From Kaya Martinis to Laksa Cocktails: 9 Drinks Inspired by Local Flavours

With a massive and rather pricey drink scene in Singapore, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of revisiting your favourite spot to down that same happy hour G&T week after week.

Yeah, we’re guilty.

But after discovering these quirky cocktails that celebrate local and regional cuisine dreamed up by some of the top mixologists in the city, we can’t help but want to shake things up a bit. Consider this your ultimate Singaporean-Cocktail-Bucket-List when you need a break from the expected, or when you want to expose visiting friends to uniquely Singaporean experiences. OR when you’re feeling particularly sentimental about the good ‘ol days and want an excuse to slurp down some Milo in an adult way.

Take note. Print it out. Hang it up on your wall. Get tipsy. Add some laksa spice to that vodka soda life.

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1. Tom Yum Cocktail ($20++), from Opus Bar & Grill

Don’t be surprised when you can’t find any shrimp paste or mushrooms in this one – though that’s probably how the team at Opus managed do such a stellar job at transforming our favourite comfort soup into a totally drinkable and refreshing alcoholic beverage. Muddled ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir leaves are infused with tequila Don Julio Blanco, lychee liqueur, lime, pomegranate juice, & grenadine to make this beauty. Crisp and aromatic with a tiny kick of gingery spice, it’s a new way to experience the unique combination of flavours that only a bowl of tom yum can deliver.

Book a table at Opus Bar & Grill.

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2. Mr. Bean ($23+), from Jekyll & Hyde

The story goes something like this: a friend brought everyone’s favorite Lao Ban soya beancurd (douhua) during Jekyll & Hyde’s soft launch as a dessert – because who wouldn’t – and that somehow turned into a challenge for the bartenders to create a cocktail out of it. The result? A seriously unique drink experience that pushes the boundaries of what a cocktail can be. Butterscotch liqueur, Frangelico, vodka, kaya, and Lao Ban’s douhua are mixed and garnished with a perfectly fried youtiao for this smooth and filling cocktail. Now if only Maxwell could dish out alcoholic beancurd like this…

Click here for more info on Jekyll & Hyde.

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3. Seah St. Power Nasi Lemak ($24++), from Tess Bar & Kitchen

Considering that late-night nasi lemak feasting and alcohol go hand in hand, let’s admit that this cocktail just makes sense. Creator Steve Leong only recently conjured this one up earlier this year in March for a hawker-inspired pop up bar event, combining Tanqueray No. 10 gin, barley with pandan syrup, fresh coconut water, & fresh lemon juice, then garnishing the drink with sambal chili and peanuts to mix in to your heart’s content. A few refreshingly spicy sips paired with crunchy bites of peanut and you’ll be in hawker heaven.

Book a table at Tess Bar & Kitchen.

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4. Malt n’ Marsh ($23++), from Hopscotch Bar

We bet when you were young you never slipped rum into your Horlicks – though perhaps mum did as she sat next to you with her own cup. Horlicks itself may not be unique to Singapore, but it’s certainly a flavour that nearly every Singaporean can vividly remember with sweet nostalgia. Hopscotch Bar serves up this gorgeous Malt ‘n Marsh made with Horlicks, milk, Angostura white reserva rum, giffard caramel & toffee, vanilla ice cream, himalayan pink salt, and then garnished with cereal pieces and roasted marshmallow. Decadent, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet, this is dessert, alcohol, and childhood (minus the innocence) all in one cup.

Click here for more info on Hopscotch Bar.

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5. Chew’s Laksa ($18++), from Baba Chews Bar & Eatery

That’s right, a laksa cocktail. We can imagine the doubt and grossed out expression on the face of every skeptic right now.

While, yes, the flavour is a bit shocking ‘cause it does both unexpectedly and unsurprisingly taste like laksa, it’s refreshingly easy to gulp down. Only one bartender at Baba Chews can stir this up – a mix of Bacardi white, Malibu rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, gula melaka syrup, laksa-infused whipped cream, and garnished with ground laksa leaves. The initial flavor is very much laksa, which transitions into a smooth & sweet coconut finish with just the tiniest kick of spice. Seeing as the restaurant is located in Katong, and laksa is of course the iconic regional dish, they wanted to pay tribute to the local food culture. We think they succeed brilliantly.

Would we order several of these in one sitting? Probably not. But is this more than worth a trip through Katong for a totally unique mod-Sin alcoholic update on a neighborhood staple cuisine? Absolutely.

Book a table at Baba Chews.

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6. Rojak, from Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall

How the heck do you recreate the wonderful sensation that only a plate of sweet and crispy and savoury rojak can deliver…in drink form?! Well, the team at Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall have managed to do just that. Nitro-charged gin, ginger flower, grilled pineapple tamarind shrub, fresh lime juice, shrimp paste syrup, and 4 slices Japanese cucumber, then garnished with dried bean curd and peanut butter – it’s a surprising mix of ingredients that actually blend very well together. Sweet, savoury, and just tad bit sour, you even get to choose degree of spiciness, just like you would at your favorite rojak stand.

Click here for more info on Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall.

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7. The Kaya Lumpur ($19++), from Loof

Although you’d be hard pressed to find us sipping on a cocktail before noon (on most days that is), we’re gonna go right ahead and call the Kaya Lumpur the breakfast of champions. Loof, one of the chillest rooftop hangout spots near Bugis, takes refined and subtle approach to infusing local flavours by mixing pineapple rum, kaya, citrus, soda, house bitters, and fresh Thai basil for a perfectly sweet, yet dangerously drinkable cocktail. Pace yourself on this one because they go down easy! We applaud the team for not trying to mix in cold butter for the full kaya toast experience, even though that would’ve totally let us off the hook for considering this as an actual breakfast option.

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Be sure to try their Stylo Milo (pictured above) as well, a very alcoholic take on our childhood favorite, served up in glass we very secretly wish we could take home.

Book a table at Loof.

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8. Egg Cocktail ($25), from Operation Dagger

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those ultra-post-modern drink “experiences” that you simply stare at rather than consume – there’s an actual cocktail here. The unassuming (and custom made) ceramic ‘egg’ cup on the left contains a chilled homemade salted egg yolk liqueur that’s created by curing egg yolks for 24 hours with rum, sugar, salt, caramel, and vanilla. Think slightly salty American eggnog, for those who are familiar with that particular form of holiday bliss. Remove the bell jar to find a ceramic egg cup atop smokey star anise and hay, soaking up all of those earthy aromas for your drinking pleasure.

This elusive drink at Operation Dagger isn’t even on the menu anymore, but guests can still order it – consider this our little secret.

Click here for more info on Operation Dagger.

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9. Who Moved My Kueh, from KITE

The amount of love and work that goes into this drink shines through in its delicate balance of flavours, and of course in this beautiful presentation. The team at Kite cooks pandan leaves and vodka sous-vide for two hours, adds homemade passionfruit syrup, cointreau, fresh lime and egg white, then tops the mix with ground dehydrated pandan leaves. Kite is already well-known for expertly fusing local and Asian flavours in both their cuisine and drinks, and Who Moved My Kueh is no exception. It was first inspired by a former bartender’s childhood memories of his mother getting nonya kueh for breakfast before school, and was named so because the pandan flavour only really emerges at the end like an aftertaste – as if it were moved. Clever. But don’t you dare move this kueh away from us, we want to savor every single sip.

*Closed as of January 2017

BONUS COCKTAIL!

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10. Moo Daeng, from Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall

Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall mixes up some of the most creative cocktails inspired by local flavours, so we had to include another one. The Moo Daeng is made with homemade char siew sauce, salted butter fat washed whiskey(!), fresh calamansi juice, two dashes of tabasco, Japanese cucumber, and served with an actual piece of wood-smoked & roasted char siew.

Let us pause for a moment to appreciate just how intensely magical that sounds…

Phew.

Anyway, as the legend goes, head bartender Edwin had traveled to Bangkok four years back, tried some Thai whisky and wanted a snack so ended up buying a bunch of char siew at a nearby hawker. He was inspired by the flavor combination, and decided that the obvious answer was to craft a cocktail. The result is an insanely bold and innovative creation that expertly marries regional flavors – it’s savory, refreshing, and truly one-of-a-kind.

Click here for more info on Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall.

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