At modernhaus, Cocktails From the Garden

by Cindy Julia Tobing
31st May 2024
modernhaus, a bar in Senopati by UNION Group, concocts cocktails inspired by plants from their mid-century modern abode.

Believe it or not, one of the early ideas of modernhaus, a cocktail bar by UNION Group and notable mixologist Mirwansyah ‘Bule’, came from a furniture piece. A bar table, to be exact, one that elongates to a communal island table so there would be no separation between the bartenders and guests. That, along with the incorporation of mid-century modern home design, now latched itself into the heart of the newly-opened space, inviting the thirsty crowd to settle in as one would at home with a drink or two. 

A play on the word house and haus (‘thirsty’ in Bahasa Indonesia), modernhaus sets space on the third floor above the French eatery Bouchon in Senopati. Upon entering, it was clear that the comfort of the space came from the design that mimics a big living room (with a tasteful blend of wood tones and pops of colours at that). Facing a gorgeous window that frames towering trees against the SCBD skyline, one can sense a seamless continuity between indoors and outdoors, a consideration that UNION also intends with the space.

The continuity finds its footing in the cocktail menu as well, developed fully by Bule as UNION’s trusted mixologist and head of research and development, who helped sail The Cocktail Club as one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars. Broken into four categories, root, fruit, leaf and flower, the 12 cocktails lineup is summarised in the menu as “looking to the anatomy of plants, taking inspiration from them as the base of our cocktails”. As such, finding cocktail names like Celery and Tomato is not so off-reach, and if you’ve been informed of Bule’s proclivity to an ingredients-first approach, then the simple title can ensure that that’s the exact flavours you would get. 

The Celery, Bule’s take on a martini, pours and mixes celery vodka, bergamot liquor and MSG dotted with celery oil, carving a subtle grassy flavour with a savoury kick. The umami impression is also found in Tomato, Bule’s interpretation of Bloody Mary, in which he tries to marry the flavours of Tabasco and whisky with a jolt of wasabi spirit. While these two may be acquired tastes, Bule also insists on making light-hearted cocktails that can jive with everyone; as such creations like Cempaka give way to the refreshing and tea-like sensation, blending the unique flavour of cempaka flower whiskey with malt and hibiscus ginger maple concentrate. 

Cocktails from plants—or garden, if you will—would certainly appeal to curious enthusiasts. But the menu at modernhaus is foremost Bule’s way of organising and conceptualising what he’s concocted before into a neat lineup of cocktails that celebrate contrasting flavours and techniques. It also taps into Bule’s ongoing journey with zero-waste, another element that can be appreciated across growingly conscious drinkers in the city. “What I’m doing right now [at modernhaus] is stretching the hell out of the ingredients at hand and avoiding waste as much as possible,” said Bule.