10 Unique Malaysian Cocktails and Where to Find Them
Being a predominantly Muslim country, Malaysia isn’t exactly known for its alcoholic beverages. But this doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of any. In fact, Malaysia actually has its own national cocktail that has made its name in bars the world over, although strangely enough, it is not as well-known in its own country of origin.
Whether you’re a visitor wanting to get a taste of Malaysian flavors, or a local trying to get closer to your roots, this article will introduce you to 10 uniquely-Malaysian cocktails and where to find them.
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You might have seen this cocktail on bar menus around the world, but did you know that it was originally invented here in Kuala Lumpur? Created in the 1970s at Aviary Bar in the former Hilton KL, this cocktail features tropical fruity flavors, as befits the tiki cocktail era of the ’70s.
The ingredients of the Jungle Bird are rum, fresh pineapple and lime juices, sugar syrup, and a dash of Campari for a slightly bitter finish.
There are several bars in Kuala Lumpur that serve this cocktail, each with their own twist to it. You can find variations of the Jungle Bird at:
- Cantaloupe Bar, Troika Sky Dining, Level 23A, Tower B, The Troika, 19, Persiaran KLCC.
- PS150, Ground Floor, 150, Jalan Petaling.
- The Smoke House, Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Tasik Perdana.
- View Rooftop Bar, Level 29, G Tower, 199 Jalan Tun Razak.
However, if you’d like to try the most authentic Jungle Bird, head over to the Chamber’s Grill & Bar in the Hilton KL, where they stick to the original recipe from the 70s.
2. The Cendol
“Cendol” is a classic Malaysian/Indonesian dessert consisting of green rice-flour jelly (colored and flavored with pandan leafs), and kidney beans sweetened with palm sugar, served over shaved ice and coconut milk.
At Da Bao Malaysia, this traditional dessert is given a boozy twist by injecting a dose of rum and Baileys. Perfect as an after-dinner drink!
Da Bao Malaysia also offers other Malaysian-inspired cocktails such as ‘Sirap Limau‘ (bunga kantan-infused gin, lime juice, red pandan syrup, basil seeds), and ‘Corn-in-Cup’ (dark spiced rum, lime juice, homemade butter corn syrup, chocolate bitters).
3. Asam Laksa
The original asam laksa is a noodle dish featuring a sour and spicy fish broth. Arguably the most popular Malaysian food, it has been voted by CNN’s global readers as one of the World’s Best 50 Foods, making it the first and only Malaysian food to make the cut.
But don’t worry – the cocktail version at Opium KL doesn’t come with any fishy taste. It is made of spiced rum, calamansi juice, mint leaves, pineapple juice, bunga kantan (ginger flower), laksa leaves, asam boi (dried plum), and sugar syrup. It’s even served in a small porcelain bowl to replicate the dish.
4. Yusuf Taiyoob
This newest cocktail by Concubine KL is named after a famous importer and distributor of dried fruits, nuts, spices, bakery ingredients, herbal soaps, and many other consumer products. But Yusuf Taiyoob is most known for distributing dates, which are a must-have meal accompaniment during the month of Ramadan.
His namesake is made of date syrup, almond milk, cardamom, sherry, rum, and egg yolk. A Malaysian version of eggnog, with a slight Middle Eastern twist.
5. Milo Dinosaur
If you’ve never heard of Milo, it is a world-renowned chocolate-and-malt drink produced by Nestle. In Malaysia, we like to drink it cold, with condensed milk and an extra topping of Milo powder. This drink is nicknamed Milo Dinosaur, although I’m not sure what the connection is to the prehistoric creature.
The Vault KL is just one of the many bars in Malaysia that have come up with a variation of this childhood comfort drink. The Vault’s version contains the Kraken black spiced rum and Frangelico liqueur for a nutty aroma.
6. Spirit of Borneo
This Borneo-inspired cocktail puts the spotlight on ‘tuak’, a traditional rice wine that is produced in the region. Manja KL has taken this local tradition and added lime juice, elderflower, and egg white. With the addition of house-made syrups for a unique touch, the result is a smooth, creamy cocktail that has garnered a special mention in the Michelin Guide.
The tuak used in this cocktail is sourced from a Bornean artisan.
7. Brandy Air Mata Kucing
This is another cocktail inspired by one of the locals’ favorite drinks — air mata kucing, which had been ranked #6 out of the CNN’s “50 Most Delicious Drinks from Around the World”. Mata kucing is a type of fruit belonging to the same family as the longan fruit.
In Coley Cocktail Bar, this fruit drink is infused with Remy Martin VSOP and monk fruit to make the perfect thirst quencher in our unforgiving climate.
Named ‘The Best Bar in Malaysia’ three times in Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Coley is known for their bizarre but brilliant twists of Malaysian favorites, including asam boi, homebrewed barley, and even boba tea.
8. Perhentian Swing
Although this drink will not automatically transport you to the island it was named after, it does promise a temporary escape from the urban madness with its delicious combination of Plantation Stiggin Fancy Pineapple Rum, Amaretto, Noix de Coco, Orgeat syrup, and Angostura bitters.
All ingredients are shaken in ice, and topped with soda water and shredded desiccated coconut. True to its island theme, it comes with stacks of prawn crackers, and homemade pickles as garnishing.
9. Kapitan Yap
Kapitan Yap is Jann KL’s tribute to Yap Ah Loy, the man who was largely responsible for the development of Kuala Lumpur into a booming commercial and mining center. It is a blend of Jack Daniels whiskey, jackfruit, honey, and topped with a foamy egg-white cap.
In this chinoiserie-themed bar, you can also find other cocktails that truly capture Malaysian flavors, such as ‘Rojak’ (Bacardi Carta Blanca, pineapple, ambra, mango, calamansi, and rojak sauce), and ‘Tau Foo Fah’ (soy bean curd, grass jelly, and rum).
10. Clarified A.B.C
This red-hued cocktail is a clarified milk punch Inspired by the local dessert ‘air batu campur’ (ABC), which is a mixture of ingredients: evaporated milk, coconut palm sugar, peanuts, kidney beans, corn, and grass jelly (cincau), served over a mountain of shaved ice.
In this cocktail, London Dry Gin is added with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, red bean gula melaka syrup, lemon juice, rose water, and corn milk. The milk undergoes a ‘washing’ process, which involves the curdling of the mixture once the acid from the lemon comes into contact with dairy.
The cocktail is then infused overnight to allow flavors to integrate, and then filtered to remove all sediments, leaving behind a crystal-clear red liquid with a rich milky texture.
Have you tried any of these Malaysian cocktails? If yes, which one did you like best? If no, which one would you like to try first? Comment below.
If you’re looking for non-alcoholic Malaysian drinks, check out this article: 10 Must-Try Malaysian Drinks
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