Jungle Ballroom is Mondrian Singapore Duxton’s verdant temple to modern Asian mixology and civilised licentiousness. Boasting a 2am license that allows — indeed, positively encourages — carousing well into the wee-small hours, this sybarite’s sanctuary is overseen by head bartender Adrian Besa.

Among the most acclaimed — and well-liked — bartenders in the region, Adrian’s former role saw him lead a team to achieve the prestigious ‘Art of Hospitality’ award at Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2021. Last year the same crew leapt 37 spots from their previous ranking of 45th to secure 8th position in the chart. Adrian is also among the celebrated bartenders in Singapore to have been recognised on the World’s 50 Best Bars list.

Working in tandem with respected hospitality consultancy Proof & Co., Adrian and his talented team have crafted a colourful and highly creative cocktail menu for Jungle Ballroom, designed to light up the senses and (in certain cases, quite literally) light up the space. “In contrast to the dark finishes and furnishings of the interiors, our drinks pop with colour,” Adrian explains. “That makes the cocktails really stand out and grab your attention.”

The themed menu takes guests on a luscious libationary journey from the Jungle Canopy (where you might enjoy a ‘View From the Treetops’), to the Understorey (here, you may discover a ‘Rose-hued Waterfall’), to the Forest Floor (be careful not to stumble on ‘The Lost Ruins’). Remarkable ingredients you’ll encounter along the way include longan, banana leaf, young mango, turmeric, black sesame, ginger and cacao.

Jungle Ballroom cocktails, L-R: ‘The Phantom Rickshaw’ and ‘View From the Treetops’

Adrian credits this adventurous approach to tipple composition to his upbringing in Pampanga, the Philippines’ culinary capital. Of course, the most important component in a cocktail is its spiritous heart, and in that regard, Adrian is no less daring. “We will not only source spices and other ingredients from around the region — we’re also bringing in spirits from across Southeast Asia,” he says. “We have a spirit importing license so we can access some very interesting and rare things. We will have the most extensive Southeast Asian spirits collection of any bar in Singapore,” Adrian promises.

To that end, Adrian and the Jungle Ballroom team will regularly embark on excursions around the region, holding temporary residencies in unique bars. These ‘Jungle Journeys’ are intended to serve as cultural exchanges, where Adrian and his team learn from the people they visit and then return to Jungle Ballroom brimming with ideas — plus new flavours and liquors.

Settle into the comfortable low seating in front of the Jungle Ballroom’s sunken bar, and beyond the standard menu, Adrian and his team will happily make something bespoke, based on your personal predilections. Perhaps they’ll fix a drink made with previously unheard-of Asian spirits and taste sensations innovated in the mixology laboratory behind the bar. (If you’re interested, they’ll be pleased to invite you back for a peek.)

Though Adrian is the frontman, he’s at pains to point out that the cocktail creativity taking place at Jungle Ballroom is a collective effort. “I’m fortunate to have the support and daily inspiration of my team. We’re constantly sharing thoughts and coming up with ideas together,” he says. “We’re like a band. I’m not a soloist.” Still, he is a bit of a rockstar. And the Jungle Ballroom is his stage.

That stage has been set by Robbyn Carter, founder and principal of California-based Studio Carter. A veteran of more than a quarter-century in the design business, in the past, Robbyn worked with leading practices including HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates and Marcel Wanders Studio.

Conjuring up the Jungle Ballroom’s dark, dreamy interiors, Robbyn says, “We drew on Singaporean design elements, inspired by the country’s myriad cultural layers, and really paid homage to the city’s rich architectural history.”

Incorporating shapes and motifs from the heritage shophouses that surround the hotel, Robbyn also set out to reflect Singapore’s mix of lush foliage and eclectic architecture, with plentiful greenery inside and outside the space. Furniture was deliberately kept low to ensure the view onto the gorgeously lit garden would not be obscured, while the banquets that encircle the room make it a flexible space for either parties or more intimate moments.

“To give the feeling of stepping into a hidden sanctuary, we incorporated two clandestine entrances, where guests can come up from street level through a ‘secret tunnel’ enveloped in greenery, or through the curtained entrance within the hotel,” Robbyn explains. “We wanted to evoke the feeling of discovering a hidden gem within the hotel.”

Helping provide sparkle to the space are psychedelic, kaleidoscopic artworks by Australia’s Emma Anna, whose creations are inspired by magic realist storytelling. Adorning the Jungle Ballroom’s walls, Emma’s ‘Flower Mandala’ artworks are large-scale digital collages, visual cocktails composed of photos of exotic blooms.

Curator of the Mondrian Duxton’s impressive art collection, The Artling founder Talenia Phua Gajardo says, “We thought these works would be a great addition to the Jungle Ballroom due to their vibrant tropical flowers, evoking fertility, sensuality and abundance. We also loved the reference to the portal and contemplation — both aspects that are reflected in the surrounding architecture and interiors of the space.”

Whether you’re attracted by contemplative art, convivial décor or creative libations (or a combination of the three), may we officially say: Welcome to the Jungle Ballroom.

Website: Jungle Ballroom

Images: Jungle Ballroom

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