Yi Jun Juan, at No Sleep Club, recreates this 90’s classic, with tequila at its base.
No Sleep Club’s Expresso Martini calls for tequila. Popularised as the only upper in the gamut of spirits ( lifts mood, rather than depresses), Jun and Hutch believe tequila is an excellent complement to both coffee and chocolate, and a natural next step to an espresso martini. “That way, when a customer is smashing ten cocktails and ends with an espresso martini, they wake up instead of falling on all fours,” Yi Jun, lead mixologist, says.
WHO: Juan Yi Jun and Jessica Hutchinson,
AT: No Sleep Club, #8 Asia’s Top 50 Bars 2021 WHERE: 20 Keong Saik Road
IT’S A CLUB, NOT A BAR
“We were afraid of the terms ‘concept’ and ‘theme’,” says Yi Jun. In the early days, the sans-theme space left many perplexed. “People would ask us if we were a bar or restaurant or a cafe?”
Her partner, Hutchinson, explains, “We wanted to open something that hadn’t existed and start a new category. A place where you can order a cocktail at 10am or coffee at 9pm”.
The duo launched No Sleep Club (NSC) in Sept 2019 – an all-day venue serving coffees, cocktails, and comfort food. Their idea’s brilliance lay in its inherent versatility. “After a while – a year to be precise – people stopped asking and accepted us as we are,” Yi Jun adds.
A STUNNING DEBUT
Last year, NSC won Asia’s Top 50 Bars 2020’s Campari One to Watch award, presaging its staggering debut at No.8 on the list this year. “I was just hoping for something above No.25,” Yi Jun admits, surprised to have made it to the Top 10 within two years of its inception.
The creative pair invited their regular clients to share the award evening with them. As the results were announced, the cheer went through the bar like a Mexican wave. “We were speechless. We were gobsmacked,” Hutchison recollects.
THE DISRUPTIVE LOCKDOWN
“We were on a very good trajectory and had a good momentum going. So, this (Phase 2 – Heightened alert) is a bummer.” Yi Jun says. Since its inception, NSC has endured two lockdowns and come out on the other end, unscathed in spirit. One of the lessons learnt from Lockdown 1.0 was a strong emphasis on relationships. But how do you create a relationship when orders are made online? The team found multiple touchpoints to humanise the experience. “We personalise our orders with polaroid photos of the team, write messages on the bag, just to make sure there’s some sort of social interaction going on,” Yi Jun shares.
CLEAN BAR TOP
The bar has an apothecary feel to it – clutter-free, brand-free, clean skin bottles with an assortment of coloured spirits. The two plaques from Asia’s Top 50 sit casually between the bar paraphernalia, easily missable. Hutchison says, “Everything is pre-batched, not to take away the theatrics of it but just to speed up the process.”
Yi Jun, who is also the lead mixologist at NSC, believes in clean flavours. “We put a lot in our drinks, but we try not to educate our customers on it.” Her fuss-free drink creations are deceptively simple like the Gin & Tonic – which in effect, is a multi-layered carbonated tipple made with black plum gin, clarified guava and homemade Lacto-fermented plums.
UPWARDS AND ONWARDS
The club reopened its doors recently with a new share platter food menu to cater to the dining-in-two concept. But the drinks list remains familiar, with Yi Jun’s famous Three-lime Vodka Soda gracing the menu.
Next up, the team is looking to create an R&D space on the second floor of the shophouse, where they can collaborate with non-F&B sectors. “We are going to work with wellness instructors, yoga instructors, a ceramic person and bounce off ideas,” Hutchison informs.
One such concept is to explore how sound and light affect taste buds by creating a vibration masterclass where the same drink is offered in three different glasses to explore a change of taste perception.