Whether you do it as a competitor or a judge, cocktail competitions give you a taste for travelling. And as a winner of the 2014 Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix and a judge at the 2016 edition, Andy Loudon received many opportunities to fly around the world. This led him to decide to leave London and Satan’s Whiskers shortly after his second Grand Prix to see the world. « I didn’t feel like I needed a break but I wanted to experience other things », he tells us as we catch up at Singapore’s Tippling Club, where he is now based.
First, he headed to South America for half a year. Back in Europe, he spent a month in Italy before moving to Australia, were he travelled around for a year and half, spending around five months at renowned Melbourne Bar Americano. « After Australia, I wanted to travel Asia and work there — either in Singapore or in Hong Kong. I loved Hong Kong, but it wasn’t where I wanted to live. In Singapore, I already knew a handful of people and I felt settled straight away ». Plus, he sort of fell into a job…
At the time, Joe Schofield was heading the bar team at Tippling Club, one of Singapore’s most revered restaurants. « I went for a coffee with Joe and within five minutes of the conversation he told me he was leaving and that the position was there if I wanted to apply. I fell into very fortunate circumstances », Andy says. And so he joined a very illustrious list of bartenders: people like Matthew Bax, Joel Fraser or Luke Whearty worked under chef / owner Ryan Clift since the place opened almost eleven years ago. « This place has a strong heritage. With 28 Hong Kong Street, it’s kind of the godfather of Singapore cocktail bars ».
When Andy came in, one of his first tasks was to work on a new menu, to replace Joe Schofield’s last and widely successful ‘gummy bear’ menu (google it if you don’t know what we’re talking about). « It had a lot of traction and people miss the gummy bear. We have to say we released them back into the wild », laughs Andy. Instead of gummy bears, Andy and team decided to offer perfume to the clients: « We worked very closely with International Flavors and Fragrances. They created 22 natural and luxurious fragrances and asked us to recreate those fragrances in the form of cocktails ». And to pick your drink, you could smell the fragrance…
Over the summer, Andy unveiled the second menu he and his team have developed since he joined. Called ‘A Guide to Modern Drinking’, it seeks inspiration in the works of Auguste Escoffier and Marie-Antoine Carême, iconic French chefs of the 19th and early 20th century. It is obviously natural for the bar of a modernist restaurant to be looking at the work of chefs who modernized cuisine but, as Andy adds, it’s above all « a lot of fun ». And having a strong concept is also very useful, especially in Singapore. « I think it’s a culture thing, where they want the concept and then the drinks. This being said, you have concept everywhere, right? 69 Colebrooke Row is Italian café. Satan’s Whiskers is hip hop and classic cocktails. At Tippling Club, we’re concept-driven — we’re ultra-progressive and very forward-thinking, with a scientific approach. Everything trickles down from there ».
And Singapore is a great playing field for innovation-oriented establishments. On top of Tippling Club, it has Native, Operation Daggers and now The Old Man, all exploring the outer limits of the cocktail. « There are many expat bartenders like myself here, and we come with information from our previous experiences. And the local staff are able to come up with all different new approaches and they’re very receptive. People are willing to explore right away whereas when I was a bartender in Manchester it was just about making the drinks with what you have. In Singapore, you have a great platform for crazy processes ».
When Tippling Club was first opened, it was the go-to place in Singapore. Competition has grown tremendously since then, making it even more challenging to stand out. But this has great consequences for all creative souls involved, as the city’s stature is growing. « I think each third of the world has a destination city. You have New York in one, London in the second and for Asia you have Singapore. I think we’re almost on a level playing field with the other two. Things are very, very good », Andy concludes. For Singapore and for him, apparently.