The first in a series of unique cocktails, crafted to bring the hitherto little-known spirits and flavours of Southeast Asia’s territories, makes its debut at Jungle Ballroom this week. ‘Little Pari’ – a ‘Martini’ style cocktail balanced to perfectly express and celebrate the flavours of Pari’s Herbal Kulen Gin – is the first yield in an ongoing quest by the bar’s team to support, celebrate and bring the talent, abundance and essence of our region’s jungle to their guests, in an evolving creative exchange they are calling ‘Jungle Journeys.’

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, one of the most acclaimed — and well-liked — bartenders in the region. Jungle Ballroom’s menu is rooted in the bounty of South-East Asia and 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’).

Jungle journey Vol. 1

Pari (Sophary Unn) shares the gin botanicals that grow on her farm in Siem Reap with Adrian Besa

Adrian and the Jungle Ballroom team will be embarking on a series of overseas excursions around the region, in search of exotic, quixotic flavours and fresh talent, holding temporary residencies in select bars situated in leftfield locales.

The first of these so-called ‘Jungle Journeys’ took place at the Asana Bar in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Located in Siem Reap’s last traditional wooden house, the Khmer cocktail house is run by Sophary Unn, professionally known as Pari, who makes her own botanical gin and uses produce from her farm in her herbal libation creations.

Documented on film, Adrian and the team took to the road with Pari, exploring the lush local jungle and Pari’s plantation, where she advocates for sustainable farming practises growing a variety of crops including organic lemongrass, turmeric, ginger and holy basil. At her distillery Pari produces 300 bottles of herbal gin every month, with each bottle holding half a litre of her herbal concoction of botanical ingredients.

The trips are intended not only to help Adrian and his team hunt down new local and indigenous flavours to integrate into their cocktails. They’re also a chance to cross-pollinate knowledge back and forth, and hopefully, unearth the next generation of bartending stars. “We want to attract talent from the places we visit to join us here in Singapore, it’s a two-way exchange” Adrian says.

On each Jungle Journey, Adrian and his team will hold masterclasses at local hospitality schools, as they did at Siem Reap’s École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule, which provides education to disadvantaged Cambodian youth. Offering educational, mentorship and career opportunities is an abiding passion for Adrian.

“The Jungle Journeys are a cultural exchange. We learn something from the people we visit, and they learn something from us,” Adrian says. “Then, when we get back to Jungle Ballroom, we share those experiences and the things we’ve learned, the ingredients and techniques we’ve discovered, with our team and our guests. I can’t wait to introduce our patrons to this incredible herbal gin; Little Pari has been crafted to bring forward the intense botanical notes that include country borage, holy basil, turmeric, ginger, citronella, cardamom and black pepper, each sourced locally in Siem Reap, It truly is a taste of something very special. There’s nothing I love more than sharing all the amazing produce, spices and spirits from around Asia.”

Images & Video: Jungle Ballroom

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