Rum's the word

The folks at Jigger and Pony take a backyard barbecue to Amoy Street.

102 Amoy Street
6222 9102 / 9732 5607
Open 6pm to midnight (Mon-Sat), closed Sun

Gin and whisky may be the fashionable imbiber's liquid of choice for now, but the owners of popular cocktail bar Jigger and Pony have their money on rum becoming the next big drink. So much so that they've fashioned their second outlet, Sugarhall, as a homage to the easy-drinking spirit.

The three-day-old bar-restaurant carries over 50 labels of rum, listed in easy-to-understand categories according to their styles and origins, such as the more brash concoctions from British colonies in the Caribbean such as Jamaica and Barbados and the more earthy Demerara style of Guyana; the refined Spanish styles found in Cuba or the grassy imprints of agricultural style rums from French colonies such as Martinique and Guadelope, and even a small section of the increasingly popular cachaca.

Rum-based creations make up half of the bar's 18 signature cocktails, which is likewise divvied into three sections: those made from clear base spirits such as white rum, gin and vodka, dark spirits such as aged rum, whisky or cognac, and tropical cocktails crafted to douse our sticky heat. Larger groups can go for the shakers, or punchbowl serves of cocktails for eight to ten people served in vertical vintage chrome shakers instead.

While two-year-old sister outlet Jigger and Pony banks heavily on classic drinks, Sugarhall's cocktails will be "more playful and more relaxed", according to owner Indra Kantono, 30. And unlike the former, Sugarhall will have a more belly-filling grill-centric food menu for tipplers looking for a simultaneous post-work chow.

Head chef Polo Seah, an alumnus of steak restaurant Skirt at the W Hotel, was roped in for "knowing his way around the grill", says Mr Kantono.

Affordably priced steaks (a 240g Hanger Steak goes for $24++ and 240g of Rib-eye Steak for $32++) use only grass-fed, antibiotics-free beef from Maori Lakes farm in New Zealand and Cape Grim in Australia - both known favourites of top chef Tetsuya Wakuda - will fill bigger appetites. Or light grazers can make bar snacks out of starters such as fork crushed potatoes with bacon and rosemary or the 'From the Garden' list of veggie-focused sides, where the chef's creativity is given room to stretch. Starters and sides go for $10 to $18, mains range from $20 to $32 while all cocktails cost $22.

The idea for a rum and grill pairing came about a year ago, when Mr Kantono and his wife, Guo Yi, bought a Weber grill for their home. "It was silly to fill the whole thing up with charcoal just to cook a steak for two, so we invited some friends over for a backyard barbecue," recalls Mr Kantono. The bars' programme director Aki Eguchi started making rum punchbowls to feed the party-goers, and three punchbowls later, the couple realised: "We love rums and we love grills, and they both go really well together, so why not?"

Christened Sugarhall because sugar is the primary ingredient for rum and halls "denotes a simple, large room that houses social activity within", Mr Kantono says, the 1,800 sq ft, 65-seater space (with 15 seats by the entrance bar counter) was designed around recreating the summer block party vibe. Breezy, toe-tapping tunes will be turned up on the speakers as the sun goes down.

"We want to create a place where people can come for good drinks and good food that will make them stay on till the end of the night," he says. "And not have to make a stop somewhere after to fill up on bak kut teh."

This article was published on May 17 in The Business Times.

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