Our Guest Editor, Andrea Wong sits down with Shawn Tan of Jekyll & Hyde over a whiskey sour as he shares about why he went from running a nail parlour to one of Singapore’s hottest bars (it was because he really wanted to drink). Join Andrea on her latest #SingaporeHighLife adventure and keep an eye out for more interesting stories from her!
Andrea: So tell me the story behind Jekyll & Hyde.
Shawn: The funny story is that this place is run by three guys who opened a nail salon five years ago. After two years we decided that, nails are good and all, but we really want to drink. So we set this place up. Since we are already spending money at other places, might as well spend it at our own establishment, right? The name is Jekyll & Hyde, and if you’re familiar with the novel, it’s basically a two-sided thing, but we wanted to go deeper. It’s more like finding out about yourself, finding out what you like and what you don’t like. Which is why we focus a lot on product, the ingredients for the cocktails. Singapore is lucky in that we have both the Oriental ingredients and the Western ingredients. That gives us a lot of opportunity to experiment.
Andrea: Tell me more about the décor of the bar.
Shawn: To be honest we’re in the middle of revamping it. When we first started this, the manicurist was here. Then we moved it out and we built this. Just as of August, we closed down the kitchen and we changed it into a full bar. We are still putting up the shelves and all that. We are getting a very popular graphic/graffiti artist to come in and do up the place. Eric Foenander is his name, he used to work on Butter Factory and Zouk, and we really like his stuff. By mid-December it will be up.
Andrea: Where is the best seat in the house?
Shawn: At the bar. You get to see everything in action. Because we built it in such an open way that you get to see exactly how the drinks are made and you get to talk to the bartender. I think people are interested to find out more about what goes into their drinks, especially if they’re ordering a cocktail. And we come up with different cocktails all the time. We’ve also had people who talk to the bartender so much that they say “I want to try to make my own drink”, and then they actually do go behind the bar to make it. On quieter nights though, if we’re slammed we can’t do that.
Andrea: What is your signature cocktail?
Shawn: The Mr. Bean. How it came about is really serendipity. When we had our soft launch, friends came down to support. We were hungry, so they brought food which included tau huay. The brand we use is Lao Ban, which is very popular in Singapore. It has its own very unique flavour, and it’s super smooth. So they brought it down and then they challenged us to make a cocktail out of it, which no one has ever done. We added to the tau huay vodka, kaya, Frangelico and butterscotch, to make it a sweet dessert-like kind of drink. And for the longest time it’s not been on our menu, but people hear about it and then they come and they ask for it, so it’s actually by word of mouth.
Andrea: What kind of cocktails appeal more to the Asian palette?
Shawn: Number one, we want something a bit more refreshing, because of the weather. Number two, we also like our things a bit citrus-y and sweet. I think with the Western palette, they want something heavier, a bit more straightforward. Which is fine, but a lot of Asians prefer something easier to drink. And that’s what we get a lot of, especially gin-based cocktails, for women especially.
Andrea: What is your poison of choice?
Shawn: I like a whiskey sour. The purist will kill me for it, for spoiling a whiskey, but I think our proportions that we do, it’s perfect. I’ve tried a whiskey sour in many, many places, and they’ve got their own recipes, but I still like the ones we do here. Just the right touch of sweet and sour, but with that whiskey kick.
Andrea: What should we be looking forward to at Jekyll & Hyde?
Shawn: We will have 14 cocktails on our new menu, as of now I think we only have eight. It’s a totally brand new menu. A couple of the old cocktails are being incorporated in it, but most of them are new. In our new menu, each cocktail will have its own page. We’ve got a wide range of cocktails, from the fruity to the sweet to the strong in our new menu, and we’re hoping that the design of it attracts people.
Andrea: What are some of the highlights from the new menu?
Shawn: If you want something straightforward yet still fruity, you can try the Vaping Geisha. It comes with a plum sorbet and you pour the drink in it, so it mixes and incorporates together and you drink it down. The taste is pretty amazing, you get the different layers in it. If you like a really strong drink, we have the Braveheart. It has Bourbon, Cognac, Antica Formula and beer foam. We’ve had people come in here, drink three of these and have a problem leaving. The beer foam cuts through the intensity of the cocktail, so it’s somewhat easy to drink, but it packs a punch.
Andrea Wong is YourSingapore’s Guest Editor who will be exploring the #SingaporeHighLife throughout the month of December. As a fashion stylist and former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Malaysia, Andrea knows how to enjoy the finer things in life.