Jigger & Pony is now six years old. But back in 2012 when we first opened, the cocktail industry was still growing. Bars were already churning out creative, fruit-based cocktails, but none were focused on the classics. It was roughly around the same time we entered the scene that a slew of other classic-cocktail-based bars opened, such as 28 HongKong Street and the now-defunct The Library and Cufflink Club. Together, we formed a community. When more bars open, it piques the interest of people, and that creates an opportunity to really develop the scene.
In addition to the overall bar experience, events – particularly consumer-centric ones – have also helped to highlight the industry. The Singapore Cocktail Festival, which launched in 2015 (as Singapore Cocktail Week) is one such event which has really boosted exposure. Whisky Live and Gin Jubilee are other great examples of industry events that are tailored towards consumers, which helps them get excited and gives them an opportunity to truly learn about spirits and, hopefully, find something that they love drinking. At the end of the day, cocktail bars are not about quantity, but quality – they’re about how to drink well. A drink at a cocktail bar might be higher priced, but you’re getting better quality.
One of the great things about Singapore is that we don’t have a history of cocktail culture per se. When you go to countries such as Japan, or cities like London or New York, there is an expectation of what a cocktail experience should be like. But we don’t have that here, and I think that allows for variety. For instance, you can go to a bar like D Bespoke for the Japanese experience or you can go to Employees Only for more American-style bartending. The scene is so welcoming of different styles and cultures of bartending, and I think this has made us quick to grow.
Regionally, Bangkok and Shanghai have really interesting cocktail scenes. The former is focused on well-crafted, thoughtful products. Their bartenders are invested in their craft and they do beautiful work with local ingredients and make drinks that really resonate – Q&A and Thaipioka are two of my favourites. In Shanghai, you have old stalwarts such as Union Trading Company, but also, outside of the major cities, there are small bars opening in places where you wouldn’t expect them.
At the end of the day, bars need to innovate – that is the key to longevity. You might lose a customer or two who doesn’t want to try something new, but for those who are loyal to a bar’s style of innovating, they’ll always have something fresh to try.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine