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Drinks Born in Singapore

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Drinks Born In Singapore
Were Singaporeans actually ancient druids who made love potions, or from the tribe of Moon rabbits who pounded the elixir of immortality?
Whatever our genetic make-up, we definitely had a hand in drinks which can be said to be truly born and bred in Singapore.
Few people would consider bandung, the rose syrup with milk, as a strictly local drink. It may be the name of a famous Indonesian city, but ask for “air bandung” in Bandung, and you will receive puzzled looks. Bandung, the drink, is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Malay word, “bandung” means to pair two items together and that may give a hint to its origins, as ayer bandung or bandung water — a combination of rose syrup with condensed or evaporated milk.
But is bandung, the drink, perhaps derived from an ancient brew?
Indians may well claim that Bandung in another form existed even before Singapore was founded. The Mughals popularised falooda, one of the oldest desserts in the world, in existence since 400 BC which can be traced to Shiraz in Persia. “Falooda” means “shredded”, which refers to the vermicelli strands suspended in a milky drink made with a rose syrup infusion; somewhat similar to chendol, with green pandan tadpoles swimming in coconut milk.
Drinks Born In Singapore - T.G. Kiat Rose syrup
Rose syrup — squeezing every bit of sweetness out of its looks.
Delicately preserved rose petals are an expensive import, and T.G. Kiat & Co. was one of its earliest importers.
They went a step further with this precious product in 1935, creating the first rose syrup in the world right here in Singapore. That begs the question as to whether bandung was invented even before rose syrup, using an infusion of rose petals in lieu of tea leaves or whether, it was only after T.G. Kiat invented the first commercial version of rose syrup that it became one of the tea stall drinks.
Gary Chua, from the family of T.G. Kiat, has another explanation to how bandung may possibly have Middle Eastern connections. Clever mothers added a couple of teaspoons of the concentrated rose syrup to make the milk a sweet delight for their children.
Drinks Born In Singapore - T.G. Kiat Van
A flavour from the past that prevails today, Rose syrup.
T.G. Kiat rose syrups are exported worldwide in the very same glass bottle and label designed in 1935. A big market for their cordials is the Middle East, where the rose infusion originated.
Their website has interesting recipes, including an adult rose syrup drink using alcohol.
Perhaps rose margarita may in time take off to rival Singapore Sling as yet another famous cocktail export?
Sneaky Flavours

It is common knowledge that a Hainanese, Ngiam Tong Boon created Singapore Sling in 1915 at Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. However, not everyone may know the crafty and practical reasons for its creation.

Drinks Born In Singapore - Ngiam Tong Boon
Ngiam Tong Boon sneaked some spirited stuff into a harmless looking drink for the ladies.
Ngiam secretly knew that, just like the men, the colonial ladies too, needed that alcoholic boost when the sun set. But the ladies had to make do with socially acceptable fruit juices instead of the gin sling or gin stengah, half and half, which the men could imbibe freely and openly.
The enterprising bartender decided to try to boost the bar takings by combining the two. To give the jewel-pink colour which could pass for an innocuous juice, he infused the brazen gin with grenadine and cherry liqueur.
Today, Singapore sling takes on many shapes and forms, with home-grown Singapore Sling marmalade made by Straits Preserves winning the World’s Original Marmalade Artisanal Award.
Drinks Born In Singapore - Straits Preserves Marmalade
Singapore sling has been whipped into other opportunities.
Cross-border Banter
Can you tell a Milo Dinosaur from a Milo Godzilla or Milo King Kong? And which is the mightiest?
Undisputedly, the one which has not just one but two scoops of ice-cream, topped with whipped cream, strawberry sauce and hundreds and thousands on top!
Was this drink concocted to entertain a child so their parents could enjoy their roti prata and chat with their friends?
Certainly another contender for our cross-border dispute!
A&A restaurant, Al Ameen Restaurant and Al–Azhar Eating House all claim credit for these Jurassic Park movie era drinks. In fact, it has been claimed that Nestle themselves requested Al Ameen for permission to use the drinks in their publicity and other materials.
Malaysia’s claim to these mega drinks is their Milo shake concocted at other similar open-air Indian-Muslim stalls since the 1980s. The malty and chocolatey grains are so finger-licking good that few can resist the temptation to put the whole spoon in their mouth or take pinches straight from the opened tin.
Nathan Hartono, before becoming runner-up for singing contest Sing! China, announced his wish to treat everyone to a Milo Peng (iced Milo) if he won. Milo made good on his promise, dispensing a total of 65,000 cups of the drink and making him brand ambassador for Milo Peng.
The association of Milo as the drink of champions continued with Joseph Schooling being made ambassador for Milo Gao Siew Dai (Thick milo with less sugar).
Drinks Born In Singapore - Milo
Tak Qiu gives Milo a spirited kick.
But long before that, images of a footballer kicking the ball high gave Milo its other name, Tak Qui which is Hokkien for kick ball. Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall of 12 Haji Lane made this name a popular alcoholic cocktail with Tak Qui Old Fashioned, a concoction made from Milo, bourbon and Angostura bitters.
In addition to Milo as a popular coffee shop drink, we have our own set of norms when it comes to ordering coffee and tea. Those who think that a challenging cross-examination is easier than placing an order for coffee in the Americas have yet to face the complexities of doing this in Singapore.
Not only do we have the same options of adding sugar and/or milk or leaving it black but we can also dictate whether we want our beverages thicker (kah gao) or thinner (kah pok) than the average serve. Each individual cup is made to order with a pour from the concentrated brew topped up with boiling hot water.
Mixing It Up
A brilliant advertising campaign to uphold the sagging market share of Guinness stout, took advantage of this idiosyncrasy by coming up with Beer Găo or thick beer, and marketed the concoction heavily.
Drinks Born In Singapore - Guinness® Beer Găo
Desperate times require desperate measures and a fair amount of mixing things up.
Glugs of Guinness stout as a flavour enhancer are added in varying levels to their lager of choice. They reinforced the campaign by unleashing attractive Guinness ladies on unsuspecting beer drinkers throughout the island. The initial night of this invasion purportedly raised enough stout sales equal to three months’ volume.
Long after this campaign ended in 2017, Beer Găo is now standard fare for young and old uncles alike to broadcast their manliness by quaffing dark coloured beers without having to completely forgo their favourite thirst quencher.
The skill of Singapore mixologists knows no bounds. Even before his passing, Michael Jackson had a drink to his name in these parts. Common belief is that the Michael Jackson drink — equal parts black chin chow (grass jelly) and white soya bean milk — is derived from his song, Black And White, but could it also refer to the various surgical and other procedures which he underwent to transform and whiten his appearance?
Just like Yuan Yang, which is equal parts coffee to tea, Singaporeans just want to have more bang for their buck; two drinks for the price of one.

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Jasmine Adams

Retired advocate and solicitor, passionate tour guide and collector of vintage culinary ware, now turning her hand to writing.

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