WORDS CHARLENE CHOW
The shelves at Native are stocked with spirits that may be a little unfamiliar at first. Think Indian Amrut whisky, Misty Peak whisky from Bhutan or Kavalan whisky from Taiwan. Owned by Vijay Mudaliar, Native is one-of-a-kind bar by any standard. It makes use of only local and regional spirits and about 10 per cent of ingredients used there are urban foraged, such as cinnamon, betel leaves, curry leaves and even ants. In fact, his signature drink is named Antz, made with Thai Rhum, salt-baked tapioca, soursop, aged sugarcane, coconut yoghurt and yes, local ants.
Just about a year old, the two-storey cocktail bar on Amoy Street has already received a slew of awards. It was ranked 20th in the 2017 Asia’s 50 Best Bars and 47th in the World’s 50 Best Bars List. At this year’s local Bar Awards, it bagged awards for Most Creative Cocktail Bar and Bartender of the Year.
A veteran in the bar scene, Mudaliar has a decade of experience under his belt. He started bartending in 2008 during his student days. In 2012, he found himself in the opening team at Pollen Singapore, before moving to The Library bar at Keong Saik Road, and later to Luke Whearty’s Operation Dagger in 2014.
A desire to connect with his roots drives his focus on local and regional influences. This focus was apparent even before he started Native, when he represented Singapore in the Diplomatico Rum Competition World Finals in 2015 where he placed eighth. His Jewel of the East cocktail made with Diplomatico rum, sweet potato compote, pandan leaves, cinnamon and cardamom, was inspired by Singapore’s food rationing history during the Japanese occupation.
Mudaliar plans to launch a new menu at Native before the end of the year. But first, he shares five cocktails we can easily fix up at home.