Meet the owners of number one bar and the winners of The Best Bar in Asia 2020; Jigger & Pony- cofounder power couple Indra Kantono & Guoyi Gan. Singapore, known for its F&B scene is incomplete without the concussions and love for cocktails and what is better than getting a deep insight about Singapore’s food and cocktail appreciation from this fantastic duo. Catch the glimpse as they speak about their favourite things to do and their perspective of Singapore.
(IK) Indra Kantono, co-founder, Jigger & Pony Group
(GY) Guoyi Gan, co-founder, Jigger & Pony Group
What are you known for? Tell me about yourself – your hobbies, passion, profession, spare time and how long have you been in Singapore?
Guoyi Gan (GY): I am a Singaporean. Indra, my business partner, and husband, has been in Singapore for 20 years. We are the co-founders of Jigger & Pony Group, born out of our love for hospitality as we enjoy entertaining our friends – whether at home or going out. Our Group’s concepts are classic craft cocktail bar Jigger & Pony, Caffe Fernet, a restaurant-bar, Humpback, a seafood restaurant, and cocktail bars Gibson and Live Twice.
Indra Kantono (IK): I was formerly in finance and Guoyi, my business partner and my wife, worked for Singapore Airlines. We started our first concept, Jigger & Pony, in 2012 at a time when classic craft cocktail bars had yet to be popular the way, they are today. From the very beginning, we wanted to create F&B concepts that embody convivial hospitality – places where people can find comfort, forge friendships and share happiness.
What according to you is Singapore famous for? One place you like to visit in Singapore and would love to go back?
IK: Singapore’s cocktail bar scene has really taken off in recent years, and some of our cocktail bars have been acknowledged as among the best bars in not just Asia, but the world – bars like Manhattan, Atlas and Gibson, one of our other concepts. In May this year, Jigger & Pony was named the top bar in the annual Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020 – right in the middle of Singapore’s Community Circuit Breaker lockdown period. We pivoted to deliveries of our Group’s signature cocktails such as Jigger & Pony’s Old Fashioned in pouches and food items such as Live Twice’s sandos. We continue to do so today even as Singapore started to reopen in stages from 2 June. We were relieved and thrilled when Jigger & Pony reopened on 9 September, 2020. It’s located in the Chinatown area, the unofficial home of Singapore’s cocktail scene; my friends and I enjoy bar-hopping in this neighbourhood.
GY: Jigger & Pony is not only our first “baby”, but also our flagship. I split my time among all our brands but spend a lot of my time there during the week. It’s often where Indra and I end our “work day” as well.
Recommendation on your most tapped tourist spot in Singapore?
GY: I love the Singapore Zoo. It’s renowned for its open concept. Animals here live in spacious and landscaped environments, simulating that of their natural habitats.
IK: I like to take visitors to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Spanning 82 hectares just five minutes away from Orchard Road, it has been at the same location since 1859. It is also Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and houses thousands of plant varieties, including rare orchids and ancient trees. It’s a great place for picnics or just to walk around.
One activity you love doing in Singapore?
GY: Going to the Tiong Bahru market on the weekends to shop for produce to cook with. The wet market is considered one of the best in Singapore and people from all over the island come here for their grocery shopping. After I’m done with my groceries, I’ll have breakfast with Indra at Tiong Bahru Market’s hawker centre. My favourite breakfast here is pork porridge with freshly fried youtiao (Chinese crullers). We will also share some chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes served with salty-sweet chye poh or preserved radish). We always ask for extra chye poh.
IK: I enjoy my evening jogs along the Singapore River and around the Marina Bay area. The landscape never fails to inspire me.
Are you adventurous? Tell us the most adventurous thing you have done in Singapore?
GY: Going offshore fishing on a boat around the Southern Islands.
IK: Adrenaline is not for me. But I do join Guoyi after her fishing trip for a hotpot dinner.
Your favourite hotel in Singapore?
GY: The St Regis. It’s where we got married!
IK: I also love the Fullerton Hotel. I do a few of my meetings in the sun-drenched lobby courtyard. It’s also quite near Caffe Fernet, one of our concepts at Customs House across the road.
Do you have any favourite restaurants and bar here in Singapore? Your most loved cuisine? Your favourite drink?
IK: Wine RVLT is our favourite bar currently. Its wine list focuses on natural wines. For date night, our go-to is Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chophouse. The food is well-executed, service is on point and we both love the relaxed, buzzy ambience.
GY: My favourite drink is a martini while Indra’s is a Mizuwari, a classic whisky and water cocktail; the word means “water” and “divide” in Japanese. And we both love to drink these cocktails at our bar, Live Twice.
Five things you can’t live without? Your most treasured piece in your home?
GY: Spin class, which I now do at the balcony of our apartment. A big-screen TV. Artisanal cheeses from The Cheese Shop at Joo Chiat. Sardines in extra virgin olive oil. My most treasured piece in our home is our custom dining table by Gabriel Tan Studio. It’s where I work in the day, and where I entertain friends at night.
IK: My iPad to stream AS ROMA football matches. Common Project sneakers. My Loopwheeler cardigan. My most treasured piece at home is the Eames Lounge Chair, a gift from Guoyi.
Must go places or shops for all your lifestyle & fashion needs?
GY: I love In Good Company, by Singapore designer Sven Tan, which offers timeless wardrobe essentials and classic silhouettes with a twist that are versatile and easy to wear.
What or Who inspires you in Singapore? What is the most memorable and exciting thing you have ever seen in your field/industry?
GY: The bar community inspires me. There is a lot of camaraderie and mutual support amidst healthy competition. We’re a close-knit community, and seeing how we have been impacted by COVID-19 drove me to establish the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA) in June with fellow bar industry leaders. The bar industry worldwide is hurting and Singapore is no different – we need to come together to work towards a recovery. We have surpassed our immediate target of $150,000 in funds from corporate donations. These funds will be channelled into three relief funds to support individuals who are affected by pay cuts or have lost their jobs, give newer bars a fighting chance at survival and help the industry recover.
IK: I often go to bars solo, sit at the bar counter and observe the interaction between bartenders and guests. These scenes always inspire me. It is hugely rewarding to see bartenders showcasing their passion and craft, and for guests to be engaged to convivial
© This article was first published online in Sept 2020 – World Travel Magazine.