Curiouser And Curiouser: Umami Cocktails At The Curious Gardener

Bar | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

One of the latest bars to grace the Kuala Lumpur nightlife is The Curious Gardener, serving cocktails inspired by homegrown herbs and flavours. Headed by Alvin Au Yong, the bar boasts an impressive array of cocktails suited most for an umami palate, with an array of punny names such as Twisting My Melons! and Holy Shiitake!, all which you would have to taste to appreciate its direction. We sit down with Alvin Au Yong to learn a bit more.

Interior | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

The Curious Gardener: Creative Cocktail Bar

The bar is tucked in the utmost corner of the The Sphere in Bangsar South, hidden from plain sight, and is only accessed through a secret door inside The Farm Foodcraft Restaurant, which is only accessible through a knocking of a shovel on the shed door. The hand illustrated menu is beautiful, with a selection of twists of classics but catered for the more adventurous palate through umami and greener expressions through herb and spice. The bar also does not display any branded alcohol on its counters, with the believe that the drinks should speak for itself, and not based on brand. The bar also seeks to be as environmentally friendly as part of their concept, including growing the garnishes used as well as using leaves as their coasters.

Alvin Au Yong | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

Bartender Highlight: Alvin Au Yong

When you first meet Alvin, he can come off as quite a reserved person, usually dressed in his signature flat cap and 1920’s inspired look. But once you get to chatting, he opens up like a flower and shares his passion, and this is where his professionalism in creating cocktails shine. The bartender has cut his teeth in a number of countries, starting in Adelaide while a student, which quickly grew, taking him to Singapore and Bali before finally returning to Kuala Lumpur. Some of the bars which he has plied his trade include The Library (Singapore), Nutmeg & Clove (Singapore), Golden Monkey (Melbourne), Baker Street Social (Bali), the now defunct Pacific Standard Bar (Kuala Lumpur) and The Curious Gardener.

Cocktail 1 | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

Can you tell us a bit about The Curious Gardener and its philosophy?

The Curious Gardener was inspired by my interest in home gardening during the beginning of the pandemic last year. As a bartender, naturally I began to incorporate homegrown herbs and fruits into my cocktails and saw an opportunity to share them with others in a casual home garden bar setting. The philosophy of the Curious Gardener is to explore the endless possibilities of natural ingredients, to transform them into fun cocktails and to share them with guests.

What is something about The Curious Gardener that people might not know about?

Prior to the bar opening daily, the Curious Gardener engages in a gardening session. Followed by 3 to 4 hours of ingredients preparation in order to offer guests the full menu of 18 cocktails. One of the mantra of the Curious Gardener is that ‘I take my drinks seriously behind the scenes so that you do not have to’.

Cocktail 2 | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

Can you elaborate a bit more about your cocktail programme?

The cocktail programme is based off the ‘garden to glass’ concept whereby as much herbs, fruits and vegetables are grown in my garden which are then developed into the cocktails. Ingredients which aren’t grown on site are sourced from my friends and partner farmers. The cocktail program aims to highlight how individual ingredients are utilised in various forms and the pairing of flavours, akin to chefs. In addition to that, each of the 18 cocktails from the menu contains a form of edible garnish which is made from the leftover preparation ingredients. Transforming what most considered as waste, into a garnish to impart additional aroma, texture or flavour to the cocktail.

Do you mind sharing a cocktail recipe?

I have always been a fan of clarified milk punches for its smooth texture and complex flavours so here is the recipe of the Milky Whey, my take on a clarified milk punch inspired by a genmaicha carrot cake I once tasted.

INGREDIENTS (1 portion)

  • 50 ml Gin
  • 10 ml Genmaicha infused Fino Sherry (2.5g Genmaicha to 250ml Fino Sherry, sous-vide infused at 55°​C for 1 hour)
  • 10 ml Cherry Brandy
  • 5 ml DOM Benedictine
  • 10 ml Honey Syrup
  • 15 ml Lemon Juice
  • 30 ml Carrot Juice
  • 30 ml Soy Milk
  • 1 dash Saline 20% Solution

METHOD

  • Prepare all ingredients (except carrot juice and soy milk) in measuring cup A.
  • Prepare carrot juice and soy milk (except the rest of the ingredients) in measuring cup B.
  • Slowly pour content of measuring cup A into measuring cup B to begin the milk washing process.
  • Cover and transfer measuring cup B into the fridge and infuse overnight.
  • Use a mesh strainer to strain out the content from the measuring cup and then filter through coffee filter papers to remove all sediments.
  • Bottle it and keep refrigerated (lasts for a month if stored in the fridge).
  • To enjoy, pour 120ml over ice and garnish with an orange peel and a torched rosemary sprig.​

Cocktail 3 | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

What are 3 must try cocktails at the Curious Gardener?

The 3 must try cocktails are Twisting My Melons (Honeydew Gin, Osmanthus Vermouth, Fig Leaf Tonic), Holy Shiitake! (Shiitake Mushroom Gin, Basil Vermouth, Blueberry Jam, Lemon, Wheatgrass Foam) and Awesome As Duck (Duck Fat-Washed Brandy, Aged Rum, Artichoke Amaro, Orange Curacao, Black Walnut Bitters)

How has the Covid affected your bar and what message do you want to share with peers in the industry?

Unfortunately for the Curious Gardener, after merely 2 weeks of opening, MCO 2.0 was implemented in the Klang Valley and most states in the country. Like most bars, I had to explore and launch a bottled cocktail delivery program to reach our guests before being able to reopen on Valentine’s weekend. Overall, the situation with Covid has reminded me that welcoming guests with warm hospitality is still by far the most important aspect of the bar experience and I hope that my peers in this industry will continue building on this.

Cocktails | The Curious Gardener | Food For Thought

Can you name us 3 other bars that people should know more about in Malaysia?

Tiga Bar, Ipoh
Monster & Beer, Petaling Jaya
Shui Bar, Johor Bahru

We highly recommend you pay them a visit once the Movement Control Order is lifted.


The Curious Gardener
G-01, Level Ground,
(inside The Farm Foodcraft Restaurant)
The Sphere Bangsar South City,
59200 Kuala Lumpur
+6011 3639 0695
Opening Hours:
Daily, 4.00 pm to 12.00 am
Closed Mondays.

| PHOTOGRAPHY: NICHOLAS NG | WEBSITE: THE CURIOUS GARDENER |

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.

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