Looks can be deceptive. The glossy Singapore hotel lobby I’m standing in is somewhat vanilla in appearance, but it harbours something rather thrilling.
To one side is a small, dark passageway that leads to what is officially Asia’s best bar, Jigger & Pony.
The establishment earned this coveted title in this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars awards, which ranks the creme de la creme of cocktail bars across the globe.
Jigger & Pony – a jigger being the hourglass-shaped measuring device used by bartenders – is ranked 12th overall.
Ailbhe MacMahon pays a visit to Singapore’s Jigger & Pony (above), which has been named ‘The Best Bar in Asia’ in the 2022 World’s 50 Best Bars awards
It’s a toast-worthy achievement for the pair behind it, husband-and-wife team Gan Guoyi, who has a hospitality background with Singapore Airlines, and Indra Kantono, who previously worked with the U.S management consulting firm Bain & Company.
When it launched in 2012 it was based on Amoy Street in Singapore’s Chinatown, but as business boomed, it relocated to the Amara Singapore hotel, where it still resides today.
Step through the passageway to the bar and you’re led into a dark, moody space with slick, jazzy music reverberating through speakers. Chic Singaporean couples and groups of friends chat in crescent-shaped booths, while a long counter in the middle invites communal seating – an unusual touch for an intimate cocktail bar. The decor is suitably sophisticated, with lots of velvet, mid-century light fixtures, peach drapes and soft orange swivel chairs.
Golden light spills out from the bar, where staff dressed in formal grey waistcoats and ties are hard at work shaking and stirring elegant concoctions.
Jigger & Pony – a jigger being the hourglass-shaped measuring device used by bartenders – is ranked 12th overall by the World’s 50 Best Bars awards
Jigger & Pony is based in the lobby of the Amara Singapore hotel. Step through the passageway to the bar and you’re led into a dark, moody space with slick, jazzy music reverberating through speakers
Once I’m ushered to my table, Senior Bartender Adrian Foo tells me that there are a lot of elements at play in making the bar such a success story. He says: ‘It’s all about the hospitality, it’s about the drinks, it’s about [the] ambience. At the same time, [it’s about] how we treat our guests, not just as customers, but we treat them more like a friend. Everything comes together.’
Menus are presented in a glossy magazine ‘menu-zine’ format, filled with detailed descriptions of the drinks. You can take one home for 18 Singapore dollars (£11).
Flip to the first page and you’re presented with a cornucopia of unconventional tipples, from the Sweet Potato Opera (Hendrick’s Orbium Gin, sweet potato and cacao liqueur) to the Corn Colada (Bacardi Reserva Ocho Rum, corn, butter, lime and egg white).
The decor is suitably sophisticated, with lots of velvet, mid-century light fixtures and peach drapes
Menus are presented in a glossy magazine ‘menu-zine’ format. Flip to the first page and you’re presented with a cornucopia of unconventional tipples
Above is Ailbhe’s cocktail – the ‘Soy Milk Punch’, a medley of Japanese Ki No Bi gin, soy milk, lychee, oolong tea, and red wine
They don’t come cheap, with each drink priced at 28 Singapore dollars (£17) – though alcohol in the city tends to be expensive. To experience the bar on a budget, there’s a happy hour from 6pm where select cocktails are priced at 18 Singapore dollars (£11).
A waitress points out the drinks that are longstanding favourites among patrons – the Yuzu Whiskey Sour, with bourbon and ‘yuzu marmalade’; the Madame President, featuring orchid and melon liqueur and a ‘Campari lollipop’; and the Crimson Bullet, which is a tequila, mescal, and beetroot blend.
I tell Adrian what I like in a drink (gin based, slightly sweet) and he recommends I try the ‘Soy Milk Punch’, a medley of Japanese Ki No Bi gin, soy milk, lychee, oolong tea, and red wine.
It arrives chilled, with a blood-red layer resting on a translucent base. Adrian tells me I shouldn’t mix the two layers together, but rather sip them as one. It gets full marks from me – you get an initial hit of spiced red wine followed by a dose of sweet, floral syrup.
To experience the bar on a budget, there’s a happy hour from 6pm where cocktails are priced at 18 Singapore dollars (£11)
Describing her cocktail, Ailbhe (above) says: ‘You get an initial hit of spiced red wine followed by a dose of sweet, floral syrup’
The bar is also known for its punch bowls, which offer 15 to 20 servings a pop. The Chatham Artillery punch bowl, for instance, priced at an eye-watering 330 Singapore dollars (£198), is a blend of yuzu-infused bourbon, rum, cognac, green tea, and Louis Roederer Champagne. Wines, beers and non-alcoholic cocktails are also on offer, and the bar bottles up certain cocktails to take home.
Drinks are paired with little complimentary dishes of chicken-flavoured crisps, while sharing-style plates of pistachio and hummus dip or blue crab with smoked leek are also on the menu.
As I leave, the atmosphere is amping up and the tables are full. Since being named the best bar in Asia, Adrian reveals that Jigger & Pony hasn’t seen a huge surge in business, but it remains a favourite among Singaporeans – and a hidden gem for travellers.
The World’s Best Bar Awards says that Jigger & Pony ‘has always done things a bit differently’. I’m inclined to agree. The drinks are imaginative, the staff are experts, and the setting is suave as can be.
The best bar in Asia? That I can’t confirm, but it’s definitely worth going out of your way to visit.
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The World’s Best Bar Awards says that Jigger & Pony ‘has always done things a bit differently’