At Na­tive, Vi­jay Mu­daliar shines the spot­light on re­gional spir­its

Vi­jay Mu­daliar makes a good case for why we should drink closer to home.

Time Out Singapore - - Inside - By Ni­cole-Marie Ng

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

Bot­tles of var­i­ous shapes, sizes and colour glis­ten be­hind his bar: there are the multi-award-win­ning Kavalan whiskies and gins from Tai­wan; Sa­mai Kam­pot Pep­per Rum from Ph­nom Penh, which re­cently clinched gold at the Madrid In­ter­na­tional Rum Conference; and in the mid­dle of it all, a bot­tle of Khukri XXX Rum that was crafted to com­mem­o­rate the corona­tion of the king of Nepal. ‘ We’re also try­ing to bring back spir­its like Ar­rak, which has been around for a long time but is not as widely known by the public,’ he shares. (It’s a spirit dis­tilled from su­gar cane, fruits, grains or the sap from co­conut flow­ers.)

Up in the at­tic, a dif­fer­ent kind of magic takes place: dis­til­la­tion. ‘ We bought in­gre­di­ents like Bud­dha’s hand [a cit­rus fruit], which is only avail­able once a year, in Fe­bru­ary, as well as sin­gle- ori­gin cof­fee beans from In­dia that we hand-car­ried back,’ says Mu­daliar. ‘ We wanted to pre­serve these sea­sonal flavours, so we started ex­per­i­ment­ing with hy­drosols. That’s how the Na­tive gins came about.’

While you can have your liquor neat, it’s al­ways more fun sip­ping on a cock­tail. ‘In­stead of of­fer­ing clas­sics, we wanted to con­coct cock­tails that each have a story be­hind them,’ the bar­tender beams. Take the Mango Lassi ($22), for in­stance. Mu­daliar sources milk from a lo­cal dairy farm and turns that into yo­gurt, which he then splits from the whey. The whey is de­ployed in the Mango Lassi, while the yo­gurt is used in the now-in­fa­mous Antz ($23), whose call­ing card is a gar­nish of the freeze- dried in­sects sourced from a farm in Thai­land . Both are rum-based tip­ples that use Old Port East In­dian Rum and Cha­long Bay Rum from South Ban­ga­lore and Phuket, re­spec­tively.

‘Red Light Dis­trict ($19) is also fun – it keeps things light and fresh, and it has lower al­co­hol con­tent. We use for­ti­fied rose wine be­cause it smells like per­fume the work­ing girls at Gey­lang use. Peo­ple al­ways talk about bit­ters, but you can al­ter­na­tively use Tongkat Ali in your cock­tails. It has great flavour be­yond its seedy rep­u­ta­tion.’

time­outsin­ga­pore.com Au­gust 2017

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