20 Questions with Alfred Siu, Owner of Project Gigglewater
Meet Alfred Siu, the owner of Project Gigglewater.
Alfred is originally from Vancouver, BC and moved to Toronto just over three years ago, lured by the size and excitement of the city. He felt that there were more opportunities for entrepreneurs, and his move seemed to pay off as he opened Project Gigglewater about a year and a half later, in November 2018.
Prior to that, he worked many jobs. “I was a bartender, real estate agent, quantity surveyor, poker player, and more. Almost all at the same time!” he laughed.
Truly passionate about the industry, Alfred taught himself about bartending and cocktails through reading books and online articles and watching YouTube videos.
Before I even got my first bartending job, I was making drinks at home and for friend’s parties – although not at the same quality as I make them now!
Alfred continued, “A big portion also goes to spending tons of hours at cocktail bars. Drinking and asking questions. The rest goes to just working on the job.”
His motivation to open Project Gigglewater came from his love for cocktails and the “freedom of flavour creativity it offers”. Alfred felt there was a lack of “cocktail-centric” bars in Toronto, where the main focus was on cocktails rather than food. He also felt that while there were many great themed cocktail bars, there were few that demonstrated true freedom in ingredients or style. Furthermore, “within those cocktail bars, there’s subtle differences in the way cocktails are balanced, the ingredients used, and presented. I wanted to express to the world how we do things.” Alfred’s goal was for a fun atmosphere without lacking attention to detail.
When asked what he would like Project Gigglewater to be known for, Alfred said “Great atmosphere, unpretentious, and fun service would be the most important.”
People love sitting at the bar here because it’s the best seats in the house.
Alfred emphasized how their bartenders love to entertain and engage with people sitting at the bar. He went on to highlight the second most important element: “the amazing drinks and the selection we offer,” highlighting that “what people have experienced now is just a taste of what Gigglewater will be as we improve and our budget grows.”
As for the name, “Project” is meant to represent that the cocktail bar is “a work in progress to achieve the never-ending goal of improving and improving”. “Gigglewater” comes from a slang term used for alcohol in the Prohibition era, similar to “booze” and “hooch”.
Given the impact of COVID-19, Project Gigglewater has had to shift to a delivery model. While Alfred misses seeing regulars and industry colleagues, he is working hard – with a typical Giggleater day running from 9am – 2am – to provide Torontonians cocktails at their doorstep.
Read on for some rapid-fire Q&A, and be sure to place an order for one of Project Gigglewater’s inventive cocktail kits. If you’re having trouble deciding, Get Hype & Skype is their most popular. I’ve tried it and can attest that it’s delicious!
When did you decide it was time to make the shift to delivery? Do you feel it's been successful?
AS: The next day that we could, after it was announced by the AGCO. We’ve been extremely fortunate to cover our expenses.
Biggest challenge switching to delivery? Most fun aspect?
AS: Challenge – logistics. Menu development with restricted rules per the AGCO. Fun aspect – seeing happy faces when people receive their cocktail kits. Especially moms with kids.
Most unusual ingredient you've used in a cocktail at Project Gigglewater?
AS: Snap pea or bell pepper. Now that I think about it, it’s not unusual enough…
Least favourite liquor to work with?
AS: None. I love messing around with bastardized ingredients like Jager and cream liqueurs to make something amazing.
Favourite summer cocktail or ingredient?
AS: Watermelon everything.
Where do you find inspiration?
AS: Like art, it just comes sometimes. But not always.
What's harder - coming up with the cocktail or the name for the cocktail?
AS: Definitely the name.
What cocktail ingredient do you always have on-hand at home?
AS: Hard alcohol. I have all the alcohol but not always the other things.
Your favourite four-ingredient-or-less cocktail to make at home?
Note: check out some additional easy cocktail recipes here!
Best advice you can give someone who is trying to improve their at-home cocktail game?
Favourite holiday and associated cocktail?
AS: CHRISTMAS! Hot toddy, mulled wine, hot buttered rum.
TOp 3 songs on your summer drinking playlist?
AS: Let’s go with genres. Summer house, hip hop and country. Yes, country.
Favourite restaurant meal in Toronto?
AS: The steak au poivre at the now defunct Bacchanal. Chef Luke’s steak ruined me for all other steaks.
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Favourite Toronto shop for all things cocktails?
AS: I mean, there’s only one right? Cocktail Emporium.
Favourite neighbourhood & spot in Toronto?
AS: The west end of Toronto is pretty dope. Civil Liberties (most fun bar). Cocktail Bar (best cocktails).
Favourite bar outside of Canada?
AS: Happiness Forgets – London, UK. Or Little Branch – NY, USA.
Best city you've been to for the cocktail scene - any must-go places?
AS: I lean towards London over NY. American Bar, Bar Termini, and The Gibson.
You can't get enough of...
AS: Revel Cider. They are amazing. Best in Canada.
Next at Project Gigglewater
Any hints at what we can expect on upcoming menus?
AS: Inventory clearance!
Can we expect you to continue to offer cocktail kits for delivery once you reopen?
AS: Yes. Gotta pay them bills!
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