In this episode, we explore what Johor has to offer and how Joe Naik from Haiiro Usagi turns the golden pineapple into a brightly bold cocktail with Martell Noblige.

Unlock the Bars heads south to Johor to explore the bright and vibrant flavours of locally cultivated pineapple, specifically the MD2 variant. Host Venice Min and bartender Joe Naik from Haiiro Usagi take a road trip deep into the suburbs of Pontian district to Serkat, where the 250-acre Aqina Farm is located. Taking the pineapple as the main local ingredient and inspiration, we got to taste the true flavours of locally grown pineapples and how this sweet fruit adds depth into cocktail-making.

It is an easy decision for Joe to pick the pineapple as the key component of his creation. He intends to honour the history of his birthplace, Johor, which is one of the biggest growers of pineapple, with even a town, Pekan Nanas, that gets its name from this exotic tropical fruit. The pineapple is also a symbol of nobility, wealth, wellbeing and hospitality — all the characteristics that he wants present in the cocktail.

MD2 pineapples are specially grown in this part of Johor, and are known to be less acidic with butterscotch-like sweet scent.

Joe reminisces his encounter with this special MD2 variety of pineapple that is relatively less acidic and is significantly sweeter compared to other variants. Freshly picked MD2 pineapples also give off a rich aroma of butterscotch, which is similar to the expressions of Martell Noblige on the nose. The sweet saccharine scent with a strong body of stone fruits and spice can also be enjoyed when drinking the Martell Noblige, creating a perfect balance when paired with juicy pineapple that’s naturally sweet yet slightly acidic.

But Joe didn’t want to create something with just the usual pineapple juice. He experiments with the pineapples on the different ways to bring out maximum flavours and nuances from the fruit. “I found out that grilling the pineapple gives it a richer mouthfeel and caramelised taste,” he shares.

For the grilled “pineapple jus”, Joe marinates the pineapples overnight with honey, salt and local chilli (cili padi if you’d like it with more kick) for a Malaysian twist — allowing the flavours to marry and ameliorate into the fruit. The pineapples are grilled with butter to enhance its richness and bring out some toasty notes. Once slow-juiced, he’s left with is a beautiful golden juice that’s smooth, sweet and buttery,  infused with a hint of heat from the chilli.

Another important component is the pineapple nectar that is ‘discovered’ by chance. He freezes leftover pineapple juice into ice cubes, thinking what he’ll use them for. But after a few days, he notices a layer of pineapple nectar on the ice and scoops it out as a gelatinous pineapple extract. The nectar adds extra body without diluting the drink, enhancing the cocktail with the natural sweetness from the fruit itself while paying true homage Johor pineapples. It even has a befitting name: Raja Selatan or ‘king of the south’.

The Raja Selatan made with Martell Noblige.

For Raja Selatan, Joe prepares it as a stirred cocktail to preserve the flavours and texture of the drink. The buttery spicy notes of the pineapple jus complement the vanilla and caramel expressions of Martell Noblige perfectly — creating a unique sensorial experience. The texture of the pineapple nectar gives a velvety and rich mouthfeel to the drink as well.

Want to try making it yourself? Joe shares the recipe of this easy-to-drink cocktail.

Raja Selatan

40ml Martell Noblige

40ml Homemade spiced honey butter pineapple jus

Pineapple nectar

*Stir for at least 30 seconds

Otherwise, head down south to Johor Bahru to experience the effervescence taste of pineapple in the beautifully crafted Raja Selatan made with Martell Noblige. Raja Selatan will be available at Haiiro Usagi from now until 30th April 2021.

Unlock the Bars is a collaborative initiative between Martell and Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur to explore the possibilities of blending Martell Noblige cognac with locally-inspired elements. Unlock the Bars travels to different cities in Malaysia to unearth new talents in the country’s vibrant bar scene and invites you to taste the unique creations of Martell Noblige.

Martin Teo
Content Editor
Martin loves traveling the world to see ancient ruins and classical architecture. He enjoys the culinary experience of various cities but (still) refuses to eat anything insect-like. On a daily basis, he finds time hitting the gym to compensate for the amount of food he needs to eat just to write an article.