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Bar Stories: Fancy Forages at Native Bar

(Image source: Native Bar)

I’m chewing on the best jelly I’ve had in ages, and it’s made of ants.

We’re seated at the bar counter in Native, and the first cocktail of the night has just been served. Straightforwardly called the ‘Ants Cocktail’, it’s a flavourful Southeast Asian concoction of ants distillate, lemongrass gin, coconut yoghurt, calamansi and basil. Balanced on the cup is a stick of basil jelly that was both citrusy and herbal, with a silky mouthfeel punctuated by the crispiness of the dried ants sprinkled atop.

Our friendly bartender, Joy, explains that process of distilling weaver ants unlocks the natural acidity of the formic acid in its nettle, resulting in a refreshingly citrus profile that’s unmistakable in this creamy sweet cocktail.

 

Flavour discoveries like this seem to abound at Native, a cocktail bar started by industry veteran Vijay Mudalier to elevate the use of foraged local produce and regional Asian spirits in cocktails.

And sure enough, take a brief scan of their menu and you’ll easily catch mention of laksa leaves, tapioca, achar and jackfruit. Many of these are familiar fixtures in local wet markets, and it’s refreshing to see them spotlighted so extensively on a cocktail menu.

Meanwhile, bottles of curated local spirits line the shelves behind the bar.

 

We take turns spotting some of our favorite Asian spirit brands. From Taiwanese and Indian whiskies like Kavalan and Rampur to Singaporean gins like Tanglin and Brass Lion, to Vietnamese rice liquors like Son Tinh.

 

My companion’s drink, the Oolong Highball, should just as well be called an “Ooh”-Long Highball. It’s an elaborately prepared drink sure to have compelled countless ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from guests before us.

To make it, the team first slow-ferments their own oolong kombucha, before adding shochu, yuzu and sake lees distillate. Fancifully served on a tray with four garnishes, this highball was enjoyed alongside occasional bites of a creamy sweet tamago, sansho dusted nori cracker, picked daikon and warabi mochi.

 

The Oolong Highball. A special shout-out to the sansho dusted nori cracker balanced on top of the ice, it truly tasted one-of-a-kind.

 

It’s clear that the team at Native has a knack for experimenting with fermentation when making of their food and drinks. Not only does fermentation help to unlock funkier, bolder flavours in the ingredients, it’s also conveniently aligned with Native’s ethos of sustainable bar operations, helping ensure that no ingredients go to waste. A case in point: even leftover pineapple skins are fermented to create pineapple shoyu served in their Miang Kham (traditional southeast Asian wrap) dish.

  

The lychee mead.

 

We're not complaining, especially after trying another product of their fermentation forays: Native’s house-brewed lychee mead. Delicious and refreshing, it had strong notes of floral lychee tinged with light honeyed sweetness.

Take one sip of this, and you will want to bottle it to go and hoard it at home for yourself (believe me, we tried asking). 

  

 

We snack on a textural flavour bomb of a dish, the Charred Chilli Chaat (a spicy combination of banana peppers, Indian salsa, boondi and black calamansi), as well as the equally addictive Chip ‘N’ Dip (a creamy-crunch combo of chapati chips and a palak paneer inspired dipping sauce that might as well be crack).

 


With the warmth of rattan lamps overhead and the comfortable chatter of guests in the backdrop, there’s an air of unpretentious ease in the 2nd storey of the Native shophouse.

Forget about Asian-inspired cocktails, if you’re ever in the mood for truly Asian cocktails with intentionally curated and sustainably foraged ingredients, this is the place to be.

 

Until next time, 

@lotusroot518

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Native Bar

52A Amoy Street

Singapore 069878

Open Mondays to Saturday (6 pm - 12 am), Closed on Sundays

www.tribenative.com

IG: @nativebarsg | FB: @nativebarsg

For bookings, please visit this link

Native was born with the intention to look at the heart of our region: from the craftsmen to the produce, from the familiar to the novel. Join us on our journey to explore and rediscover the beauty hidden around us. Our drinks have always been vehicles for stories– be it about the cultures that inspire them, the ingredients that bring them to fruition, or the spirits themselves, carefully crafted by masters around the region. Come by the bar for a drink and trace its history with us.



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