From arrack to ants, Native’s innovative concoctions will surprise even the most seasoned cocktail connoisseur
I had to ask again, “So all the spirits behind your bar are from Asia?”. Founder and owner of Native, Vijay Mudaliar, assured me that everything on his shelves, from Thai rum to Indian single malt, was indeed sourced from across Asia. His ethos goes beyond his alcohol selection too – all of Native’s furniture, artwork and furnishings are procured from the region, and even the music selection is 80% local and 20% regional.
We recently featured Native’s most peculiar offering on our site, so it was with great ant-icipation that I ordered the Antz cocktail. As its name brazenly suggests, this is a drink with real ants in it. The cocktail, with a body of coconut yoghurt, salt-baked tapioca, soursop, and Chalong Bay Rum, comes presented in a small clay cup. Ants, locally foraged and sourced from Thailand, are placed on a basil leaf before being simmered in a pan of liquid nitrogen. Pop the basil leaf topped with the crunchy frozen ants in your mouth before taking the first sip. The ants, coupled with the basil leaf, offer a distinctive acidity and herbal taste. The cocktail itself is rich and sour – distinctively reminiscent of lassi. Understandably, there will be some who are uncomfortable with the idea of having insects in their drink. The truth is, I can’t imagine that there’s anything in the flavour or texture department that’s going to put off adventurous imbibers.
Next, I opted for a light and more refreshing drink – the Red Light District. Inspired by Singapore’s much-maligned red light district, the cocktail is a bright red concoction of pink dragonfruit water, kefir, rose aperitif, basil seeds and the cheeky addition of tongkat ali (a medicinal root known for its ‘performance enhancing’ properties). It’s a refreshing drink, and I was quite enamoured by its light rosy taste that brings bandung to mind.
For my final drink, I picked a cocktail quite out of the ordinary, the Ceylon Arrack. You’ll struggle to find many bars in Singapore that offer arrack (a distilled alcohol made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers), so I was eager for a taste. Vijay explained that the cocktail was born of the idea to “connect the root to the fruit”. The base of the arrack is distilled from coconut flower sap and aged in Sri Lankan wood; coconut meat, oil, and water complete the cocktail. The end product is a sweet, spirit-strong drink that is a treat to sip on.
Asian-inspired cocktails are hardly difficult to find in Singapore’s buzzy bar scene. But if you’re after unique drinks that go beyond tried and tested Western bases, ants included, Native will be a breath of fresh air with its curated selection of all-Asian tipples.