A place for good cocktails, great conversations

What could be better than to end a long and busy day or week with a great cocktail surrounded by people you vibe with?
Panjee and Mike Singleton, the successful owners behind Banter and Jive, shared how operating a cocktail bar business can still be an enjoyable learning experience while navigating life together.

“We like to drink together. That’s how we connect,” Panjee said, looking back on why they thought of setting up a cocktail bar business in the vibrant and buoyant streets of Poblacion. “We just wanted a place where we can sit down, talk to a bartender, have pretty good drinks and just hang out with each other.”

Panjee decided to leave her corporate job to go full time into the business, while Mike still keeps his day job as a financial analyst. While they are relatively new to the business, it is not their first time to open a bar. In 2020, the couple ventured into the business, not knowing that the pandemic would go full-blown months later.

However, it did not stop the Singletons from taking such risks: “We’ll try a second round. If it doesn’t work, then [we] will never get back to it,” Mike said, adding that they constantly reassured themselves whenever they felt bouts of hesitancy at the thought of trying again.
Indeed, the second time’s the charm. As soon as the couple opened Banter & Jive, the dream was realized.

BANTER and Jive signature cocktail drinks.

Current bar scene
With so many bars, pubs and nightclubs in Poblacion, one might say that the competition is fierce — but it’s the complete opposite.

In retrospect, the couple agreed that the bar industry in Poblacion has been laidback despite the rise of established bars around the area.“The bar community is very strong. We’re very collaborative with each other, especially the cocktails. We don’t really treat each other as competition… It’s more of uplift[ing] the community together,” Mike said.

“We all have a shared goal of increasing cocktail awareness,” he added.

There is also a noticeably growing cocktail appreciation in the area. While there is nothing wrong with the classic shot of hard liquor — the oddly satisfying sensation of the burning aftertaste it delivers — new and old customers alike are becoming more adventurous and experimental with their drinks.

“We keep on revamping our menu in such a way that people would really accept or like,” Panjee said, adding how they would cater to what their customers like in their menu, giving them a more profound and appreciative drinking experience.

Undeniably, the country’s nightlife has always been one for the books — where a spontaneous trip to a bar with the people you cherish ends up being one of the most unforgettable moments in your life.

Adding Filipinos’ innate hospitality and natural charm, the Poblacion nightlife perfectly captures the vision of being yourself while connecting with others.

“As much work as we have to put into drinks, we also put in a lot of effort in making people feel welcome, especially in an intimate bar like ours. You could remember a really great drink but you will never forget the places where you really felt welcome, [where it] felt like a second home,” Panjee said.

Taking a leap of faith
Despite the lack of experience in operating a bar, it did not stop the couple from turning their passions into something bigger than themselves.

With Banter & Jive opening early this year, the couple is onto something great as they are soft-opening a new bar next month in Poblacion.

“Take the leap… It’s very scary. It’s still scary now, but take that risk. I think it’s also important for you to have a good support system when you do that — take the leap,” Panjee said, continuing that being surrounded by like-minded people who support you definitely takes the fear and hesitancy away.

For aspiring entrepreneurs who want to operate their bar business, the couple agreed that now is the best time to materialize your dreams.

“Not having experience isn’t a good enough reason for you not to do something. The only way to have experience is to actually experience it. There is no better time than now,” Panjee said.