Former journalist launches book featuring contemporary tuak-based drink mixes


By YU JI

THE Borneo Spirits & Tuak Tales: An Inebriating Cocktail Sojourn, possibly the first recipe book for cocktails concocted from the famed rice wine from Borneo, will be up for sale online via Amazon.com this week.

The self-published compilation by former lifestyle reporter Nikki Lugun will also be available at MPH and Borders bookstores soon, with an initial run of 1,000 copies having just been shipped.

Tuak is ingrained in the Bornean culture. Like every other country that produces rice, the people here have learnt to make their own wine — just like Japan with its sake, Korea with its koji, Bali with its brem.

“This is an art that has been around for thousands of years,” Lugun told The Star during the book’s launch in Kuching recently.

Despite this, she noted that nobody had ever made much efforts to showcase tuak.

“Many still regard it as only a drink during Gawai celebrations. On the other hand, the cocktail culture is growing internation-ally.

“So why can’t we have our own tuak cocktails?”

Lugun began writing after a holiday to Bali more than a year ago.

“I started off very enthusiastically, thinking that I could come up with all the recipes by myself. But after 10 drinks, I realised I needed help.”

Lugun contacted renowned mixologist Diego Michelato from Brazil, who is consi-dered as one of the world’s top 10 talents when it comes to cocktails.

“I emailed him, not knowing if he would be interested. I was so excited when he replied! He flew down from Mumbai where he was working on a project.”

The writer said the Brazilian found tuak “neutral”, making it a good base for cocktails.

“Most of the cocktail recipes were created over a spell of 10 days. After that, there was a lot of testing and fine-tuning for over three months, which was roughly how long it took to write the book,” Lugun said.

The book features over 100 recipes based on a variety of tuak (clear, aged and red) comprising local ingredients such as fern tips and rambutans, as well as international liqueur and spirits.

Each drink is named according to attributes that are linked to Borneo.

For instance, the Sipadan Sip is inspired by Sabah’s blue ocean, while Lord Jim is based on a 1899 novel by Joseph Conrad that depicts Sarawak’s first White Rajah, Sir James Brooke.

The book was nothing less than a labour of love for Lugun, who set up her own company, Wildman Communications Sdn Bhd, to publish it.

“I’ve learnt a lot about book publishing. It’s not easy. It is like the music business — you make very little despite putting in lots of efforts.

“But I’ve had so much fun and I’m glad to have someone as good as Michelato to promote tuak.

“Much of our book is about romancing Borneo. In writing any story on Borneo, it is difficult not to exaggerate the importance of the indigenous rice wine,” Lugun stressed.

Fancy a drink?

These are just a few cocktail creations from Lugun-Michelato’s recipe book, complete with key ingredients and measurements, that you can try mixing at home and enjoy.

Orangutan Swing

— 60ml clear tuak, 120ml orange juice and one banana.

Putri Santubong

— 60ml clear tuak, 30ml melon liqueur, 15ml lime juice, one-half of green apple and mint leaves.

Maugham’s Borneo

— 60ml aged tuak, 30ml vodka, 120ml peach juice, half a chilli.

Pandelela’s Dive

— 60ml clear tuak, 15ml green peppermint liqueur, one half of kiwi fruit and a dash of blue curacao.

Kinabalu’s Secret

— 60ml clear tuak, four slices of cucumber, 60ml green tea, 15ml green tea liqueur.

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