Cocktails are drinks, not food – at least, that is the common consensus. Still, it’s a fact that hasn’t stopped many a bartender from experimenting with edibles that complement the drinking experience. One such bartender is Yugnes Susela, who heads Smoke & Mirrors at National Gallery Singapore. His new ‘The Playful Eye’ menu, which launched earlier in November after seven months of R&D, comprises a whopping 10 progressive cocktails concocted with culinary techniques in mind.
Smoke & Mirrors is a bar that’s known for its spectacular views of the Padang and Marina Bay, which is what brings tourists up by the droves. What makes them stay are Yugnes’s drinks, as expected of a Tippling Club alum who was amongst the top four nominees of the Bartender of the Year awards at The Bar Awards Singapore 2017.
You might start with his bizarre M.C – N.L. ($24), which comes in a planter full of edible ‘soil’ – an earthy mixture of pu’er leaves, cacao nibs, and breadcrumbs. Scoop a bit of the soil into your mouth before turning towards the drink, a sort of Eastern take on the piña colada. Comprising a cacao-infused vodka with sweet vermouth, pu’er tea, pineapple juice, and coconut nectar, it’s a refreshing creation that’s a little tannic, bitter, and sweet at the same time. To crown the drink: a nutty cinnamon basil herb from Edible Garden City.
We are then brought the Kurokawa ($22), which translate to Black River, because the drink is well… black. Served in a masu, a square wooden box typically used for serving sake, the umami-loaded concoction is as savoury as cocktails get.
Reyka Vodka is used once again, and this time it’s infused with fragrant rausu kombu that produces a deep flavour. Some goma shio (made from black sesame and salt) and housemade ponzu tincture, and lemon juice later, what you get are tart and salty notes, further amplified by the accompanying micro tomato and sea grape garnishes.
By pushing the boundaries of mixology into the culinary realm, Yugnes treats his cocktails as a chef would treat his dish. There is a drink, God’s Own ($24), that incorporates freshly-grated coconut (like you’d see on top of kueh) into junmai sake to lengthen its taste, while coconut syrup and rum enhances the taste.
And yes, there is a garnish: a slice of potato cooked at 85° celsius for precisely 40 minutes to achieve a firm bite, and further flavoured with pistachio paste and lemon zest for a creamy, rich taste thus balancing out the dry finish of the tipple.
The bar’s signature cocktail is the eponymous Smoke & Mirrors ($24), a spicy spirit-forward mix that uses tequila as its base. Inspired by the two-Michelin starred Mugaritz in Spain, Yugnes creates an edible garden of apple, cardamom, and another variant of edible soil, this time with raw pistachios and cocoa powder. Take a sip of the drink and relish the hints of agave and French herbs, then finish up with a bite of the apple to complete the profile.
There are several other cocktails on the menu to choose from. It might be the herbal Oddly GNT ($27) that utilises pineapple sake and pink peppercorn, the tart and tropical Rainforest Remedy ($25), or the oriental and savoury Mighty Duck ($20), made with jackfruit rum and five spice honey. Whichever you choose, you can probably expect an intriguing and extraordinary play that capitalises on sight, taste, and touch.
Smoke & Mirrors is located at 1 St. Andrew’s Rd, #06-01 National Gallery Singapore, Singapore 178957, p. +65 9234 8122. Open Mon-Fri 3pm – 1am, Sat-Sun 12pm – 2am.