What to drink in Singapore
Plenty of ways to stay hydrated.
What we say:
With the temperature in Singapore regularly hitting 35°C you’ll want to keep hydrated as you explore the city. When it’s time for a drink, try cooling down with one of these quintessentially Singaporean beverages.
Kopi: Singapore-style coffee packs a double punch of caffeine and sugar – by default it’s served with lots of sweetened condensed milk. There’s no such thing as kopi-frappuccino (hmm… business idea!), but if you want it on ice ask for a ‘kopi beng’. Kopi can be found at every hawker centre, foodcourt, and kopitiam and rarely costs more than S$1.20.
Herbal tea: Big metal urns of tea are a common sight outside the traditional medicine shops in Chinatown. The tea is usually quite bitter from the addition of medicinal herbs, but supposed to be good for what ails you. Signage is usually in Mandarin but most shopkeepers will happily explain each tonic tea’s benefits – I was recommended chrysanthemum tea for its cooling properties.
Barley water: This drink of boiled pearl barley and rock sugar is a traditional Chinese remedy for reducing body heat which makes it a popular drink in Singapore’s hot weather. Since it’s easy to make many Singaporeans brew barley water at home, but you can find it at coffee shops and hawker centres. The taste is mild but the slimy texture definitely takes some getting used to.
Bandung: Look for this bright pink drink at Malay coffee shops like the ones around Arab Street. Bandung may look like Pepto-Bismol, but it’s actually a mixture of milk and rose cordial syrup. Sweet and sticky.
Sugar cane juice: A hand-cranked press turns this tropical grass into a sweet, cheap drink. Sugar cane juice has a very mild flavour and many hawker stalls offer the option of a squeeze of fresh lemon to give it some kick. Fresh-pressed is best and costs S$1–1.50 a cup.
Tiger Beer: An innocuous pale lager with 5% alcohol content, Tiger has been Singapore’s official beer since 1932. Whether you’re paying S$5 at a hawker centre of S$15 at a Clarke Quay bar it’s all the same stuff – brewed at the Asia Pacific Breweries in western Singapore. You can even join a brewery tour.
Singapore Sling: A ‘girly drink’ if there ever was one, Singapore’s signature cocktail is a mix of gin, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, and bitters, garnished with a pineapple wedge and cherry. Since most bars charge at least S$15 for a Singapore Sling you might as well shell out an extra S$10 to try one at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel where it was allegedly invented.