Six-month-old Native a big winner at Bar Awards

Bartender of the Year Vijay Mudaliar (far left) with Mr Ricky Paiva, brand ambassador of Bacardi-Martini Singapore, who presented him with the award.
Bartender of the Year Vijay Mudaliar (far left) with Mr Ricky Paiva, brand ambassador of Bacardi-Martini Singapore, who presented him with the award. PHOTO: JONATHAN XIE

With a focus on regionally sourced ingredients and home-grown music, newbie Native takes two honours at The Bar Awards, including Bartender of the Year

Native in Amoy Street was the big winner at the fourth edition of The Bar Awards on Sunday, bagging Most Creative Cocktail Bar and Bartender of the Year for its head bartender, Vijay Mudaliar.

Native, which champions regionally sourced spirits and ingredients, opened only about six months ago, but Mudaliar, 28, and his team are already making waves.

He represented Native at the annual Cocktails Spirits conference in Paris earlier this month and travelled to India in March with the Singapore Tourism Board to talk about local ingredients.

"We're very new and what we're doing is very different, so the fact that customers come in and enjoy what we do is still very surprising to me," Mudaliar tells The Straits Times.

Other than the spirits, the bar also believes in showcasing homegrown artists, by using locally made ceramics and playing music by local musicians.

"We're doing okay as a bar, but our real goal will be achieved when more bartenders are pouring these spirits and more people are listening to local music," Mudaliar says.

The awards, held at Capital lounge at Zouk Singapore by local events agency Fun Size, had winners in 10 categories.

The Regent Singapore's Manhattan beat three-time winner 28 HongKong Street to snag Best Cocktail Bar.

Other notable winners were Atlas Grand Lobby & Bar at Parkview Square, which took home Best New Cocktail Bar; Tanjong Pagar establishment Tippling Club, for Best Restaurant Bar; and 28 HongKong Street for Best Bar Food.

Symphony Loo, 25, head bartender at Neon Pigeon, won The Rising Star award.

Not only bars took home prizes. Home-grown beer retailer Smith Street Taps also won Best Beer Experience. A new category for Best Wine Experience replaced the Best Spirits Selection category and the prize went to modern Australian restaurant Burnt Ends.

Winners of the awards were decided by public nominations and a panel of food and beverage industry figures.

An open call for nominations, held from May 1 to 14, received a bumper crop of 1,000 entries, double that of last year's 500 entries.

The judging panel of 10 comprised Singaporean or Singapore-based individuals such as Ms Gan Guoyi, co-owner of the Jigger & Pony Group, and Mr Naz Arjuna, head barman at Bitters & Love.

The Bar Awards also expanded to more cities this year, with its inaugural Bangkok edition on April 23 and an upcoming Kuala Lumpur edition on Oct 22. It heads to Hong Kong for the second year on Aug 20.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Stirring up the local bar scene'. Print Edition | Subscribe