The Liquor Store – A fabled place (for Singaporeans, at least) we see all the time in movies and on our favorite series on Netflix. A place so inherently commonplace in countries abroad that they share a similar stature to what heartland convenience stores are to locals. Interestingly, heartland convenience stores here have an added layer of importance as some are strategically placed and ingeniously double up as bomb shelters in certain areas for times of crisis. Which is a fun fact, but I digress.
In the United States (US), liquor stores are not only popular, they are considered an essential business during this pandemic period. The reasons for which go beyond just supplying alcohol with regards to the pandemic of course, as detailed in an article on Business Insider, but you get my drift- they play an integral role in everyday life for people abroad. Something almost unheard of in Singapore; a dedicated store for alcohol and to have it considered an essential. I suppose as a country we are more bubble tea people, apparently.
But it does beg the question, what is the draw? And why are physical Liquor Stores not as rampant here than say an alcohol shop online?
The ‘little red dot’ is a tag we wear proudly and one which has become synonymous in describing how small Singapore is in comparison to other metropolitan cities. It is also quite well known that to quell one of the problems with being one the smallest metropolitan cities, we rely heavily on importing goods from outside the country. This is no different when it comes to alcohol and save for a select few home-grown options from local distilleries and breweries, our alcohol marketplace consists mainly of liquor brought in from the US, Italy, and France to name a few.
Liquor, Down Under
Compare this to Australia where their marketplace consists of big, local name brands such as Penfolds, who, apart from being highly regarded as one of the country’s finest winemakers, are also renown internationally. The Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay for example, is one of the finest of their 2018 collection and possibly even Penfolds history. A wine that makes for an affordable yet exquisite gift that pleases most palates.
Don’t even get me started on Little Creatures, an iconic brewery borne out of Freemantle where most Singaporeans consider a must-go when in Perth. These hop heads and their beloved Little Creatures Pale Ale even made their way to our shores in 2017 with a flagship outlet in Club Street which has since closed as a casualty of the pandemic.
Together with an impressive repertoire of local brands that have a global standing and lesser-known domestic ones on top of imports from other countries entirely, a trip down to the nearby liquor store for the average Australian is bound to incite a sense of local pride and excitement of potentially discovering the ‘next big thing’. This makes a brick-and-mortar store all the more vital when pushing a “support local” message which, ashamedly, is not something we can say the same for. Or rather we do, but with less brick-and-mortar.
Liquor Store Singapore
When the average Singaporean thinks of heading out to buy liquor, it is safe to assume our thoughts automatically stray to one of three places: the nearest branch of chain convenience stores, supermarkets, or The Wine Connection. Bearing in mind we are not referring to places you can get a drink i.e., bars, we are talking about a dedicated alcohol shop where you can buy a bottle of wine or a case of beer should the mood strike. This is not to discount the fact that there are countless other options for those in the know, but therein lies the problem- the average person doesn’t know. So, when the mood does strike and they find themselves browsing through the same selections hoping for the occasional curve ball, needless to say, one would be less than inspired for a second visit.
The call for a Google search to find alternatives then seems like an obvious and logical second step. The suggestions, however, are much less so. Alcohol-related searches tend to include so much noise that it becomes equally frustrating to sift through all of them before eventually finding the one.
Thereafter, making a trip down to the one then induces an internal deliberation of convenience, cost, and adequacy. Yes, adequacy. As in, would I feel adequate showing up to that classy, specialized liquor shop considering my limited knowledge, without a niggling fear of being judged? This definitely does not apply to everyone but at the very least, we can agree that either of the aforementioned options trumps the likes of specialized liquor shops in approachability any day of the week. Which is something the average local crowd knows a thing or two about.
Changing Alcohol Landscape
How then do we attain that elusive sweet spot of being able to learn about and discover different types of alcohol without compromising on convenience and cost? The answer: buy alcohol online.
Previously, our article on the Alcohol Control Act Singapore also brought up long-standing issues of a 10.30pm cut-off time for alcohol sales and in addition, latest covid-19 restrictions that puts the brakes on your plans for a group night out of drinking. When you combine those findings with the ones here, it becomes clear how we came to our answer.
There are numerous liquor stores, be it those that are exclusively online or physical ones with an online presence, that now allow you to order alcohol online and have them delivered. Typically, they boast a vast selection that far exceeds that of a physical store and the products themselves usually include write-ups, allowing you to learn more about where that bottle of wine originated from and what its taste notes are, for example. Judgement-free.
In our notoriously fast-paced city where convenience is king, being spoilt for choice while still having the opportunity to learn and have your picks delivered to you within the hour seems like a pipe dream. Alas, Cellarbration makes up one of those numerous liquor stores, but we can take it a step further and say that free alcohol delivery, on top of everything else, is not a pipe dream with us. Oh, and as far as supporting local goes, the next time you feel like getting a beer, opt for a Thirsty Asia Singapore Golden Ale or a Red Dot Summer Ale, our home-grown heroes.