Happy Hour With… Andy Griffiths Of Speakeasy Idlewild
When Idlewild at Intercontinental Singapore first opened in February of this year, it quickly became the talk of the town for many reasons—gorgeous interiors, the Cabinet of Curiosities with over 50 rare quaffs from around the world, and, more importantly, a cocktail menu inspired by the golden age of travel.
The man behind the bar is head of operations and creative, Andy Griffiths, who relocated to Singapore after a successful career spanning 20 years in his native New Zealand and Australia. “My wife and I have lived in Australia for 12 years. We decided that it was time for new exploration and travel to see the world,” he tells T.Dining, adding that the opportunity to helm the speakeasy presented itself at that time.
It has been three months since the doors opened, so over bar bites and cocktails, we find out what we can expect from Idlewild and how Griffiths plans to carve a niche in our saturated drinks scene.
You started as a chef in New Zealand. How did that shift to bartending?
Andy Griffiths (AG) I always knew that I wanted my career to involve hospitality, so I trained as a chef at Wanganui Polytechnic in 1999 and got a taste for the front of house and cooking in the kitchen.
It was when I moved to Wellington that I fell in love with the creativity and art of making drinks. I was part of the original crew that set up Hummingbird, an iconic bar, and a few other amazing places that really nurtured and developed this spark to get me to where I am today.
How does your chef background help you as a bartender?
AG To a large extent, chefs and bartenders have very similar asks—create extraordinary experiences through interesting flavour combinations and techniques. My culinary background means that I have an additional layer of knowledge and flavour profiles of ingredients with the discipline and rigour needed in this line of work.
What’s the most exciting thing about working at Idlewild?
AG Idlewild is more than just a place for entertainment and more than simply a bar with great cocktails. It’s a full experience. You can be immersed in a different world, transported to another era. We can’t really be pigeonholed and that’s the exciting thing—for some people, Idlewild might be a concert location, for others a museum.
Each element is strong and able to tell a part of our story. We’re really setting the standard for the new hybrid of cocktail bars that deliver interesting, innovative concepts, with a strong drinks programme at the heart of it all.
What exactly do you do as head of operations and creative?
AG I'm involved in almost everything that goes on at Idlewild, from events to the music programming, ingredient sourcing, and, of course, the food and beverage menu. I love getting to work with the whole team, learning from them and collaborating to make Idlewild the best possible space for guests.
How would you define your bartending style?
AG It's hard to say, so I'll go with colourful, affable and efficient.
You worked with Proof & Company to create the theme of transatlantic journey. How did you come up with such an interesting concept?
AG We wanted every element of the bar to tell the story of the Golden Age of air travel and take guests back to that exciting era of sheer indulgence, luxury and high design that encapsulated air travel through the 1940s to the 60s. We communicate this through every moment of the experience, from our sophisticated retro-luxe design to some epic music programming, great hospitality and cocktail offerings.
How does this translate to the beverage menu?
AG Inspired by the era, we created 20 exceptional story-telling, signature cocktails using innovative techniques and flavours from all over the world. Each represents a time and place found in 10 cities along the transatlantic route: Dublin, Rome, Lima, Lisbon, New York City, Casablanca, London, Paris, Mexico City and Havana; a tribute to the wanderlust and desire to travel that underscored aviation’s heyday.
Do you have any recommendations from the current menu?
AG Cocktails would be The French Cook, as well as the Cabinet of Curiosities with its ever-evolving list of exotic spirits.
(Related: Tasting The Macallan's Oldest Bottled Whisky)
Speaking of spirits, do you have any favourites?
AG Chartreuse for a very special reason. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been flown to France to spend time at the distillery and around the region to learn more about its birthplace. I’ve had the honour of meeting the Carthusian monks who make it. On my second trip, I was very generously bestowed the title of Chevalier de Chartreuse, so it’s something I’ll always be partial to.
What’s your take on trends in the drinks industry?
AG Trends are a good reflection of what’s happening in a particular time period, what consumers like and what they want. This helps restaurants and bars shape their business at that specific point and it also helps boost the production of more niche products. Craft spirits, for example, have been growing in popularity over the years and have led to the development of interesting artisanal spirits all over the world.
What about the drinks scene in Singapore?
AG It’s fantastic. I love how passionate all of the people are. There’s a really good vibe amongst the bar and restaurant community here. They all seem incredibly supportive of each other and excited to collaborate to grow the scene here in Singapore, which is something you don’t always find in bigger cities.
What are your future plans for Idlewild?
AG We’re looking to come out with a selection of mocktails along with a cocktail and tapas pairing menu over the next few months. I would recommend you make time to pop by the bar to also enjoy our love jazz tunes led by our fabulous house band “The Wild Ones”.