We’ve always loved the idea of the Bloody Mary as a stylish pre-steak cocktail. A macho blood-red potion of tomato juice, vodka, lemon, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper you casually stir with a celery stick before swigging with insouciance. If only we didn’t hate the way it tastes. The discordant sour, savoury and spicy flavours seem to us more like something you’d force-feed a screaming brat rather than sip sexily on a date.
However, with the opening of Astor Bar at The St Regis Singapore, there’s no better time to give the strangely (to us at least) savoury tipple another shot. There’s rich history involved here: The cocktail’s creator Pete Petiot brought the drink to America from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris when he joined St Regis’ King Cole Bar in New York as head barman in the '30s.
And what a beautiful bar in which to get reacquainted with the iconic drink. Astor brings to mind a swanky New York dig where smug cigar-puffing men rest on buttery leather sofas, the rich wood furnishing a perfect backdrop for the scent of old money. There are a whopping nine interpretations of the Bloody Mary ($19 each) on the menu from various St Regis bars across America and China. We start with the classic Bloody Mary, renamed Red Snapper by Petiot as the allusion to Queen Mary Tudor’s bloody prosecution of the Protestants was deemed politically incorrect back then.
Our snapper arrived misting in a rotund beaker, crimson liquid sloshing thickly against ice cubes. All Bloody Marys here are concocted with premium Belvedere vodka, a smooth, elegant base. It tastes like an alarmingly tangy, super spicy gazpacho. We take another sip. Still not feeling the love. It was, however, one of the classier Bloody Marys we’d ever swallowed. Then, with no small measure of foolish bravado,
We order the Chilli Padi Mary, our country’s contribution to the St Regis legacy. Its contents: “lemongrass, chilli padi, old ginger.” That should’ve sent us scurrying out of the bar to the nearest bubble tea shop. Instead. We quickly slurped the suspiciously sludgy juice, just to get this experiment over and done with. At first, our tongue registered just the usual tartness of the tomatoes and odd bit of fibrous ginger and lemongrass. Then, without warning, the searing heat of the tiny chilli shot through cleanly and painfully. We choked. “This is like the rempah (spice blend) you pound just before frying sambal prawns!” gasped our drinking partner when he tried our drink. We couldn’t finish the thing and returned it shamefacedly to the genial Indian waitress. Adding to our embarrassment, she chirps, “Surprisingly, many Caucasians can finish the whole glass!”
Has no one sane shed tears while downing this madly fiery drink? “Yes — me,” she deadpanned. Sweet absolution. We order a Dry Martini ($22) instead. It was exceptionally delicious.
Astor Bar is at The St. Regis Singapore, Lobby Level, 29 Tanglin Rd, S247911. Tel: 6506-6859. Opening daily noon-2am.