What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My name is Jiyoon Baek but you can call me June and I’m the Resident Bartender and Mixologist at JW Marriott Singapore South Beach. Where I am today, in all honesty, by chance!
It started two years ago when my work/holiday visa to Melbourne was approved and I thought bartending was going to be the easiest way to get a job. After working at two very different bars, I was hooked! It obviously didn’t take much for me to fall in love with the job!
What are some interesting stories you can share with us from behind the scenes?
Well, before I started my journey as a bartender, I never drank, not even soju! So on the very first day on the job at the classic bar, a customer wanted to buy me a whisky and I didn’t want to be rude by turning him down so I went for it and I actually really liked it! The whisky was smooth and sweet – very well balanced and delicious! The next morning, however, I had a massive hangover, it was torture! I clearly didn’t know how strong whisky was! And no – I didn’t lose my job!
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job has always been the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and from all walks of life. On the flip side, the worse is that I was brought up parents who didn’t drink, so it’s tough for them to understand why I do what I do.
What’s your favourite drink at Court Martial Bar?
I have always loved the classics, but I always try to put a slight twist to make it more fun! My current obsession is our Chocolate Negroni at Court Martial Bar. You can’t really go wrong with chocolate! Flavours wise, it has a perfect level of sweetness and strength, which is done by substituting a portion of vermouth with white crème de chocolate (still alcoholic) and including chocolate bitters and cacao nibs for that smooth-bitter touch!
What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve seen as a bartender/mixologist?
I think it was when I first came to Singapore and I was watching an online video of an event happening at 28 Hong Kong. It was basically a gathering for bartenders from all around the world showcasing their best! There wasn’t anything specific but the video kept me very entertained. There were some wild cocktails, crazy unexpected costume, funny acts and some really scary heart-pumping tricks! It made me feel so glad to be part of the bartending culture!
The perfect day off would be…
I want to spend my days off efficiently – and since I haven’t really got to visit many parts of Singapore, it would be riding the oFo bikes and exploring the town in the daytime, and then ending the night with proper home-cooked food paired with wine and good company.
A day in the life of a mixologist is…
Exciting, unexpected, spontaneous and fulfilling.
What do you do for fun in your free time?
Eating! The ingredients in Singapore are so diverse and very exotic to me so you can always find me exploring a wet market or a local food centre! I actually also tend to find inspiration, so maybe I’ll have a local cocktail soon!
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Court Martial Bar / Tonic?
Tying back to the history of the whole property, we have a very rich heritage, especially in being the very first army base for the Singapore Armed Forces! Court Martial is especially unique as after World War II ended, it became the Court Martial Centre where British Soldiers and Secret Society members were trialled for their crimes.
What’s your favourite food and wine/cocktail pairing?
I have so many! Well, I’m a huge food lover so a few from the top of my mind are – crispy calamari with a sauvignon blanc, raw fresh oysters with Islay whisky highball, and codfish bites with a beer cocktail (such as Court Martial’s Heritage Sling)
What’s your view on the bar/beverage scene in Singapore? How does that compare to the scene in Korea where you’re from?
In Korea, the more popular bars are speakeasy styled bars that serve classic-style drinks. My first impression of the bar scenes in Singapore was – it’s so diverse! Just walking on the street, you get a mix of classic Japanese bars, young and buzzing bars, rum specialised bars, music bars and so much more. It’s nice to have such a wide variety!
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
There is going to be heaps happening! The team and I are actually working on launching a whole new selection of newly curated drinks for August. For more details – visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/JWMarriottSG or Instagram account by following @JWMarriottSG.