Going local has never been more mainstream than right now, and for a cocktail bar that has been championing Singaporean flavours since day one, it certainly isn’t enough to follow the latest thing trending. Instead, for their menu refresh, Nutmeg & Clove looks further back into the past and something much neglected in Singapore – our biodiversity.
Drawing inspiration from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, a tome of 477 watercolour botanical drawings of plants and animals that existed in Malacca and Singapore between 1819 and 1823, the new cocktail menu features 12 classic cocktails and their respective herb, spice, fruit, or flower influenced sibling. In the case of Midnight Flings ($22), the classic Hanky Panky ($18) is given a facelift with blanco tequila, chrysanthemum, osmanthus, and homemade Tongkat Ali bitters. The roots of the latter are believed to have aphrodisiacal properties for men; but here, the punchier herbaceous edge from the bitters and the blanco tequila and the temperance by the Asian floral notes have our attention, making it a more depthful drink than the classic.
The fruit section of the menu reads like an exotic fruit platter with watermelon, coconut, durian and mangosteen. You’re One in a Melon ($22) is a watermelon-charged level-up from the Gin Fizz ($18) – and also one of the prettiest drink in their repertoire. The addition of fresh lemon juice to butterfly pea flower infused gin, clarified watermelon juice, pickled watermelon brine, and coriander has the colour of the cocktail changing from blue to violet. It’s not a particularly low ABV tipple, which makes it quite hazardous since the watermelon flavours are robust enough to hide its booziness.
Equally impressive was the Call Me Old Fashion ($22) made with coconut fat washed cognac, suze (a French liqueur made from gentian root), coconut and pandan sugar, and house tea bitters a lovely, more aromatic rendition of the classic Old Fashioned ($18), and a friendlier flavour profile for new cocktail fans looking to try more spirit-forward drinks.
The last two cocktails we tried were from the section featuring Singapore’s flora. Both are unusual but the more surprising was Dear Rose Mary ($22), based on the traditional hangover brunch cocktail, the Bloody Mary ($18). Dear Rose Mary turns the table on the heavy tomato flavours and instead treats the drinker gently with a combination of spice-infused gin, rosewater, oolong tea syrup, fresh lemon, pickled tomato, pepper, and sour plum powder. The spice, floral, and vegetal notes are well balanced and makes one helluva umami drink.
The other is Oh My Jasmine! ($22), a floral take on the Scotch Sour ($18). Imagine unpeated scotch whisky, jasmine syrup, fresh lemon, green tea liqueur, house salted jasmine foam, and matcha powder – the result is not unlike an alcoholic macchiato like those offered by the now-defunct bubble tea chain Gong Cha. That’s a really good thing since it’s a flavor profile that even non-drinkers can relate to.
Hungry? You’ll be quite spoilt for choice at Nutmeg & Clove. Try the well-fried Crispy Duck Confit Sandwich ($18) with an addictive hoisin sauce on pita bread; the bird is tender and slightly gamey – everything it should be. The Pork Burger ($18) is also worthy. The patty, made mostly from pork neck, has a lovely bite and goes well with their house made apple chutney between buttered brioche buns. If you’re just peckish, they also have a list of snacks like Buffalo Wings ($10), Salted Egg Chicken ($14), Crispy Fries ($8) and deep-fried Crispy Camembert ($12) with cranberry sauce.
Nutmeg & Clove has really upped its game with this new menu in a city of cocktail bars. The classic cocktails are rather Ginza in style – perhaps a hat tip to Co-Founder Colin Chia’s close collaborator Hidetsugu Ueno, the owner of Tokyo’s Bar High Five – and the twists are rather clever without being too pretentious. If you enjoy cocktails, this Ann Siang Road gem is a must if you haven’t already been there.
Nutmeg & Clove is located at 10A Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069789, p. +65 9389 9301. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am. Closed Sun.
Top Image: You’re One in a Melon