Co-owner of Night Hawk and Five Oars Coffee Roasters
I can proudly say I've most definitely contributed to the increase of intoxication in the population between 2011 and 2020. Apart from that, I do try my best to contribute back to the local bar scene as much as I can.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
Strap in. This is going to be a long story.
Becoming a professional barman was never really a childhood ambition. Initially, the goal was to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a musician. My first foray into F&B came from trying to earn some extra cash at a local bistro whilst studying at the age of 16. I hated it – dealing with peoples’ entitlement wasn’t exactly my dream job.
However, after being freshly released from national service, I found it hard to find music gigs due to my two-year hiatus. So, I did the next best thing I knew and started working in clubs. The idea was to make some money while finding more music gigs; and also to make as many female acquaintances as I could. It wasn’t till I met the owners of a then non-existent bar that I found my first “calling” as a bartender.
After they waxed lyrical about the ambitions of the venue and how they’d make it one of the best bars in the world, they ended the pitch by saying the most seductive line any 21-year-old wannabe bartender wanted to hear: “We’re paying $10 an hour”. I was sold. That bar turned out to be 28 HongKong Street and it was there that I learned a passion for craft bartending. I found the correlation of creativity between making music and making cocktails.
Fast forward to the present: I’ve been blessed with the privilege of working alongside some of the best in the industry, representing my country in competitions, travelling for work, creating new bars, being a brand ambassador for a delicious rum (Diplomático Rum), and educating fellow peers in the joy of mixology.
That journey led me to be the co-owner of Junior Productions (Junior The Pocket Bar and Nemesis), and a partner in a new venture with Five Oars Coffee Roasters and the new bar we’ll be creating in May 2022. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! Except for maybe more money and time to travel. Yeah, more money would be good. It’s better to cry while sipping a daiquiri in a swanky bar than a glass of water alone at home.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
I can proudly say I’ve most definitely contributed to the increase of intoxication in the population between 2011 and 2020. Apart from that, I do try my best to contribute back to the local bar scene as much as I can. Be it sharing experiences, creating venues that add value to our bar scene, sharing education, and mentoring younger bartenders towards a potentially fruitful career path.
I’ve also been privileged enough to represent our Lion City on the global scale in cocktail competitions like Diageo World Class 2014, Bacardi Legacy 2015 and Diplomático World Tournament 2017.
What does 2022 look like for you?
2022 is looking exciting! I’ve joined forces with local cafe brand Five Oars Coffee Roasters to create a new venue in May 2022 (undisclosed at the moment but #iykyk). This, sprinkled with some potential work-travel opportunities, and I’m buzzing to go!
What do you love most about Singapore?
Our diversity. We’re a beautiful melting pot of mixed cultures. Being a relatively young nation means we’ve created a unique cultural system that can’t be replicated anywhere else. It’s something we should be very proud of. Also, the rate at which we’ve developed is astonishing and not something we should take for granted.
What are your first and last drinks of the day?
I like to start my day with a glass of warm water right when I wake up. Because health. Any other bartender who tells you otherwise is either lying or an alcoholic. The last drink of the day depends heavily on how the day went. Usually, it’s something clean and refreshing like a beer or highball if it’s a normal day. Else, it’ll be something stiffer.
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
Vijay Mudaliar. We started bartending in very similar circumstances and he has achieved many great things in the bar industry for our country and bar scene. The fact that he has amazing venues, is more successful, is taller than me, and is a great human being pisses me off. My only saving grace compared to Vijay is that I don’t have to re-distil sweat from a minotaur into my cocktails to make them taste good. Jokes aside, Vijay is a very humble and passionate barman who will continue to do great things for our local bar scene.