Barely three years old, Bukit Pasoh’s intimate second floor cocktail bar is rolling in the accolades. After being crowned Best New Cocktail Bar at The Bar Awards Singapore 2016, this Jigger & Pony Group-owned bar has had a consistently good showing at Asia’s 50 Best Bars (No. 22 this year), making it one of the best cocktail bars in Singapore and the region. And their recent menu overhaul is a reflective exploration of ingredients and flavours that the Gibson team grew up with or discovered on their travels around Asia.
Comprising of bartenders Gento Toritaga (formerly of IZY and D2TLLRY) and Silvio Daniele under the leadership of Co-Founder Indra Kantono and Group Bar Programme Director Aki Eguchi, the new list of 17 cocktails – all priced at $23++ – are categorised into three sections: Classics, Southeast Asia, and Japan-Inspired.
Of the classics, a must-try is the bar’s namesake, the Gibson. The specially commissioned vermouth from a sake brewery in the Kansai region, which started as a ginjo sake, has more room to shine in this two-ingredient cocktail with the use of Roku gin (the previous iteration used the more robust Tanqueray). We still love the trio of condiments – pickled wasabi leaves alongside the signature pickled pearl onion and smoked quail egg – for different layers to a seemingly simple drink.
I’m not a fan of the Super-Cassis Boulevardier, which caters to those with a penchant for bitter and boozy tipples. Infused with a Japanese medicinal herb senburi, the rye whiskey is combined with manzanilla sherry, cassis liqueur, and orange flower water in this twist on the classic Boulevardier (typically whisky, sweet vermouth, and Campari).
The Mango PX and Wild Nectar are both delicious, aromatic, and well balanced, albeit a little similar in flavour profile since mango and passionfruit are sometimes paired together. The former features Philippines mangos fermented in house with American ale yeast and fortified with dark rum, before the wine is aged with charred French oak to bring out hints of vanilla with the fragrance and the fruitiness of the mango. Clever, because it uses the same process of making Pedro Ximenez sherry, but also easy for operations – that’s one less cocktail that needs shaking.
The latter is more floral with the use of coffee flower (which actually smells more like jasmine than coffee), fermented honey, Havana Club three-year old rum, and golden passionfruit. Sweet, tart, refreshing, and all too easy to drink.
For something more herbaceous without feeling like one is a rabbit, we highly recommend the Urban Farmer. The concoction of Chinese wormwood-infused Botanist gin, Indian borage, cologne mint, lemon and tonic water resembles a green gin & tonic. Fun fact: the herbs come from the local Citizen Farm and impart loads of flavour to the tipple.
Love espresso martinis? Then Cafe de Saigon will pique your interest by pairing Vietnamese arabica coffee with Tio Peepe Fino sherry, Suze (gentian root liqueur), medium dry vermouth, and absinthe. The slight carbonation makes for a greatly textured cocktail that also perks you up for the rest of the night.
Nostalgic in more ways then one (Singaporeans will remember the charcoal roasted snack and fans of Gibson will remember Whisky Blazer from the previous menu), the Chestnut Blazer sees Remy Martin VSOP Cognac, cinnamon tincture, peach, apricot liqueur, and chestnut syrup thrown with flames and served in a snifter glass. The fumes are incredibly volatile, so you might feel like your nose’s been assaulted, but it flows like warm chestnut honey infused brandy down your throat. Our only complaint is it cooled down a little too fast for what’s meant to be a sipping drink.
The Sake-tini is one of those divisive drinks on the Japanese-inspired page that people either love or hate. Using sake kasu (the lees left over from sake production), it’s a low-waste cocktail made with eau de vie made from Williams pear, calvados (apple brandy), Fuji apple, mascarpone for texture, and cardamom bitters. Personally, I don’t enjoy the taste as much as I enjoy smelling it.
You can’t get away with that much drinking without getting some solid sustenance in your belly. Food is not a footnote at Gibson, since Humpback’s culinary crew is at its service. If hot, deep-fried and carby gets you going, we highly recommend the Pork Buns ($15) that feature flavoursome pork rib meat drizzled with chipotle aioli before serving. Whether you’re a fan of uni or not, the rich and creamy Japanese Sea Urchin ($13v ) is lovely with cauliflower puree and toasted brioche.
We can’t say that the focus of Gibson’s new menu is a surprise, with the trend of locavorism and regionalism in the F&B scene really taking off in the last year. However, the team is offering some pretty unique and memorable drinks in their new repertoire – we’re sure we’ll be back soon to try the rest of it.
Gibson is located at Level 2, 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089834, p. 9114 8385. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am. Closed Sun. Happy hour 6-8pm daily, all day happy hour oysters on Tue.
Top image: Buddha’s Mule