Tequila gets a horrid reputation. The spirit is a staple in Mexico, but outside its borders, it is a liquor that summons traumatic memories of salt-rimmed shot glasses in dingy dive bars and the resulting bad decisions.
Many bartenders are quick to enforce that tequila, like any other spirit, has its merits and can be refined too. You just need to stop letting lower-grade tequila govern your impressions of the spirit as a whole. A lot of the what is gulped down in bars are harsh, throat-prickling blanco tequilas that barely express the uniqueness of agave — the plant through which tequila is made. Blanco tequilas are clear, typically aged for less than two months before being bottled, and when done right, can be an exemplary portrayal of how complex agave notes can be. There is no need for lime or salt to cut the wincing as it goes down. The right brand allows you to enjoy it like you would a whisky, or in a cocktail that isn’t charged with lurid, artificial colouring.
Aside from blanco, tequila comes in aged forms, typically labelled añejo, and extra añejo. These are decadent specimens of how smooth and flavourful tequila can be, and is where you ought to direct yourself if you want to give tequila another chance.
Most mass-manufactured brands don’t come with much variety, but craft tequilas do. There is a whole wide world of small-batch tequilas waiting to be reckoned with, and Singapore has lately made craft brands readily accessible for keen drinkers.
Let any one of these five bars around the city be your starting point.
Club Street Social’s reputation as a chic, small-plates dining destination does little to emphasise the gems that lie on its liquor list. One is Código 1530 tequila, a newly launched label in Asia from Amatitán in Mexico. Código 1530’s range of five tequilas is an exploration in maturing the spirit in ex-French white oak Cabernet barrels. The results are stunning. Their new release, the floral Rosa tequila, is naturally pink due to ageing for one month in said barrels. It is a deliciously woody tequila with hints of rose, cherry and smoke, making it an ideal base for a martini. Yes, we said it. Read more about Código 1530 here.
Club Street Social, 5 Gemmill Lane, #01-01, Singapore 069261, +65 6225 5043
Don’t let the kitsch of Super Loco fool you. The dining destination has some pretty exceptional tequilas on its booze menu, and it offers tasting flights for those who crave new experiences. Each of their six flights come with three different agave spirits — a mix of tequila and its sibling, mezcal. We recommend the Flight 808 To Tequila Town, which presents a line-up of premium añejo tequilas. A stand-out on that flight is the Fuenteseca Reserva 9 Years Old, a mellow extra añejo tequila with syrupy tinges of baked apple, cinnamon, and a kick of tobacco spice.
Super Loco, The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay, #01-13, Singapore 238252, +65 6235 8900.
The Other Room is a popular secret bar that draws a crowd for its cocktails, but its extensive spirits selection demands attention as well. Its head bartender and owner, Dario Knox, matures a broad selection of the bar’s 150 spirits in-house, making the tequilas you drink here unlike the ones you find elsewhere. Your agave options are not the broadest, but the experience more than makes up for it. Begin with their reposado, a gold tequila that has been rested in charred American oak barrels, and treated by Knox himself.
The Other Room, Level 1, Marriott Tangs Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road, Singapore 238865, +65 8300 6085.
We’re cheating a little here. Tiger’s Milk isn’t exactly a Mexican bar, its Peruvian, and this is by no means suggesting they’re synonymous cultures. It remains on this list because it is a fantastic bar to explore the Don Julio range of tequilas, one of the most prized and respected labels worldwide. A glinting jewel on their humble tequila selection is the Don Julio 1942, an extra-añejo tequila that is so creamy, so full of fruit and caramel, that you’ll almost mistake it for cognac, if not for the fiery jolt of agave that teases the palate at the end of every sip. It’s pricey, but worth every cent.
Tiger’s Milk, Rooftop, The Club, 28 Ann Siang Road, Singapore, 069708, +65 6221 2309.
Note: Junior has since changed its concept. To read our review on their latest revamp, click here.
Junior is the passion project of the folks behind Crackerjack and 28 HongKong Street. This 10-seater bar has an evolving concept every six months, and this time, it centres around agave. They have one of the broadest selections of tequilas in Singapore, sourced from head bartenders’ Zachary de Git and Peter Chua’s three week circuit around America. Flights and single shots are offered, alongside cocktails to make the array of tequilas more palatable for those less familiar. Read our full review here.