Crackerjack is created by the people who brought you 28 HongKong Street, one of the world’s most acclaimed bars. It has a totally different vibe to that moody, sexy cocktail joint, with a more approachable sangfroid that’s apparent when you enter (also, it’s open morning to midnight): It’s naturally-lit, has upbeat indie rock, cheerful Nordic tones, a busy kitchen and a long bar that serves cocktails quickly – also you’re greeted by the smell of artisanal coffee*.
And there’s free wifi. You’re meant to come here to work-not-work, to hang, to ruminate, and if you have hand-eye coordination, have a crack at the shuffleboard table.
“We want this to be your Third Place, a home-away-from-home and an office-away-from-work for friends and neighbors”, says Spencer Forhart, Chairman of the Proof & Company collective (which owns 28HK).
Have the breakfast of champions here, while lunch items include Mojo Brandt Bavette Steak Salad, Lentil Mushroom Scotch Egg or Three Cheese Barley Risotto, all reasonably priced. And In addition to espresso-based and filter coffees, Crackerjack also offers a bottomless cup of batch brew coffee at S$8 – Toto, you’re not in 28HK anymore.
Premixed cocktails means your order is good to go.
But we want to focus (natch) on the cocktkail program, which is helmed by two bar stalwarts, Peter Chua and Zachary de Git. Chua won the prestigious Diageo Reserve World Class Southeast Asia Champion 2014 title while he was a bartender at 28 HongKong Street. He was later a Spirits Evangelist with the Proof & Company team before shifting to Crackerjack. De Git likewise won Diageo Reserve World Class for the region in 2013 while serving as head bartender at Tippling Club and was most recently the Regional Portfolio Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons.
We spoke to them about the drinks, stuff that made them cry, and drinking trends we should get rid of.
What’re the basic concept behind the Crackerjack cocktail program?
ZdG: The Crackerjack menu is fun, inviting and super easy going. We tried to steer away from making people think too much about their drinks. We want people to enjoy them! Our menu is broken up into basic adjectives for the style of drink it is: Highballs, shaken, stirred, crushed/frozen and classics. It’s a really simple breakdown of the style of cocktail you are going to get. Every little bit of understanding from a customer allows them to feel a little bit more comfortable in their surroundings. We like to see drinking as a form of escapism, and that’s what we aim to do with the menu.
PC: The cocktail program at Crackerjack reflects the bright, airy and homely feel of the venue by being very approachable, affordable and we use the best spirits and produce that Singapore has. We wanted to take away the “fluff” of going to a cocktail bar by telling people: “Hey, you can still drink kick-ass cocktails and listen to indie rock music without feeling the need to put on a suit.” This is even more evident when one takes a look at our menu. Apart from our Highball selection where the names are blatant portrayal of the ingredients, almost all the other drinks don’t really have logical names that are related to the spirits or ingredients.
Most cocktails here are under S$20.
Recommend a cocktail for 3pm after a really bad meeting.
ZdG: Mezcal Margarita and a shot of Balvenie 14 year old! If I had a bad meeting I would need something stiff followed by something refreshing. Balvenie is one of my favorite drams for everyday drinking.
PC: A La Paloma: Tequila, grapefruit cordial, lime and sparkling water. It reminds you that, although life can be bitter and sour at times (grapefruit and lime), one should keep grounded (agave) and it will soon be sweet and refreshing again (cordial and sparkling water).
What do you drink after your shift – which bar is your local?
ZdG: Beer and a shot. We are blessed with many amazing bars in the area (it also helps that I live across the road). We hit The Wall on Tanjong Pagar Road for decent drams of malt whisky. Inevitably we end up at Skinny’s Lounge some nights, danger zone…
PC: I enjoy a Tommy’s Margarita and you can usually catch me at either 28 HongKong or Skinny’s Lounge when I eventually get a day off. When…
What happens when you ask Chua and de Git for water…
Most memorable drinking experience?
ZdG: Every single night with my family from Black Pearl. We are like brothers. There is always something cheeky that happens. We give each other a lot of shit but we know deep down we love each other. We are all spread out across the world these days; people are getting married and having kids, which gives us a great excuse to get the crew back together.
PC: (Un)fortunately, the most memorable nights are the ones that leave me with nothing to recall.
What’s the best cocktail for a broken heart?
ZdG: Whisky. Beer. Whisky. Beer. Whis… Sleep.
PC: I call it the ‘Live & Let Die’. It calls for four shots of anything, a fully charged phone and Tinder. Shake it all up with lowered standards and misery. At the very least, that is a recipe for a fun night!
What’s the best cocktail for celebration?
ZdG: People love Champagne! I don’t get it. It’s delicious (and expensive) but boy does it knock me for six. Realistically I think any drink is fit for a celebration. I always like to toast with a wee shot of mezcal. Mezcal for the good times, mezcal for the sad times.
PC: Anything with champagne is always celebratory in my opinion. I usually go for a French 75 with a couple of dashes of absinthe.
Person you would most like to drink with? (Can be fictional)
ZdG: James Joyce. I’d really like to go pint for a pint with him. Listen to his views on religion etc. He’d be a pretty decent drinking partner I think.
PC: Jon Snow. I could teach him a thing or two for I’ve heard he doesn’t know too much. I love dogs so I am pretty sure Ghost and I will get along well. Plus, I believe that the view above The Wall will be breathtaking!
What won’t you drink?
ZdG: I drink pretty much everything. I don’t like toddy (fermented coconut palm), people drink it with Guinness, it’s just a little too funky for me.
PC: I am pretty liberal with things that I put in my mouth. As long as it won’t poison me, I am willing to try it once.
A Rum Old Fashioned with no unicorn tears.
What’s a cocktail/bar trend that needs to stop/that’s overrated?
ZdG: Pineapple tattoos.
PC: The ungoverned use of esoteric ingredients just for the sake of having it on the menu: three dashes of tears of a Unicorn; a zest from a Phoenix feather; or a barspoon of sweat from a Minotaur etc. Here at Crackerjack we believe that if an ingredient does not improve the drink, don’t put it in. It means that the drink doesn’t even need it to begin with.
Have you ever cried in a bar?
ZdG: I use to work for Ryan Clift, need I say more? I’ve had a few injuries which may have involved me tearing up a little bit. Lucas Swallows recently bludgeoned me in the eye with a cocktail shaker at an event with his over-enthusiastic double shaking. Blood everywhere.
PC: Nope, and I don’t plan to. Bars are happy places for me and I would like to keep it that way.
* The coffee program is led by Bronwen Serna, United States Barista Champion 2004, and a global trainer for Specialty Coffee Association of America. The kitchen is led by Head Chef Alysia Chan, who was named Best Rising Chef at the World Gourmet Summit 2008. (A typical item is the all-American breakfast of Mash-Bill Grits, which combine stone ground corn meal, rye and barley with smoked gouda, poached eggs and chicken scratchins’, S$12).
Crackerjack, 43 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088464. Tel: +65 8121 1462. Open daily from 8am to midnight, Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is on.