Belgian, belgium, love, blog, bar, Ghent, drinking, cocktails, tourists, jigger's, speakeasy

Jigger's, The Noble Drugstore

I need a drink! A phrase used by millions of people all over the world after a hard day at work or a difficult experience. At the I Love Belgium office we also need a drink from time to time but we don't settle for the first bottle lying around or the first bar we pass by. At I Love Belgium we're 'destinationdrinkers'. We easily drive 40+ kilometers (25 miles) for an exquisite concocted drink. And where would that be we hear you asking? Jigger's is the answer!

This speakeasy in Ghent built a super strong reputation nationally and internationally.  Once you come down the stairs a fair amount of spirits and a pair of knowledged bartenders are awaiting you to guide you through the menu and prepare the right drink fit for you. They choose mainly European spirits to work with, as close to home as possible, all syrups are housemade. Except for their citrus fruits, they only use fruit and vegetables in season. And this all to reduce their ecological footprint. 

I Love Belgium talked to Jigger's founding father Olivier Jacobs, an autodidact who is two times winner of "Belgium's Best Bartender" and was selected in the race to become World Class Bartender. But above all he's a passionate craftsman, who just wants to make cocktails in the respect for the rules of the art of his profession.

ILB - What does Jigger's stand for?

A jigger is an essential bar accessory, used to measure the correct quantities in the mix. Usually you have a larger side, the jigger-side and the smaller side, the pony. We make a lot of classic drinks (with or without our own twist on it), for which we mainly use the jigger side. We also think the letter combination is beautiful. Only the 's' was lacking and our slogan 'The Noble Drugstore'.

ILB - Where did you get your passion for the art of cocktail shaking?

As a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, I worked part-time at Café Theâtre. Besides their restaurant, they also have a quite cosmopolitan bar, where I started working. I was immediately influenced by a Greek colleague with a passion for bartending. Soon I got a taste and immersed myself in the world of classic drinks by reading up on all the big cocktail gurus. Once I read all the theory, I began to experiment. New flavour combinations, infusions, syrups, etc. things that came in very handy in competitions. During the Ghent Festivities ('Gentse Feesten') in 2009 we opened our first speakseasy. The repeated this the next two years until we opened a real bar in February 2012 and Jigger's was born.

ILB -What's your favourite cocktail?

I love the classics of course, that's why they also carry this title. But I must admit, I do not have one favourite cocktail. I love surprising flavour combinations, something we experiment with on a day-to-day basis at Jigger's. Recently I developed a passion for fermenting (mainly) local ingredients. You really don't have to look far to find inspiring flavours. If I succeed in finding an interesting formula, I'm a very happy man. But taste is constantly evolving. You should really learn to drink something. It's the same way with music, you sometimes have to learn to appreciate it.

ILB - Do you have plans to open a Jigger's somewhere else?

Jigger's is unique thanks to its personal character. Not only the experimenting and the weekly menus take up a lot of our time but the personalised service and hospitality are also very important. A second Jigger's would not be immediately possible. If there would be another project, it would have another concept than Jigger's.

ILB - And our last question, why do you love Belgium?

Our typical Burgundian lifestyle (= enjoying good food and good drinks) is definitely something I'm happy about in Belgium. Even though we are so small, it's very characteristic of our culture. Especially if you take a closer look at our neighbours in the north, although they are stronger in other fields. Belgium is unique through the rich diversity it offers on an almost ridiculously small area. I also think our modesty is very charming. Just compare it to our souther neighbours (laughs).

ILB - Thanks for the high spirited interview Olivier!

Especially for the I Love Belgium team, and now for our readers, Olivier created an I Love Belgium cocktail. For you to enjoy (moderately) at home!

5cl Oude Jenever (juniper-flavoured national and traditional liquor of Belgium, from which gin evolved - more info here)
3cl fresh lemon juice
1,5cl licorice syrup (make it yourself or get it at Jigger's)
1,5cl egg whites (optional)
1 dash of angosturabitters

How to
Put all the ingredients in a shaker and shake them first without ice to create a better emulsion. Add ice cubes and shake again. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a zest of orange. And than enjoy the one and only I Love Belgium!

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