SYMPHONY LOO @ NEON PIGEON
05 Aug 2016 By David Fuhrmann-Lim
This little pocket dynamite from Japanese fusion restaurant/bar (still a thing?) Neon Pigeon has revamped its cocktail program in her image: It’s power-packed, full of surprises and lovely to look at.
After 10 months as Neon Pigeon’s bar manager, Symphony Loo (previously from The Cufflink Club) has revamped the entire cocktail menu to reflect her sensibilities. “I used a lot of homemade syrups, jams and infusions to make the cocktails more unique,” she explains. And with a kitchen at her disposal, this has also helped to keep the cost down, which is reflected in the friendly prices of the drinks (S$17-22).
A quick glance at the menu will tell you it has some Japanese elements, with yuzu and sake featured liberally throughout. So while the drinks aren’t made to match the cuisine per se, they are mostly fresh, sour, light and deceptively strong. We spoke to Symphony (we didn’t ask about the name, natch) and tasted the cocktails on your behalf. Our recommendations:
Drop It: Ketel One citroen vodka, coconut infused sake, housemade yuzu limoncello and egg white. This has a lovely creamy texture, and the housemade yuzu limoncello takes three days to prep. Will remind you also of White Rabbit candy.
Parched: What’re the three golden rules of cocktail making?
SL: Balance, simplicity, and keeping it classy.
What’s the best cocktail for a broken heart?
White Chocolate Sour with Strawberry. Who doesn’t like chocolates when they are sad?
Jap Ice Tea: Bankes gin, Ketel One vodka, Plantation white rum, Cointreau, yuzu beer syrup, Coke, lemon juice. Her take on the drink of her youth (and ours), a refreshing Long Island Iced Tea, the lemon juice and Coke takes the edge off. The LIIT is also the first drink she was taught to make when she started.
Best hangover cure?
Soda with mint, fresh limes, 12 dashes of angostura, a dash of simple syrup. Or just keep drinking! Hahaha
Person you would most like to drink with? (Can be fictional)
My housemate Dan Murphy, we are both wine lovers. I have a love hate relationship with him because I just cannot stop drinking when we drink together.
What do you drink after your shift, what’s your signature drink?
I drink wine after work, it calms me down after a crazy shift. Signature drink is a Negroni with rosemary.
How do you like your tequila or whiskey?
I love tequila in cocktails, I love the Mexican mule. (My version: Muddle some ginger, sugar, fresh lime, tequila and ginger beer). I love whiskey on the rocks or neat; I prefer something peaty, Laphroaig is one of my favourites.
Which bar is your local?
Employees Only. [Co-owners] Igor (left) and Steve are my dearest friends. I think they are doing such an amazing job! The Manhattan is a must when I go to Employees Only. And also Skinny’s Lounge: [owner] Nick Haas is the king of Boat Quay!
What won’t you drink?
Anything with chartreuse. No offense to chartreuse lovers… I’ve had a few bad experiences.
What’re the 8-10 spirits a beginner needs to start a good home bar? And good advice/tips for a home bar?
Be simple and clear with what you want. If you are a cocktail lover, apart from basic tool such as shaker, jigger, mixing glass and bar spoon, make sure you have ingredients such as Campari, triple sec, vermouth and fruity liqueurs which can be used in different cocktails. Of course you need gin, vodka, tequila and a good selection of whiskies.
What’s a cocktail/bar trend that needs to stop/that’s overrated?
[When they…] focus too much on being fancy. Keep it simple and know what makes the cocktail/bar stands out.
Shibuya: Suntory Kakubin Whiskey, yuzu apricot jam, chamomile, Cointreau, lychee liqueur, lemongrass. Served in a sake cup, you break the lemongrass for the scent, and slurp the drink and appreciate its texture – thicker because of the jam. Possibly our favourite. (Effect was rendered as tribute to the Japanese pop art on the walls at Neon.)
What have you learned about life behind the bar?
Have you ever cried in a bar?
Yes, twice I think. First time was personal: My ex boyfriend broke up with me. Second time just happened recently. Some of the people in the industry, colleagues, and customers stayed late and surprised me with a cake in my bar – I cried tears of happiness!
Neon Pigeon, 1 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6222-3623.