If you don't know what Tippling Club is about, your first impression when you enter the restaurant may be that it is just another restaurant in the charming Dempsey Hill area of Singapore. The spirits are hanging from the ceiling in a long bar where they have a few stools as well as some bare tables. The design is unpretentious and hip, giving no hint as to what to expect once the food and cocktails start to land on your table.
If you review the impressive collection of accolades that the Tippling Club has earned since its opening in 2008, you’ll begin to realize what all of the noise is about. Among many other distinguished awards, they had been selected for three consecutive years as one of the 20 Best Restaurants in Asia by
the Miele Guide and has also been designated as one of the World’s Top 50 Bars by Drinks International. There are even strong rumors that this year Tippling Club will make the prestigious San Pellegrino “World’s Best Restaurants” list.
British modernist cuisine chef-owner Ryan Clift is proud to claim that this is the first place - and as far as I know, the only place - that combines cocktails and food so intimately. As he explains, each one of the dishes in their degustation menu comes with a cocktail that has been carefully designed to pair perfectly with that dish.
The interview was conducted in the small test kitchen just beside the main kitchen, where they experiment with a wide range of new products. Though both kitchens are small, they have all sorts of modern equipment. I was intrigued by how a chef with such a classic education - he worked with Marco Pierre White, Peter Gordon, and Raymond Capaldi - is now using modernist techniques to create his amazing dishes. He explained that it was the French chef Emmanuel Renaut who opened his eyes to a new approach to flavor pairing and presentations. From there, the next step was tons of reading and working hard.
The result of Chef Clift’s research is a precisely executed and creative cuisine and cocktail pairing that gifts the guest with a pleasant sense of surprise and fun in an unassuming, humble setting.
When it comes to the creative process, "the starting point is a product, like a carrot, or in this case oysters. From there I start playing with classic pairings and exploring which technique I will apply to that product to enhance it. To finalize a dish or cocktail can take at least a couple of months of trying and tastings. The most important aspect in a dish is the quality of the ingredient. If you have that, a good flavor is assured," Chef Clift explained. As he says, "Singapore is a place where you don't need to worry too much about the product sourcing; you can basically get the best products in the world within a few days. This gives me total sense of freedom to create and more time to focus in the creation of new dishes."
The next big step for Tippling Club will reconfirm their position as one of the best restaurants in the city. By the end of this year, they plan to relocate to Tanjong Pagar Road in China town; the newest, hottest restaurant scene in Singapore. The restaurant will be located in 3 attached shop houses. The first story will house the restaurant and the bar and the second will be the home of a huge test kitchen with a large communal table in the center.
After the interview, Chef Clift generously shared three recipes with us: two cocktails and one dish that use an interesting variety of molecular techniques. Today we’re going to share the beautiful, exotic Mexican Bubble Cup. Be sure to keep in touch because we’ll be sharing the fizzy Nikko Spring cocktail and the Oyster and Parsley Champagne recipes with you in upcoming posts!
Before we get started with the recipe, there’s a special molecular gastronomy tool that’s used that I’d like to talk about. It’s called a rotary evaporator, or rotavap for short. It’s a machine that’s used to extract essential oils from solid materials without damaging delicate flavors. It does this by boiling the ingredients at low temperature in a vacuum. It’s also used to distill fluids and infuse the oils into other compounds such as liquors.
The rotovap is extremely effective but also costly; it can cost thousands of dollars. In this recipe, the rotovap is used to infuse the tequila with the fresh aroma of the delicate ginger flowers in order to make the Ginger Flower Tequila.
Other special ingredients include sago pearls which are similar to tapioca pearls. They come from the pith of several different tropical palms.
Though simple to prepare after all of the ingredients are created, this drink is a bit labor-intensive on the front end. The payoff is well worth the little bit of extra effort, though!
This recipe yields 10 servings.
Ingredients for Mexican Bubble Cup Spirit and Sugar Mix
- 200ml (3.38 oz) ginger flower tequila
- 150ml (2.54 oz) Aperol (Italian liqueur made by Campari)
- 100ml (1.69 oz) pineapple agave nectar
Ingredients for Ginger Flower Tequila (Yields 700ml)
- 1 kg (2.21 lbs) ginger flower heads (chiffonade: stack the flowers, roll them and slice them into long thin strips)
- 700ml (25.36 oz) Siembra Azul Reposado Tequila
Ingredients for Pineapple-Infused Agave Nectar
- 125g (4.23oz) raw organic blue agave nectar
- 50g (1.69oz) honey pineapple (finely chopped)
- 50 g (1.76 oz) small sago pearls
- 1 ltr (33.81 oz) tap water
Mexico Bubble Cup
- 45 ml (1.52 oz) spirit and sugar mix
- 20 ml (.68 oz) fresh orange juice
- 10 ml (.34 oz) lime juice
Ginger Flower Tequila
1 - Distill the ingredients for the ginger flower tequila in the rotavap using the following specifications:
- Water bath: 50°C (122°F)
- RPM: 120
- Condenser: -20°C (-4°F)
2 - Distill until 600ml of the liquid has been condensed.
3 - Pour into a glass bottle and let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature. Dilute with still water to 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Pineapple –Infused Agave Nectar
1 - Seal together in a vacuum bag.
2 - Refrigerate for 2 days.
3 - Strain.
4 - Bottle the infused nectar.
Mexican Bubble Cup Spirit and Sugar Mix
1 - Stir ingredients together, mixing well.
2 - Bottle.
1 - Bring the water to a boil (100°C/212°F).
2 - Add sago pearls.
3 - Stir well until the pearls are translucent.
4 - Remove from heat and rinse with cold water.
5 - Put the pearls in an airtight container.
6 - Add 100gm (3.53oz) of simple syrup (syrup that’s equal parts water and sugar).
7 - Refrigerate.
Mexican Bubble Cup
This recipe only makes one drink at a time but you’re going to have plenty of each ingredient!
1 - Add 1/2 – 1 cup of ice to your shaker.
2 - Add spirit and sugar mix, lime juice and orange juice to the shaker.
3 - Shake vigorously.
4 - Double strain into plastic bubble cup.
5 - Spoon in 1 teaspoon of cooked sago pearls in syrup.
6 - Add cubed ice.
7 - Put on a lid if desired, and add the straw.
8 – Serve immediately.
Thanks to molecular gastronomy chef Ryan Clift for showing us your great modernist cuisine and for sharing your recipes with us!