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30 Sep 2021 By

Culture x Modernity = The Elephant Room, Where Indian Spices and Spirits Are Melded Through Kitchen Techniques for Cocktails That Are Original and Memorable.

Head Bartender Yugnes Susela at The Elephant Room has a revamped cocktails menu that’s equal parts familiar, equal parts fresh, and all original. The inspiration comes from the trade and traditions of Little Indian, an enclave with no shortage of spices, spirits or street craft.

Yugnes (previously from Smoke & Mirrors) embraces not just his background but also brings forward kitchen techniques to the drinks. Through infusions, fermentations and distillations — and an abundance of imagination — Yugnes concocts the culture and colours of Little India in the cocktails, food and design of The Elephant Bar. “These cocktails,” he tells me, “are created to represent the culture of Little India. All the ingredients are freshly sourced from Tekka Market and its surroundings.”

Like the elephant, the bar has been stoic and steady all through this pandemic, and never forgets its traditions and timelessness. The new menu signals a readiness for change, a respect for community, a roadmap to unity. Cheers to that, I say. And here are three cocktails I heartily recommend:

Start the evening off with a cure-all Ayurveda, a gin delight with fruits and herbs commonly found in ayurveda practice.

elephant room ayurveda cocktails

The Hapuså Himalayan Dry Gin* has notes of almond, cardamon and tumeric to contrast with the bitter edge of the nilavembu herb — lacto-fermented grapes add necessary sweetness. Pickled gooseberries provide acidity for the refreshing flourish. It’s not a spa treatment, but it’s the nearest you’ll get to a panacea in a bar. 

I would also like you to meet Mr Desker, a full-spirited cocktail named after Henry Desker, one of Singapore’s first butchers along Norris and Veerasamy Road. The legacy is strong in this one, as is the intent.

mr desker elephant bar

Mr Desker (above) has Indian whisky with curry distillate, and soy meat for a savoury balance. This is my favourite, not least because it’s spirit-forward, but that it enhances what you think you know about Indian whiskies, and it’s a complex cocktail that lingers like a movie still.

Beeda Man is a holy concoction with Indian rum, amchoor (green mango powder) and paan sorbet (gotta love a heart-shaped box).

mr desker elephant bar

Like its namesake — the beeda man is the unassuming uncle who sells beeda (a spiced stimulant) to labourers — the cocktail is polite yet potent and a precursor to mayhem. Easy with this one, it’ll hit you like an angry debt collector. 

Hapusa gin elephant bar

*Hapuså means juniper in sanskrit, which gives gin its flavour and aroma. This spicy Hapuså Himalayan Dry Gin (700ml) has notes of tumeric, ginger, mango, gondhoraj limes and almond, and is available for sale from the bar as well.

All cocktails are $24.

The Elephant Room, 20A Teck Lim Road, tel: 9111-5131.

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