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.

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