If your resolution for 2021 is to remain curious and ready for adventure, check out KL's latest wonderland of cocktails, where plants outnumber people, where a conservatory's worth of herbs and vegetables runs rampant throughout the space and in the beverages, where a speakeasy-style shed entrance can be spotted beside a farmer's spade hanging conspicuously on the wall.
The Curious Gardener's repertoire of cocktails (RM39 each) is extensive, distilled into three main categories, constantly with an edible on top to complement the drink.
Its first category, Plant The Seeds, aims to be refreshing after a long day at work. With Bill Withers' Lovely Day playing in the background, we started with the herbal Thorn To Be Wild - pisco infused with hawthorne berries, plus Cointreau infused with Indian borage and fresh, four-hour aloe vera-infused tonic, topped with a jelly cube made from the leftovers of the aloe vera.
This oasis' greenery galore isn't simply for show - its harvest, from basil to blue pea flowers, mint to pandan, is channelled into concoctions like Twisting My Melons (a twist on the gin-and-tonic, with honeydew-infused gin, osmanthus-infused dry vermouth and fig leaf-infused tonic water) and Jack Of All Trades (spinning off the Mojito, with jackfruit-infused rum, apple mint cordial and snow fungus soda, topped with beetroot-dyed snow fungus cooked with jujube and goji berries).
A single sip of these reinvigorating tropical potions reveals that the bar takes its produce and philosophy seriously, delivering on the promise of diverse flora and fruits deliciously brought together in each drink.
Water The Plants is the second category, buoyed by a balance of sweet-sour laced with richer complexity; it includes the earthy Holy Shiitake - shiitake-infused gin and basil-infused vermouth, with notes of blueberry and lemon, blanketed in wheatgrass foam, garnished with a pickled mushroom that's left over from the infusion, in line with the bar's waste-not, want-not perspective.
Smoke Up Mai Tai is rum-based, resonantly infused with tannic accents of coffee beans, smoked with apple wood chips for 10 minutes; it swaps out the traditional Tiki staple's Curacao for a pomelo infusion and orgeat almond syrup for sweet potato puree for more of a mouthfeel. The cocktail is again rounded out by its garnish, this time of roselle jelly (made from remnants of roselle flowers primarily meant for the bar's roselle soda).
The final category is Harvest The Crops, the most mature and deeply potent cocktails. Highlights include the umami-tinged, bittersweet oakiness of Awesome As Duck - again, another riff on a classic, this time on the Manhattan, with duck fat-washed brandy, artichoke herbal liqueur and walnut bitters, finished with peppery red radish, for an elegantly unique ensemble.
Pump Me Up is a little drier and less sweet than a regular Old Fashioned - taste the pumpkin-infused, American whiskey-based drink, with chocolate and orange bitters, and a hint of tartness from maple syrup-infused apple cider, then have a bite of the Parmesan crisp for savoury contrast,
The nightcap is Bombing Jagger, served steaming-hot, fragrantly pandan-lined - the most unmistakably Asian-inflected cocktail we tried here, this features coconut oil-infused whisky with a bit of ginger and jaggery, plus Pedro Ximenez sherry for nectarous raisin undercurrents, topped off playfully with kuih bahulu.
Everything we tried was fairly easy-going, enjoyable from beginning to end, distinctively nuanced enough to tickle the imagination without still being accessible for the taste buds, more than capably mixed, making us look forward to return to explore and experience many more cocktails, charmingly served over leafy coasters.
The Curious Gardener
G-01, Level Ground, The Sphere, Bangsar South City, 59200 Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 4pm-12am.