“I’ve been told Ginger is in now so I’m going to stay loud and proud on that one!” Jason Michael Gray, also known as Jay Gray, says confidently. The Monkey Shoulder Regional Brand Ambassador, Southeast Asia, is personable and not shy about his interests. From skateboarding to being on a mission to search for that perfect bacon sandwich, he has done it all.
So, if he has to liken Monkey Shoulder to a skate trick, which would it be?
He responds in good fun: “This is a great question. I think it would have to be the Kick Flip – it’s the first of its kind and started an entirely new category within a very established skating genre. It’s also very easy to mix into other tricks!” This, as a whisky drink myself, I can get behind. The malty taste and the sweet aroma is one that leaves an impression and leaves your empty hand asking for another.
Describing himself as a classic Boilermaker (a whisky and beer cocktail) – clean, simple, refreshing, Popspoken picks Gray’s brain on his thoughts of whisky.
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Popspoken: How would you describe whisky drinkers.
Jay Gray: I think the easiest way to answer this question is to look at how Scotch whisky has been perceived historically. When we think about such a refined and prestigious liquid like Scotch, we tend to lean towards tradition and think of old men in smoking jackets sipping on single malts – “neat”!
However, the craft bar revolution was fought, and won! In present day and with the help of talented bartenders and operators all over the world the education of spirits as a whole has skyrocketed. The perceived discerning drinker is no longer the CEO of a company that spends his weekends at the golf but could most likely be the person sitting to your left or right as you read this.
With a growing demand for quality drinks and the abundance of cocktail bars, cocktails are no longer exorbitantly priced, allowing anyone to sample well-crafted tipples.
To me, whisky drinkers are fun-loving and adventurous individuals. They are not intimidated by the potentially steep learning curve of the whisky world, and are not afraid to break tradition with they way they enjoy their whisky. At Monkey Shoulder, these are the whisky drinkers we create and celebrate.
Popspoken: And those in Singapore?
Jay Gray: Singapore is a hugely educated society, and this extends beyond academics to areas like whisky. Whisky lovers in Singapore are highly informed and discerning, with an appetite to try new things. This means I’ve always got to have my finger on the pulse of the whisky world, because I know whisky lovers in Singapore do.
As brand ambassador of Monkey Shoulder, my goal is also to convert non-whisky drinkers wherever I go, by focusing on the quality of the spirit, its versatility and mixability. I find that drinkers in Singapore are highly receptive to trying something new, as long as I have the knowledge and skill to back up my claims.
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Popspoken: What do you enjoy about the bar scene here in Singapore, and what are some possibilities you foresee in the future?
Jay Gray: What I love most about the bar scene here in Singapore is the ever-growing yet close-knit community of bartenders. I’ve been here for five years but it feels like I’ve been a part of this huge family for a lot longer. Over the years I’ve watched Singapore’s bar scene grow and develop, taking top spots at global competitions like The World’s 50 Best Bars and Tales of the Cocktail away from heavyweight players like New York and London. To me, this is a testament to the community’s outstanding commitment to quality and the strength of the Singaporean style of bartending.
Across the country, we’re seeing bars like Oriental Elix, Native and Elephant Room incorporating the use of local ingredients in their concoctions, which to me encapsulates a very important part of Singapore – its multiculturalism. I’m most excited to see how Singapore continues to develop this Singaporean style of bartending, and believe that it will refine what it means to be a true community of bars and bartenders.
Popspoken: What do you find most outstanding about Monkey Shoulder, in comparison to other whiskys out there?
Jay Gray: At William Grant & Sons we believe it’s more than just a comparison of our liquid against others. It’s about the values that each of our spirits hold. Monkey Shoulder has always been my favourite whisky for mixing drinks. As Brand Ambassador, I’m proud to have been given not just the opportunity, but the freedom and trust to grow the brand over the last four years. We’ve done this in many different ways, but what underlies our efforts is our commitment to the community in every possible market we can, in every way possible. That’s what I think makes Monkey Shoulder outstanding.
Popspoken: What’s the wildest mix you have ever done with Monkey Shoulder?
Jay Gray: I am a big fan of letting the liquid speak for itself in a cocktail by using ingredients that bring out the rich character of Monkey Shoulder. I often experiment with strong stirred down drinks, and was most surprised to find out how well Monkey Shoulder mixes with watermelon. I first started with a simple watermelon cooler to serve during hotter, more humid daytime events,then moved to more progressive styles using watermelon-infused vermouth and Thai Basil leaves. You’ll be surprised by how refreshing it tastes! Imagine a blend of cooling watermelon juice with a splash of rich and fruity Monkey Shoulder, complete with a hint of spice from the anise and finished with fragrant Thai basil leaves.
Popspoken: There are 12 days of Christmas so what are some recommended house drinks anybody can whip up at home with Monkey Shoulder to end the festivities with a bang!
Jay Gray: My favourite drink for my favourite time of year in Singapore is Ginger Teh Tarik! The hint of spice from the gingerbread mixed with the woody vanilla notes from Monkey Shoulder presents a silky, creamy mouthfeel.
Ginger Teh Tarik:
- 50ml Monkey Shoulder
- 10ml Gingerbread Syrup
- 80ml Black Tea
- 10ml Watered down Condensed Milk (Floated on top)
- 2 parts water, 1 part condensed milk
1. Build in a tall glass (In this order – black tea, gingerbread syrup and a splash of Monkey Shoulder)
2. Add a handful of Ice, as desired
3. “Float” Condensed Milk atop the beverage
Enjoy with a gingerbread man cookie!