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This Singaporean Bar Is Going Native

At this bar in Singapore, what goes in the glass comes from the ground. By VERONICA INVEEN.

Published on Jul 20, 2017


VIJAY MUDALIAR LIKES to get his hands dirty. Rummaging for curry leaves, harvesting wild figs, hunting for ripe starfruit: it is a messy business but the bounty is transformed into elegant cocktails at Mudaliar's bar, Native (cocktails from $S19), where Asian spirits are mixed with fruits, spices, and insects that the team collects by hand from their travels throughout Southeast Asia.

Bar shelves at Native.
The well-stocked bar shelves at Native. Courtesy of Native.

European cocktails like the Negroni and the Sidecar used to be all the rage, but today there is a growing number of marquee bartenders who pride themselves on local sourcing. Goodbye Campari and cognac, hello sparkling Japanese sake, Sri Lankan arrak and Indian whisky.

Mudaliar wants his bar to reflect his Singapore roots. "Asian ingredients are the tastes I know and love," he says. The Red Light District, for example, uses dragon fruit and calamansi from Singapore, and betel leaves plucked from within a three-meter radius of the venue. While the drinks rely on Singaporean fare, specialty items from across Asia pop up. A trip to Thailand resulted in the Antz, starring Chalong Bay rum from Phuket and finished with a basil leaf topped with basil meringue sprinkled with flash-frozen Thai ants (Mudaliar says Singaporean ants are too acidic).

Red Light District
Singaporean red dragon fruit co-stars with rose vermouth in the Red Light District cocktail. Courtesy of Native.

The menu changes based on Mudaliar's trips and moods, so you never know what you might find. "There are always new ingredients to discover, new combinations to try," Mudaliar says. "A bartender's work is never done."


Helmed by bartender Hiroyasu Kayama, this spot on the ninth floor of a Shinjuku high-rise is stocked with homemade spirits, including absinthe and chartreuse, along with anise, fennel and wormwood grown in his family's plot on the outskirts of Tokyo. He also makes Campari from scratch, colored the old-fashioned way—with bug blood.; drinks for two ¥8,000.
Buntanes "Pop" Direkrittikul, bartender at Bangkok's beloved Eat Me restaurant, is earning the eatery a reputation for its drinks. His 'Sip Some Thai' menu of eight cocktails showcases ingredients from a nearby wet market. The Nahm Prik Noon combines grilled bell peppers, garlic-and-shallot vodka, lime and pork rinds, in an homage to Chiang Mai chili paste.; drinks for two Bt640.

Locavore restaurant is famous for its Indonesian-ingredients-only ethos. Now, the chefs are extending the philosophy to Night Rooster bar, where cocktails are a mix of herbs from Locavore's garden and homemade liquors including vermouth and bitters. The Jack and Gin blends Balinese-jackfruit-infused gin, jasmine bitters and mangosteen. It is Bali in a glass.; drinks for two Rp250,000.



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A trip to Thailand inspired the Antz cocktail; the well-stocked bar shelves at Native. Courtesy of Native.
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