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Singapore’s best Christmas cocktail is made with betel leaves

A fresh face from Smoke and Mirrors whips up a Very Asian Christmas cocktail. By Natasha Hong, photos by Leo Liu.

Christmas cocktails seem like a pretty foreign concept for us out here in the tropics, but at the A Very Asian Christmas Cocktail meet, held at Vijay Mudaliar’s new Native bar on December 12, six bartenders made sense of the whole thing by using Asian flavours.

Organised by Singapore-based gin maker Paper Lantern Distilling and lifestyle portal The Minute List, six bartenders – Sim Sze Wei (Atlas), Reena Rivera (Crackerjack), Leon Tan (Native), Ganeshvara Kurukal (Smoke and Mirrors), Kai-Ho Ng (Neon Pigeon) and Ashwin Raj (28 Hongkong Street) – each took the stage to present their stories and drinks to judges Rick Ames (Paper Lantern), Kamil Foltan (Potato Head) and Mudaliar. While the theatrics of icing sugar snow, Hello Kitty serving glasses and a deer named Toby tickled the senses, it was Ganeshvara’s twist on the Martini that took the public and panel vote, besting second-placed Rivera who served a ginger-and-pineapple cocktail, and Sim’s pine and pomelo snow globe drink in third place.

Named the Virginity, because this was his first go at a cocktail contest, the rookie tapped on the vethalai pakku (betel nut chewing snack) of his heritage, infusing betel leaves into white vermouth for a sweet-bitter accord. On the side came a “buffet of garnishes” with skewered mangoes to dip in calcium paste, pan masala, fennel seeds – the usual fixings for the snack – while the cocktail was also served on betel leaf coasters.

Recipe (click to view)
Virginity by Ganeshvara Kurukal

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