I guess many of us have walked down Orchard Road at some point in our lives, but I can safely say that if I ask my friends where Orchard Shopping Centre is, none of them will be able to tell me so.
In fact, many of us have walked past this building without noticing it. Perched above the intersection of Orchard and Grange Road, this old and sombre building opposite Cathay Cineleisure looks like a misfit amongst the modern and sleek buildings beside it. None of us actually knows what is inside, yet if you have the courage to walk in and teeter up an obscure escalator, you will find yourself in a place that screams huge contrast to the façade outside.
Meet Elixir Bar, a bespoke cocktail bar that sits within Kuvo, a multi-concept space that consists of a dining room that features a Chinese ala-carte buffet and Vine Lounge, a hideout for wine lovers. Helming Elixir Bar as its head mixologist is Vladyslav Buzko (or just Vlad, as his name tag suggests :p), a 25 year-old Ukrainian who relocated to Singapore just 6 months ago.
A contemporary black shelf with books and goblets interspersed with bottles of liqueurs and spirits serves as the main backdrop for the bar while the counter top was adorned with jars of dehydrated garnishes, vials, glasses and 2 mini barrels. Vlad then had us settle down, and introduced to us the concept of this space while concocting our first drink of the night in front of us.
When he was first invited to head Elixir Bar, Vlad was inspired by the name of the place, and hence decided to create a series of drinks and cocktails that revolve around the concept of alchemy and mythology that seems befitting to the bar. This re-creation consists of 10 “Elixirs” split into 5 different categories – Happiness, Beauty, Life, Luck and Courage. Each elixir comes with a story often based on a Greek or Egyptian character and its ingredient list. But there is a catch – each ingredient is given a different name, and part of your task as you sample the drink is to figure out what might be in the drink using the whimsical names as your guide before referencing the list at the back of the menu. I reckon this to be like figuring out the answers to the questions in an assessment book – adding some element of interactivity in your experience.
The Aphrodite’s Secret ($23++) is a perfume-y gin-based drink with strawberry, lime juice, egg whites, Chambord (a type of raspberry liqueur) finished off with dried rose petals. It reminded me of a similar drink that I had in The Other Room at Marriott, but the tart and bitter citrus element within sort of heightens the high floral notes of the rose petals right from the start.
We had the Beauty of Nephriti ($21++) next, a vodka-based concoction with Frangelico, apple juice and burnt marshmallow, which Vlad happily torches in front of us. The charred and sweet marshmallow, as well as the egg whites incorporated gave this drink a lovely creamy mouthfeel. Some sprinkling of gold dust at the end, together with the exotic goblet that was used gives you a faintest hint of imagination that you might be somewhere in ancient Egypt
Another safe drink on the menu was the Tykhe ($22++), a passion fruit inspired drink made with tequila, aperol, passion fruit and passion fruit syrup. I have to admit that this was my least favourite drink of the night as it was too one-dimensional for me, but my partner really loved the sweet and sour tang, and it almost feels like a great drink to whet up your appetite.
One of the in-house favourites is the Heracles Force ($23++), a powerful blend of Remy Martin VSOP cognac, apple juice, crushed walnuts and “Werewolf Chest Hair” – labelled as Chinese root in the legend, but I presume it is some sort of ginseng. I was pleasantly surpise by how the addition of apple juice brings out the fruitiness of the cognac immensely (after all, cognac is distilled white wine), and the slight bitter edge of the Chinese root gave an interesting twist towards the end.
My favourite drink of the night has to be Anubis Potion ($26++), a cocktail served in a whisky glass, then placed in an Anubis-shaped receptacle filled with dry ice for some theatrical effect. What impressed me so far was that every single drink thus far has been served in different glasses that have been thoughtfully planned and sourced to fit the name of that drink. This drink, well, is one of the best creations that I’ve tasted thus far.
Vlad chose Monkey Shoulder, a triple blend scotch whisky, as its base, before layering it masterfully with chocolate dust, chocolate bitters and espresso liqueur in the form of Galliano Ristretto. The base itself is smooth, but I felt that the chocolate and coffee elements added both a tinge of smokiness and much needed sweetness, making the cocktail extremely easy on the palate. And as a person who prefers peaty whisky to smooth fruity ones, I find myself enjoying this more than I would have. But beware, this drink is pretty potent, and before you know it the alcohol will hit you like a truck.
Jupiter ($26++) was the most contemporary drink of the night. Vlad chose a skull studded goblet to house the drink (and he chose this to match the supposed fearsome king of gods), before dousing a shot of rum and lighting it on fire. For a moment, I thought my name will fly out from the goblet unexpectedly.
A concoction of Dom Benedictine, Cognac, black caviar, cheese and honey, its intentional combination of savouriness and sweetness hits the mark. Both liquors form a solid base, the honey adds a gentle saccharinity right at the start before the brininess of the caviar and cheese rounds up the drink ever so slightly. I sort of guessed the inspiration behind this drink – wouldn’t you find all these ingredients on a well curated cheese board?
Deep-fried Honshimeiji Mushroom with Golden Crumbs
Scallop & Prawn Radish Cake
Black Pepper Beef Cubes
Apart from Vlad’s creation, Elixir bar also serves classic cocktails that you can find in any other bar, albeit some with his own twist (how about The Other Old Fashioned?). You can also order a selection of contemporary Chinese tapas from Kuvo to go alongside, including Deep-fried Honshimeiji Mushroom with Golden Crumbs ($8++), an incredibly moreish and more substantial take on the enoki version that we see more commonly, Scallop & Prawn Radish Cake with X.O. Sauce ($14++), and Black Pepper Beef Cube ($18++).
I’ve been to several cocktail bars previously, but each comes with a set of different experience. Some mixologists tend to be rather distant, some more theatrical. Sometimes the bar revolves around a theme, while others tend to focus on creative spins on the classics. Elixir bar is somewhat different. Initially I had a face of scepticism when the theme was introduced to me – isn’t this too contrived? Or will it be too gimmicky?
What blew me away was the overall experience with Vlad. He draws his immense experience from abroad – Qatar, Ukraine, Dubai, and produces a selection of drinks that are fun, modern but varied. His ability to show restraint in both his creations and interactions was most impressive at a time where only ostentatious performances are highly regarded. And as you sample the multiple flavours layering upon each other in each cocktail, and between different drinks, you can’t help but notice the juxtaposition of his sincerity and thoughtfulness as though they were as critical as the ingredients that he puts in each concoction. This, I believe, allows room for re-interpretation on the patron’s end, and as I made my way out with a slight grin, I can almost still feel the different notes singing at the back of my now dry palate.
Thank you Elixir Bar for the invitation.
Elixir Bar (within Kuvo)
Orchard Shopping Centre
321 Orchard Road
Sun to Thu & PH – 5pm to 1am
Fri, Sat & Eve of PH – 5pm to 2am