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Bar Stories: Tourist at Home in Nutmeg & Clove


We settle into our seats at Nutmeg and Clove on a Tuesday night, and are greeted by a menu titled “The Cocktail Diaries”. Designed like a journal written from the perspective of an intrepid tourist who has just landed in Singapore, it’s a gorgeous booklet introducing various cocktails inspired by everyday icons and landmarks in Singapore.

I’m told that that Nutmeg and Clove has a progressive cocktail programme with a revolving menu, and this is the latest of their menu concepts, Volume 6: The Cocktail Diaries.


Pages from Volume 6: The Cocktail Diaries


One can’t help but wonder about the intent behind it. At the time of my writing this, travel to and from Singapore has been slowly recovering. Yet back in December last year, when this menu was being designed, there were still many unknowns about whether Singapore’s borders would be opened anytime soon. Perhaps designing the Cocktail Diaries from the perspective of a tourist was the team’s way to expressing cautious optimism about the return of tourism to our shores. Or more likely perhaps, it’s a gentle suggestion to those living in Singapore that even if borders stayed shut, there’s still more to see and marvel about here.



I order the Pepper Meets Ramos, a whisky-based cocktail inspired by memories of bak kut teh suppers in Chinatown. Bak kut teh, which literally translates to “meat bone tea” from the Hokkien dialect, is a local Singaporean and Malaysian dish consisting of pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (star anise, cinnamon, fennel…you name it!) 

I was hesitant at first to order this due to the addition of black peppercorns, but I’m glad I did! The black peppercorns, far from being too spicy and smarting, instead tasted really fruity, aromatic and well-rounded. The drink was lovely, tasting like a boozy Yakult with an earthy fragrance that added complexity.

Imagine drinking this refreshing cocktail alongside a bowl of spicy, heady bak kut teh. Boy, would that wash that broth down perfectly!



My friend ordered the Roses and Lychee, a concoction of Hendricks Gin, rose, lychee and clarified milk. This was actually an off-menu cocktail, an old crowd favourite from a previous menu, Volume 3, that had featured a series of cocktails inspired by beloved Singapore cuisine. The Roses and Lychee was modelled after bandung, a bright pink drink of rose-flavored evaporated milk commonly found in hawker centres across Singapore. 

This was a really lovely sipper! The rose syrup and lychee liqueur infused it with delicately floral and tropical fruity notes, while the clarified milk added a slight sweetness and silkiness to the drink.


 


Another cocktail we tried was the Can Bubble Gum?. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the Singapore Parliament and the numerous things that have been banned in the country. To be fair, the list does run somewhat long: bubble gum, smoking shisha, owning a cat in a flat, being in the nude even whilst at home, annoying someone with a musical instrument…

This cocktail is a blend of Mezcal, strawberry, lemon, bubble gum air, and distilled tabasco. The distilled tabasco added a really interesting punch! What would have been a straightforwardly airy and candy-sweet cocktail is rounded off with smokiness that causes one to take pause, and invites a sense of balance and nuance, much in the same way one would hope the law is written with.



I make a mental note to return for the K-Tea-V, an enticingly-named green tea whisky concoction inspired by Singapore’s karaoke bars! 

Before we head out, I flip through The Cocktail Diaries once more and spot a line I hadn’t earlier: “This isn’t a tourism advertisement – this is real life, as experienced by our team members”, the Nutmeg & Clove team qualifies, referring to the cocktails they have created.

It’s a nice reminder – especially at a time when flight ticket prices are bursting through the roof as almost everyone seems to be rushing to squeeze in a “post-covid” summer holiday – that maybe one doesn’t need to chase transient exoticism of a foreign locale, perhaps the magic can be in staying put, looking at things with fresh eyes.

 

Until next time,

@lotusroot518

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Nutmeg & Clove

https://www.nutmegclove.com/

8 Purvis Street 

Singapore 188587

​IG: @nutmegandclove | FB: @nutmegandclove

Founded by industry veteran Colin Chia, Nutmeg & Clove is a restaurant & cocktail bar that pays homage to Singapore’s rich history with their Modern Singapore Cuisine and progressive cocktail program.

Taking great pride in Singapore’s history and progression from colonial outpost to modern metropolis, Nutmeg & Clove reinterprets classic dishes and cocktails with a Singaporean inflection. With every taste, visitors will learn or re-visit different elements of Singapore.



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