Jason Julian, bar director and co-owner of Soma Cocktail Bar in TTDI chats with The Yum List about life behind the scenes of a bar and how he got there.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I never planned to step behind the bar and mix drinks. My introduction to the food and beverage industry was when I decided to become a chef in the Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur. After a few years working in the kitchen, I started getting eczema all over my fingers and it was very bad. With the doctor’s advice and hygiene related issues, I decided to take a bartending job in Souled Out Ampang and learn from scratch from there.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
The most interesting stories are when your customers become your best friends. They call me up to do something like barbecue party (I always volunteer to be the cook), do some outdoor activities like hiking and camping. Sometimes they can be the best person to share your thoughts with.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part is to get to meet and know a lot of interesting people and you get to share ideas and opinions on something. I love my job so much because I have the freedom to mix a lot of things into a glass and impress my customers with something they’ve never have before. Not to forget those customers who will bring me their home-cooked meals for me to try. The worst part of my job is when I can’t locate my ingredients in the chiller during a busy night but it just right in front of me (it happens so often haha).
What’s your favourite drink at Soma?
My favourite drink at Soma is Power Trip. It’s a coffee-based cocktail and is a twist on a classic Americano, which consists of Campari bitter, sweet vermouth and soda. By adding cold brew coffee and substituting sweet vermouth with Bigallet China China (bittersweet orange liqueur ), it’s the best coffee cocktail ever for me.
What is the most frequently asked question from customers?
The always ask me if I’m Malaysian because they get confused with my appearance and the way I talk. “Are you local? You look like Chinese but you speak English with Filipino slang and when you speak Malay you sound like Indonesian, and you’re tattooed,” is commonly heard. And then I will explain to them that I’m from Sabah and I grew up in a multiracial community and that explains my slang. And also, most of them still ask me what’s my full-time job.
The perfect day off would be…
A good workout in the gym and then digging some calories from the buffet line afterwards.
What do you do for fun?
Sometimes I will ask my customers what kind of ingredients they don’t like to be in their cocktail, and then without telling them I use those ingredients in their cocktail and try to alter the flavour a bit. And then when I get to “wow” them, I will tell them what’s inside the drink. Their reaction is priceless as they never thought that things they hate the most can be something that pleases them in the end.