We chat with Gan Guo Yi and Indra Kanton, owners of Singapore’s Jigger & Pony

The Jigger & Pony team

Amara Singapore, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

According to the World’s 50 Best this is Asia’s Best Bar and the World’s 9th Best Bar. So take note folks as they’re clearly doing something right. With a philosophy of fun, great drinks and a nurturing team environment, this is a truly international bar, but without that late-night clubby vibe you often find in bustling towns like Singapore. Check out the magazine-style menu for some amusing reading and then try the Crystal Ramos Gin Fizz for a clever twist on a classic, or a punch bowl with a few friends. It also has an interesting collection of non-alcoholic drinks for the sober-curious. Add to that some great bar food and there is something for everyone at Jigger & Pony.

We picked the brains of owners Gan Guo Yi and Indra Kanton to find out more about this bar, its recent move and all the accolades it has received.

Give us a little bit of background on the venue.
Jigger & Pony started in May 2012 by us (co-founders Gan Guo Yi and Indra Kantono) and was inspired by our travels and love for cocktails. The bar was previously located on Amoy Street. In 2018, the bar relocated to a bigger space in Amara Hotel.
Since its opening, Jigger & Pony championed the movement of bringing back classic cocktails in Singapore. Named after the double-coned measuring device used by bartenders to accurately pour out spirits, Jigger & Pony pays tribute to the 19th century, when cocktail recipes were listed in “jiggers” and “ponies”. As one of the pioneers in this city’s fast-growing cocktail industry, we are continuously working hard to better ourselves and our commitment to our key tenets- convivial hospitality, craftsmanship and inventive concepts.

Jigger & Pony has won lots of awards. Why do you think this is?
We are very thankful for all the awards we have gotten because it is a true testament to the effort and hard work the team has put in these past few years.
There are a few areas that we feel our team has worked hard to excel in and has probably contributed to the recognition we have gotten recently. Our bartenders are confident in the knowledge of cocktails as well as its history and culture. Combined with their skill and a passion to serve, the solid team at Jigger & Pony conjures an allure of creating memorable drinking experiences that keeps drawing people back.

The bar moved locations in 2018, and is now at the Amara Hotel…why? and did much change with the move?
The main reason we relocated to our current location is that we wanted to build a bar with a larger seating capacity with a 2-storey format. We also wanted to stay in the heart of the city and we always saw our new location in Amara Hotel as being the “Living Room of the City” where our guests can come in for a drink and relax and feel completely at home. At our new location, we can also accommodate many more guests. We used to turn down people because of our limited seating capacity but with a bigger bar, it means you are able to create more seating configurations and accommodate more guests at any one point of time.

The late-night bar gets credit for its laidback speakeasy style. Is that the ethos?
At Jigger & Pony, we are best known for our convivial hospitality. Convivial means “with life”, a word derived from the Latin conv?vium to mean “a feast”. It best describes our outlets that are always lively and with high energy. We pride ourselves as a bar that does not have any airs, only a shot of flair in terms of friendliness and responsiveness from the intuitive staff, who are observant and quick on their feet. We always strive to provide our guests with the most comfortable experience with their friends and loved ones.

Tell us about your drinks policy/ drinks list?
Our menu is presented in the form of a magazine, when developing the menu we start from the title, the “theme” that will be the focus of the menu. For example our current menu, The Decade Ahead, is a journey through what we hope to see happening in the drinks word in the future. The magazine format allows us to provide plenty of information and content for the guests to enjoy and presents the drinks in a fresh but sophisticated way. The style of drinks at Jigger & Pony is rooted in classic cocktails, we believe that is important to offer an element of comfort to the guests. Even our most creative and innovative drinks are presented in a way that our customers can find something familiar that they can relate to.

How do you choose your staff?
Jigger & Pony team is extremely diverse. We think that staff from different backgrounds and nationalities adds value to the team. When hiring, rather than looking for a particular set of skills, we focus on how we think the candidate can fit in our company values and ethics. We also take pride in the way we introduce new members to the team. Regardless of whether one joins as a professional who has been in the industry for many years or if they are fresh and new to the industry, we place great emphasis to get everyone aligned to our company values with our comprehensive training programmes.

What’s your hope when a customer leaves your venue?
That the guest had a memorable experience and will come back soon. We always strive to build long lasting relationships with our customers, and believe that we can achieve so by providing a place where people find comfort, share happiness and forge friendship.

How has the COVID experience impact the bar/ staff etc?
COVID has changed the way we operate: reduced opening time and capacity, social distancing… but it has also been a learning opportunity. During circuit breaker for example, the team shifted operation from dine in only to delivery and takeaway only, developing new skills that were later useful to create and launch new projects such as PONY, our bottled cocktail brand. After noticing the demand for cocktails that can be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home, we launched PONY, our new bottled cocktail brand, handcrafted by the bartenders at Jigger & Pony.

What are your hopes for 2021.
This pandemic has really let us see how important relationships and connections are. Many people are spending more time and effort on improving their relationships with one another. We hope that in 2021, as we slowly move towards a more relationship-driven economy, we can continue being a bar where everyone chooses to gather and spend time with each other and continue our efforts to bring the community and industry together.
As we launched our new bottled cocktail label, PONY this year, we hope that 2021 continues to be a great year of innovation for us as we grow the brand and launch new initiatives and projects. Last but definitely not the least, we are also looking forward to reconnecting with the global cocktail industry and community in 2021.