus are the raison d’être.
Earlier this year, Tippling Club launched a concept menu for which the drinks list is not a list at all. It’s a complimentary bag of custom-flavored gummy bears. And what it communicates about the bar itself is, well, something to chew on.
Helmed by Joe Schofield, who previously worked at The Savoy in London, Tippling Club has always specialized in cerebral, avant-garde creations. Previous drinks have included the Geosamin, made with vodka and edible “stones,” comprised of dehydrated yogurt and charcoal. It was inspired by the smell of rain — or, more specifically, the smell of the earth after rainfall.
The aptly named “Can You Afford It” combined Becherovka vodka and chamomile vermouth with Krug Champagne. (It’s worth noting that prices at Tippling Club are not as celestial as one might anticipate. Expect to pay around $15 to $17 USD per drink.)
The edible menu heralds a collection of drinks captured under the evocative banner, “Dreams and Desires.” The 12 cocktails have thematic names like Lust and Success, and each corresponds to a drink with similar flavors. To pick their poison, guests are handed a bag of 12 gummy candies custom-created with International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. (IFF), a NYC-based corporation that has partnered with Tippling Club in the past.
“The menu involved months of research and development with chef Ryan, myself, and the top flavorists at IFF,” Schofield says. “We narrowed it down to 12 perfected flavor formulas that we felt best represent the dreams and desires we wanted to convey.”
Served in a striped paper bag, each gummy bear has a different color and flavor to match its coinciding cocktail. The red “Lust” bear aligns a Peach Bellini, made with dangerously delicious tonka beans. The “Success” bear is green (natch); the drink itself is a boozy Manhattan riff made with Amaro Montenegro, Cognac, whiskey, and Shiraz. The yellow bear represents “Happiness,” a honeyed, yuzu concoction spiked with tequila and served with a citrusy “acid tab” — a Margarita with a twist.
Is it stunty? Sure. Is it fun? Hell yes. When was the last time you smiled when you received a cocktail menu? Schofield says the bar doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to its creations. The primary goal here is to provide a unique experience and to engage with the guests.
Chef-owner Ryan Clift serves an avant-garde food menu that can stand on its own or be paired with beverages. Clift calls the bears “edible garnishes created with innovation and intent.”
Call them garnishes or gimmicks, the bears are exceedingly photogenic — as are the drinks themselves. Schofield’s “Beauty” cocktail, represented by a clear gummy bear, is made with Champagne, cherry, and jasmine. It is served as a lipstick. (You have to lick the mock cosmetic to consume, which is… not for everyone.) “Baby,” made with gin, apricot, vanilla, and milk, and presented as a pink gummy bear, is served in an actual bottle.
Dreams and Desires comes hot on the heels of Tippling Club’s Sensorium menu, which placed among the year’s best at the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Sensorium was also created with IFF. Instead of a printed list of drinks, or bears, it communicated all beverage offerings via scent.
“Our Sensorium menu was all about triggering memories through aroma,” Schofield says. “We wanted our guests to relive those cherished childhood memories in the bar.” Bartenders presented the Sensorium menu as a collection of 12 swatches, each printed with a drink’s name and ingredients, and each given a custom scent created by IFF.
Modernity has wrought all sorts of high-tech cocktails and culinary concepts, from the edible foam atop the entrées of the early aughts, to the barrel-aged, bacon-infused cocktails of the last decade. What separates Tippling Club from over-the-top culinary stunts is its commitment.
The bears are whimsical, yes, but also thoughtfully made (they really do taste like the flavors in the drinks) and legitimately enjoyable. You don’t need to overthink things at Tippling Club because they’ve already done that for you. Just sit back, have a gummy bear (or 12), and relax, knowing that some things are fun by design.