Unlock the Bars takes us to the historical city of Melaka to delve into the rich heritage and savoir-faire it has to offer. Exploring the colourful cultural elements of intermarriages to the storied mercantile days of yore during the many colonisations, host Venice Min checks out Melaka city that is not only a melting pot of cultural nuances that’s closely bound by food but also where the bar scene is growing exponentially.

Taking cues from the historical accents of the straits settlement, the boys behind The Old Merchant Bar in Melaka use locally made palm sugar or better known as gula Melaka as the main component of the new cocktail made using Martell Noblige. The drink, named ‘Venice of the East’ is named after the locality of the bar that’s located right in the centre of old Melaka trade zone skirted by the Melaka River.

Highlighting the deep layers of history, The Old Merchant’s bartender Rowan Lee explains how it resonates with gula Melaka — a quintessential sweet element that is used in many local Peranakan dishes for generations — both sweet and savoury.

Venice having a closer look on the different types of gula Melaka.

Gula Melaka naturally has an exotic taste that straddles between its saccharine caramel notes and salty expressions. It has a complex flavour profile depending on the type of gula Melaka and the process of making it. This duality complements Martell Noblige that carries a burnt butter aroma on the nose and rich sweetness of stone fruits.

The gula Melaka is whipped into an aerated cream that goes on top of the stirred concoction. In the mix is a Martell Noblige, buddha fruit or luo han guo infused water, chocolate bitters and another key ingredient, Melaka rice wine.

This locally produced rice wine has a history of over 100 years with its distillery based in Melaka since 1908 — one of the oldest spirit manufacturers in Malaysia. The rice wine adds a beautifully complex fermented taste to balance the sweetness of the drink.

Lee skilfully stirs the concoction and serves with a block of ice and a generous topping of gula Melaka cream. He continues to smoke it for added depth and tops it of with a skewer comprising longan and dates soaked in Martell Noblige. The result? A beautifully balanced cocktail that accentuates the sweet and smoky expressions of the spirit and gula Melaka — making it the perfect digestif after a day of eating in Melaka city.

Venice of the East is made using Martell Noblige.

Want to try it at home? Lee shares the recipe of this easy-to-drink cocktail.

Martell Noblige

Melaka rice wine

Luo han guo

Chocolate bitters

Gula Melaka cream

Otherwise, take a quick drive down south to Melaka to enjoy this cocktail and taste the unique expression of the century-old Melaka rice wine together with Martell Noblige. Venice of the East will be available at The Old Merchant, Melaka from now until 31 December 2019.

(Special thanks to EP Yaying)

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.