A FRESH TAKE
Cocktail bars are celebrating the classics in more ways than ever—and that’s a good thing, as June Lee discovers
Classic cocktails are being celebrated in more ways than ever—and that’s a good thing
There’s no doubt that the boom in craft cocktail bars has truly gone mainstream in Singapore, with every bar aspiring to be the next big name in the “artisanal”, “bespoke” or “mixology” bar scene— juggling multiple concepts to capture the consumer’s attention. A good decade after these types of bars started popping up in Singapore, following in the spirit of cult pioneers Milk & Honey (which opened in 2000 in New York, followed by its London location in 2002) and the likes, the scene has exploded and cocktails have become an almost-daily affair. Flip through the menus and you might find a Supercar—with the ingredients listed as “butter, white wine, citrus, petrol, gin”—at Tippling Club. Or a Sea Beast—described as “black-ink coriander soju, fizzy yuzu sushi” at MO Bar.
While such liquid creativity is appreciated and consumed with enthusiasm, there are clear signs that many drinkers today are looking for the true classics—maybe with a slight twist, or maybe without any twist at all. Jigger & Pony has heeded the call with its swish reopening at Amara, where quiet craft shows its hand. As group founder Indra Kantono puts it: “A well-crafted classic cocktail will never go out of fashion in our books. Nevertheless, we don’t leave the notion of ‘well-enough’ alone.”
To do this, the bar’s opening menu pits classics versus signatures right up front— and don’t expect any Instagrammable concoctions that look better than they taste. The bar’s whisky highball, which went through eight variations, uses technique to elevate the drink rather than fancy carbonating equipment. The Japanese serving style of maewari marries Japanese whisky with very soft Hokkaido water for three days before carbonation is added. The whisky is pronounced, with effervescence playing a secondary yet smooth role. Its modern counterpart is the Tokyo-hi, which is a bit more eye-catching with umeshu, shiso, peppermint, gari and soda for an exuberant but not-at-all-outlandish highball.
Principal bartender Giovanni Graziadei had the difficult task of tackling the classic martini, coming up with five new twists
(as well as an appletini) under the menu’s Retro Classics section. He explains: “The main weakness of the classic appletini is that despite the name, it doesn’t taste of fresh apple. So we replaced the ‘fake’ apple flavour with fresh Granny Smith apple juice, and swapped some vodka with Calvados to add more body. Lastly, we added celery juice for one more layer (of flavour). Grated pecans on top lend a rich aroma, so that by contrast, the first sip feels even more refreshing. The structure of the classic is still there—the classic green colour we’re familiar with, the taste of apple, and the sour and sweet flavour combination. We simply updated it from the ’90s into the 21st century.”
Colin Chia, CEO of The Establishment Group, takes a bold approach at his bars, particularly Nutmeg & Clove in Singapore and #Findthelockerroom in Bangkok—
“A well-crafted classic cocktail will never go out of fashion in our books. Nevertheless, we don’t leave the notion of ‘well-enough’ alone”
UPDATING CLASSICS (Opposite, left to right) Jigger & Pony’s new Tokyo-hi and its updated Whisky Highball; (above) the bar’s Negroni