Bar review: Smoke & Mirrors turns art into cocktails with The Real Art of Drinking Volume II

PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

Home to the world's largest public collection of Singapore and regional modern art, National Gallery Singapore is considered the art and soul of Southeast Asia, and perched on level six is Smoke & Mirrors.

Visiting the bar almost comes hand-in-hand with visiting the museum now – think about it, a late afternoon artsy date turned cocktail soiree complete with an unobstructed view of Singapore's twinkling skyline.

PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

Now brewing up artists of its own, the destination rooftop bar has launched Volume II of its signature cocktail menu, The Real Art of Drinking.

Led by Assistant Bar Manager Mel John Chavez and a team of creative bartenders, the menu pays homage the institution with innovative multi-sensory cocktails and experimental twists.

Like the first iteration, the sixteen new drinks take inspiration from paintings and spaces within the gallery, driven by modern techniques and unique flavour combinations.

Moves Like Jigger.
PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

This time, though, the menu pays closer attention to the fundamentals of art. Categorised along the eight Principles of Art – think Proportion, Contrast, Movement, Balance and more – our boozy art lesson starts on a tropical note with Moves like Jigger ($27) from the Rhythm section.

Drawing on Rhythm of Dance (1959) by Ho Ho Ying, an abstract piece that feels jubilant with a sense of liberty, the sweet and nutty cocktail lived up to its inspiration, bottling what felt like a vacation in a coconut.

A blend of Bacardi Reserva Ocho rum, coconut rum, pineapple and longan, the sweet-fruity flavours pretty much danced on our tastebuds.

Cha Cha Duet.
PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

From Unity comes The Cha Cha Duet ($26), a deal worth snagging since you get two cocktails for the price of one. Depicting two people drinking tea, Tea Drinkers (1957) by Filipina painter Anita Magsaysay-Ho, inspired the duo of matcha-based cocktails.

The clear drink boasts a sweet and zesty flavour profile accentuated with a water chestnut-like nuttiness while the tea-coloured cocktail brings out the earthier notes of green tea with blended Scotch.

Kaleidoscope.
PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

Moving on to Contrast, Kaleidoscope ($26) bears a floral beauty and flavour like no other.

An easy sip, the concoction takes its vibrant characteristics from the colourful Horizontals I (1977) by Choy Weng Yang. 

Don't be fooled by its pretty botanical visual or unmistakably floral aroma; on the palate, the drink is sweet and fruity yet strong and punchy with its recipe of rum, tempranillo wine, blackberries and lemon juice.

Magic queen.
PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

One of the most prominent drinks of the night remains the Magic Queen ($29) from the Movement section. An ode to Smiling Body (1997) Pinaree Sanpitak, the drink is a mood booster evoking flavours and aromatic notes of home.

A tip of the glass reveals strong aromatic hints of pandan and coconut, bearing sweet but nutty and oaky flavours, thanks to the use of Remy Martin 1738 cognac and Campari.

The bartender also performs a neat magic trick, when you order this cocktail, which is a plus!

PHOTO: Smoke & Mirrors

Continuing on the love for Singaporean flavours, Wok's That Smell ($32) is inspired by Temple Street (1970) by Choo Keng Kwang and the art principle of Focus.

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The spicy margarita-like concoction embodies the hustle and bustle of street food and the smokey touch of the wok hei as sambal and Chinese sausage fat-washed Espolón Tequila is shaken up with mezcal, Cointreau, and lime.

The drink is at it its smokiest when at the beginning of your sip and leaves a lingering charred aftertaste. The drink is also served with crunchy nibbles as garnish to chew on.

Hungry? Smoke & Mirrors has food menu full of munch-worthy starters and sharing plates, salads, Mexican bites and pizzas to refuel between sips.

Smoke & Mirrors is located at National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew's Road, #06-01 National Gallery Singapore, Singapore 178957, p.+65 9380 6313. Open Monday-Wednesday 6pm-12am, Thursday-Saturday 6pm-1am, Sunday 5pm-12am. 

This article was first published in City Nomads.