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Indra Kantono / Entrepreneur

Raising the Bar: Singapore's evolving cocktail scene

From immersive bar experiences to virtual cocktail events, entrepreneur Indra Kantono explains what makes hospitality in Singapore today truly unique.

Viewing time: 3 min

Kantono is the entrepreneur behind the award-winning cocktail bar Jigger & Pony (Photographed by Jigger & Pony)

It is the birthplace of one of the world's most famous cocktails, but there is no doubt the city's bar scene has surpassed its namesake, the Singapore Sling. Today it takes inspiration from all over the world, and it is this diverse and exhilarating mix of global tastes that drew Indra Kantono to Singapore to open his first iconic bar, Jigger & Pony. For Kantono, Singapore's bar scene is itself much like an expertly mixed cocktail — "the perfect storm of the right ingredients," as he puts it.


Ready-made cocktails re-conceptualised the cocktail experience (Photographed by Jigger & Pony)

The spirit of innovation

Take a population hungry for new experiences, mix in influences from all over the world, add expert bartenders keen to push the boundaries of mixology, and combine with a good slug of creative energy and you have the Singapore bar scene. When Kantono arrived to scope out the hospitality scene, he found a market ready to embrace new concepts and transformative ideas that offer a more experiential encounter that brings the customer closer to the action. He wanted to create a bar that was "more than just four walls and a drink, which you could get anywhere in the world," a bar that channelled that "sweet spirit of convivial energy."

The challenges created by the pandemic over the past year have seen restaurants and bars adapt with style, unleashing new and imaginative ways of experiencing everything that Singapore has to offer in the way of food and drink. Bars and restaurants are harnessing the acceleration in technology and digital progress to bring a whole new world of cocktails to consumers here.

Kantono himself has responded with ideas that reimagine the bar experience, bringing the excitement of hospitality into people's homes. He noticed the rise in delivering cocktails as gifts to family and friends or as a form of self-reward after a hard week. The result has been a hugely popular service that delivers ready-made, high-quality cocktails, vacuum-sealed in a pouch complete with garnish, bringing the cocktail experience to a new environment. As the service took off, Kantono's team doubled as designers, creating labels and crafting personalised messages, and collaborating with local artists to design branding.

As well as cocktail kits, Kantono's bar now offers virtual masterclasses in which expert bartenders take customers through the process of creating drinks. He has even launched an e-commerce brand, described as "convivial hospitality in a bottle," which offers spirits and other Jigger & Pony products. He recognised that there was still a huge appetite for the cocktail experience in a way that was accessible, safe and innovative. "Singapore is a city that that never sleeps," Kantono explains, "and we always embrace modernity. We're always hungry for new experiences, to be educated about new cuisines or new ways of entertainment."

Singapore is a city that never sleeps.

Indra Kantono


A part of Jigger and Pony's Heritage of Asia cocktails, the Jungle Bird offers a taste of Kuala Lumpur from the 1970s with The Lovers Rum, granny apple smith, Campari and lemongrass (Photographed by Jigger & Pony)

PONY bottled cocktails handcrafted by its bartenders reimagines the take-home cocktail (Photographed by Jigger & Pony)


Keong Saik Road, an iconic district home to trendy restaurants, bars and boutique hotels
Image was taken prior to COVID-19


Jigger & Pony’s art deco lounge welcomes visitors across the island to enjoy sophisticated and delicious cocktails (Photographed by Jigger & Pony)

New experiences

As we enter a new era with an enhanced awareness of the value of social connections and relationships, Kantono's original concept of "creating a place in the community where people can find comfort, forge friendships and share happiness" feels more relevant than ever. Technological progress over the past year has helped, ensuring shared experiences are the best they can be, with new innovations such as QR codes to scan for drinks and food ensuring that these encounters are all about spending hassle-free quality time together.

This shift in hospitality is opening up new experiences across the city. The iconic nightclub Zouk has moved into organising film nights with drinks and has repurposed its dance floors for spin classes. The retro-themed Nineteen80 in Tanjong Pagar has been holding Twitch livestream events in which revellers pay a cover charge and dance the night away in their own homes. With the greater focus on sustainability and avoiding waste, there has been a significant pivot across the food and drink scene from bars such as Native, which champions the use of foraged, local and regional produce. Digital apps for local food and drink options here have skyrocketed across the spectrum, such as Hawkers United, which promotes the food of Singapore's famous street-food vendors and now boasts 265,000 members.

The perfect mix

The scene here is constantly evolving, offering a variety of experiences that is practically inexhaustible. For Kantono, Singapore offers the ultimate "cocktail hop." He has a few unmissable favourites, starting with the Manhattan bar at the Regent Singapore for its renowned Bloody Mary brunch, before moving on to the No Sleep Club in bustling Chinatown for bespoke cocktails, and, of course, ending up at his own flagship bar, Jigger & Pony. Much like his favourite cocktail, the highball, Singapore's bar scene offers a "true level of sophistication." What makes it so special, he says, is its heady mix of a "supportive community, bars of diverse styles and exceptionally creative bartenders."