Alcohol in Singapore is expensive. One thing I hadn’t appreciated before I moved to Singapore was how much alcohol I drank. In London, where I used to live, there is a big pub scene. In respect of the culture and to assimilate into British society, we fully immersed ourselves and drank a respectable amount of alcoholic beverages. A typical week living and going out in the East End would include enjoying £12 bottles of wine on Wednesday at the Good Samaritan special happy hour, prosecco and pizza at The Stable on Thursday, wine with dinner on Friday followed by more drinks at at Indo, and Saturday heading over to Bethnal Green for cocktails and brunch at Bistrotheque or some other trendy joint. For the days in between, you could always rely on Tesco for £10 bottles of perfectly drinkable wine and prosecco to enjoy at home.
Flossy’s rating: ★★★★★
In Singapore, unless you are filthy rich, it is impossible to maintain such a lifestyle. Alcohol in Singapore is considered a luxury item. It is highly taxed and bloody expensive. The duty rates for beer, stout, cider and perry are $48 per litre of alcohol, whereas other types of liquor including wine is taxed at $70 per litre of alcohol. Let me put this into perspective. If you go to a regular bar or restaurant, a glass of house wine will set you back about $18 a glass. Then you need to factor in that house wines in Singapore are not drinkable. Unlike Europe, there is no concept of table wine so the house wine is a cheap, tart and nasty Australian Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. That means you will need to go for your third cheapest wine on the menu, after which you figure you might as well get a bottle, and that is going to be at least $100. Prosecco which flows freely in London, is a rare commodity in Singapore and so you really pay for it.
It is possible to buy wine at the shop or supermarket, but if you want something drinkable it is still a considerable price. A decent Australian Semillon Sauvignon blend will cost at least $40, as would a quality Marlborough wine. For a good French drop, expect to pay $50 and upwards.
Beer lovers have it slightly easier. Whilst it will cost around $16 for a 500ml glass of beer at a restaurant, you can easily skip the class for crass and drink giant pint-sized bottles of beer at just $7 a pop at a hawker centre. There is no air-con and it smells like fried noodles and curry, but you can smoke to your hearts content and they keep the beer nice and cool in ice buckets.
Because alcohol in Singapore is so expensive, most people just stick to water and rely on incoming visitors to bring booze from duty free. After 6 months living in Singapore, I had sadly resigned myself to a healthy and alcohol-free lifestyle, until I found Ginett. Discovering Ginett was quite by accident and because it is walking distance from my home, it has signified a turning point for me. Ginett is a very modern and sophisticated bar that sells good wine for cheap. I continue to pinch myself in disbelief each time I go there. I cannot believe that a place with such nice furniture and glassware can sell such cheap wine in Singapore. My favourite is the Cuvee Splendid, Francois Labet which is only $6 per glass or $30 for a bottle and it tastes as delightfully light and bubbly as prosecco. Their house red and house white wines are also just $6 a glass and they are European, no cheap and nasty Aussie wine in sight! If you ever want to know where I am on a Friday night, you can rest assured I will be hanging out at Ginett. The best part is, nobody wants to sit on the nice tables outside because the locals are obsessed with air conditioning, so we always manage get a good seat.
Ginett is the best bar in Singapore. It is owned by LA chain R&B Lab. The only reason I discovered it was because we went for burgers one night at the place next door, also owned by R&B Lab and also selling drinks for the same price. 25 Degrees makes amazing LA-style hamburgers and is open until late. It is the only reputable burger joint in the area and arguably the best burger place in the whole of Singapore. We tried their Number One signature burger for just $14 which had a chunky medium-rare cooked beef patty that was nothing short of spectacular. With caramelised onions, cheese, bacon and thousand island dressing and a side serving of curly fries and mayonnaise, it was the classic homecoming experience.
On another occasion I truly splurged and tried their macaronic cheese burger. This one is clogged-artery inducing but well worth the carbs and calories! Instead of bread, two patties of macaroni cheese are deep fried to hold together your mega juicy beef patty, along with plenty of bacon. 25 Degrees Burger is simply the coolest. The architecture is old-school American diner meets modern Singapore cafe. You can sit on the red banquets down the back of the restaurant, or enjoy counter seating on swish black tiles by the street side. They also serve alcoholic milkshakes… Quite frankly, if I wasn’t so concerned for my health and diet, I would go here more often.
I hope after I publish this blog that Ginett and 25 Degrees don’t become so overrun with visitors that they hike up the prices. In case they do, I will try to enjoy going there as much as possible while the good times last! Alcohol in Singapore might be expensive, but bubbly wine at Ginett is cheap. Enjoy.
Location: 200 Middle Road, Singapore 188980
Nearest MRT: Bugis
What to order: Cuvee Splendid, Francois Labet