Juan Yi Jun, Founder of No Sleep Club Bar | All Mixed Up


All Mixed Up: Juan Yi Jun, Founder and Head Bartender at No Sleep Club

Our continent loves a good drink. To cool off from our temperate weather and hot food, you can find us huddled in an airconned bar, sipping on something cool, sexy, and clean. To celebrate our boozing culture, All Mixed Up explores the stories behind Asia’s famed mixologists, bartenders, and cupbearers that make our tipples and what makes them tick.

Juan Yi Jun has had a unique journey in Singapore’s drinking space, starting her bartending career relatively late compared to her peers. After cutting her teeth in graphic design agencies, she decided to pursue bartending full-time and sought out the best bars in Singapore, first Tippling Club, and then Operation Dagger.

Working at Tippling Club proved to be a turning point for Juan Yi Jun. The techniques and discipline adopted at the bar completely changed her perspective on what food and drink could be.

Aiding the growth Singapore's vibrant bar scene, Jun was empowered to bring inventive drinks with sharp food pairings at No Sleep Club located along Keong Saik Road in the Lion City. The Beat Asia spoke to Jun about her cocktail story in Singapore. 

All Mixed Up: Juan Yi Jun, Founder and Head Bartender at No Sleep Club

As a young adult working behind the bar and building great drinks, did you previously envision yourself in a career with food and drink?

I started my first part-time server gig at 14 and loved the food and beverage scene. Like most kids, I did it for extra pocket money during the school holidays. In Singapore, parents have high hopes for their kids to do well academically, and dream for them to become doctors, lawyers, and so with those expectations on you, it was difficult to envision yourself in any other career.

However, I developed an interest in acquiring more skill-based learning and found myself affinity for music, design, and of course, realised I was meant for F&B. These skills combined have defined a lot of who I am as a bartender today.

Sitting behind a desk and surrendering your creative work to your client's brief - it wasn't what I wanted to do. I found myself happiest doing creative work for myself and the people across the bar from me.

Why does Singapore and the world need a venue like No Sleep Club?

Cocktail bars have evolved so much in Singapore, it's hard to think that there were only a handful of them 10 years ago. Suddenly, there was an explosion of international talent that came into Singapore, and from there spawned a whole new world of bars that grew year by year.

A lot of people questioned what No Sleep Club was and what our “concept” or “theme” was. I hated those words. We must give people what they want, but also give them something different. I also wanted to challenge the boundaries of what a cocktail bar should look like.

I also believe that food and drink go hand in hand, and they shouldn't be mutually exclusive. This is why our food programme is equally important as our drinks - and a lot of the time, it's hard to differentiate them in NSC.

That said, my perfect night out would be to start with a round of cocktails before the food comes, eat well, then finish with a bottle of wine. Our menu is designed the way I like to eat and drink, and we have the largest natural wine menu available in local cocktail bars. I'm not intimidated about not "looking the part" of what people think a cocktail bar should look like.

All Mixed Up: Juan Yi Jun, Founder and Head Bartender at No Sleep Club

What impact has No Sleep Club had on Singapore gastronomy?

No Sleep Club is designed as a neighbourhood bar that prioritises comfort and approachability. The reason for this is because the execution of the food and drink menu is very technical, and we also use a lot of modern techniques, and sometimes that can be intimidating to the customer, and may not establish us as the “everyday” bar.

On a busy night, when I go to a bar, I'd rather get a drink quick than watch a bartender take 10 minutes to make it, with the bartender too stressed or busy to have a conversation. We don't need to compromise quality or diminish technique to serve a quick drink.

I think NSC also bridges the gap between fine dining hotel style, dive bars and restaurants, and sits somewhere in the middle where you can sit in shorts and slippers, yet still enjoy a thought-provoking creative process in the form of good food and drinks.

Tell us about your recent collaboration with chef May at Little Bao in July. What does this signify?

This collaboration with chef May is my first collaboration with a chef overseas. May is a celebrated chef with so much experience, and Little Bao is an institution. It was an absolute pleasure to have been invited.

I loved that we had a sell-out shift in one of the best restaurants during a week that was meant to celebrate bars instead. We share the same beliefs about how food and cocktails need to work together and not be enjoyed separately.

I also believe that our venues and our work go beyond gender, sexual orientation, and political beliefs. I have proven that people appreciate good food and good drinks despite where it comes from and who makes it.

All Mixed Up: Juan Yi Jun, Founder and Head Bartender at No Sleep Club

How will you challenge yourself to be better and cook better in 2024 and beyond?

I have been working on ways to blur the boundaries between restaurant and bar, cafe and bar, chef and bartender. Moving forward, I am looking to push that further and look past the lines of other creative industries to see what other possibilities can better us.

In recent months, NSC has been collaborating with creatives from graphic design, interior design, film making and even floristry. I don't believe drinks are confined to the bar space, and that looking outside the bar space, outside of the food and beverage space even, can benefit us in more ways than we can imagine, and I'm excited about that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous All Mixed Up profiles here.

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