In the past few years, Singapore has quickly risen to the forefront of the global bar scene, gaining more and more share of awards on prominent lists such as The World’s 50 Best Bars. The passionate community of local industry craftsmen and entrepreneurs pushes the boundaries of cocktail-making creating a brand new range of experiences that are unparalleled in terms of quality and creativity.
Recent trends pioneered by Singaporean talent include those of locavorism and sustainability of which Vijay Mudaliar of Native is one of the most prominent ambassadors on a global scale. Formerly of Operation Dagger, Vijay has put his whole life savings at stake to open Native, a bar that champions a strict zero-waste approach and the support of regional artisans and producers.
His work is now influencing a new wave of bar openings. Formerly of Smoke & Mirrors, Yugnes Susela recently opened The Elephant Room, a new cocktail joint located right above the famed Burnt Ends. Drawing clear inspiration from Native for its storytelling, menu structure and mixing techniques, the core concept of The Elephant Room is distinct and unique: the theme here is focused on the representation of Indian heritage, with all ingredients being sourced from Little India and the exclusive use of Indian traditional spirits for the cocktails.
You therefore won’t be able to order a Negroni at The Elephant Room – but you will find some totally crazy, dope shit, like the Kamasutra, a supposedly aphrodisiac concoction inspired by the once seedy red light districts on Desker Road. The strong garlic flavor, sweetened and balanced by caramelized pomegranate, makes for a potion-like, intellectually stimulating drink; the sexual vibe though will probably be buried under a fog of steamy garlic breath… just so you’re warned.
A much lighter and sessionable option is the Buffalo Road which features pink guava gin infused with mildly citrusy vetiver (a grass native of India, commonly used as an essential oil in aromatherapy) and served with tonic. Simply put, it’s an amazingly smooth G&T.
Another interesting gin-based cocktail, the Jothi’s Flower Shop, is inspired by this historical one-stop shop that has been run by the same family in Little India since 1963. The flower and incense smell and taste of this cocktail reminds of sacred religious rituals, with a jasmine infusion that allows for a tea-like tannic profile to develop, so the sweeter floral notes are balanced by a herby astringent bitterness.
Tekka is a fruity and lightly spiced Old Monk Rum-based mix whose dense texture well represents the culturally rich heritage of Tekka Center, home of Singapore’s largest wet market which features almost 300 stalls selling everything from fresh produce to dry goods. The banana skin garnish is a delicious treat too.
The other libations on menu are the Beeda Man, the liquid form of the traditional Indian digestive dessert, the Beer Garden, a creamy fermented barley drink topped with a dash of spiced brine which reminds of briyani, and the Moghul’s Sweets, a weird but pleasant chickpea-tasting cocktail.
With drinks that are thoughtful and well-crafted, I believe The Elephant Room is an excellent platform to promote Singapore’s Indian heritage in a completely new, fun and inebriating way. Besides the super complex and not always very sessionable signature cocktails, I would love to see the drink list evolve to include a variety of in-house-distilled and imported Indian whiskeys, to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or as highballs, or even as sampling flights.
All drinks are priced at S$22++. A succinct selection of four food items is also available.
Address: 20A Teck Lim Rd., 088391 Singapore