Raise A Glass

For Paul Gabie and Spencer Forhart, a shared passion for fine drinking paved the way for their multi-concept business The Proof Collective.

Interview by Charlene Chan 
Photography by Jovian Lim & Ryan Peters

Along Singapore’s HongKong street, where trading companies and family-run businesses have held the fort for generations, a burgeoning group of F&B establishments have emerged in the last few years. Shophouses—vestiges of the location’s history—rise on both sides of the road as though guardians of its storied past, casting a watchful eye over the newcomers that have surfaced in quick succession.

One such offering is 28 HongKong Street (28 HKS), a cocktail bar that has earned itself a slew of accolades since it opened in 2011—Asia’s best bar amongst them. Since then, its partners have gone on to develop The Proof Collective, which comprises Proof & Company Spirits, a leading distributor of independent spirits, cocktail ingredients and fine barware; EC Proof, the consumer-oriented arm of Proof & Company Spirits; and Crackerjack, an all-day drinking and dining concept. Before they dive into their next project, we catch Paul and Spencer to find out more about the business.

Hi Paul and Spencer, please tell us how you began working together.

Paul (P) and Spencer (S): Three of us (we have a third partner, Snehal Patel) met as summer interns at a law firm in New York in the early 2000’s. Sixteen years later we are still together and still in love with fine drinking.

You were both practising lawyers before deciding to start 28 HKS. Why the switch?

P & S: In 2007, the three of us moved from New York to Singapore to take up positions in a private investment firm. While we loved the energy in the Singapore F&B scene, we missed the craft cocktail bars we had enjoyed in New York. Recall that New York in the 2000’s was the epicenter of the global craft cocktail and spirits renaissance. We were fortunate to enjoy that scene when it was ascendant.

By 2009, the cocktail renaissance had arrived in Singapore with pioneers such as Klee, Tippling Club and Bar Stories opening their doors. By 2011 we were ready for a passion project. Taken together, it just felt right to do something ourselves based on our time in New York. And by 2011, the end result was 28 HKS.

Read more in The U Press N˚16 (Singapore edition).