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Five rum-focused bars

Move over gin, it’s rum’s turn to shine. Natasha Hong rounds up five new and revamped bars with rum-dominant menus

Studio 1939 at Potato Head Folk
1/5

Studio 1939 at Potato Head Folk

With the massively popular Potato Head Bali known for its rum-heavy tiki bar, its no surprise that the Jakarta brand’s debut in Singapore also features a focus on rum. Occupying an entire three-storey shophouse unit on the corner of Keong Saik and Teck Lim roads, Potato Head Folk is a complex of drink and dining options that notably features Studio 1939 (a reference to the historic shophouse’s construction date) on the third and rooftop levels, where they’ve pulled together about 30 rums, selecting what they consider to be the best from the bottles in distribution locally.

It’s perhaps also sweet serendipity that tiki culture also kicked in in 1930s US – around the time their building came to be – and that travelling bartenders Leo Boys and Anya Montague, who too worked on the conception of Studio 1939, have racked up experience in the concept with a stint in a tiki bar in Hawaii. Dre Masso, the group’s bar operations and project opening manager who’s integral to the set up here, has similarly had an illustrious career earning the title of UK Bartender of the Year thrice in his career, as well as a resume dotted with award- winning bars he’s consulted for and authorship of a cocktail book under his own belt.

Compared to the languid, sea salt-addled vibes of Potato Head Bali, Studio 1939 has a decidedly more urban feel, with the surreal, storybook-inspired art of Aussie artist David Bromley splashed all over the walls and floors, and what Masso describes as a ‘sexier, darker, more grown-up mood’ inside the bar, with a tropical garden oasis on the roof.

There are subtle nods to tiki culture, as seen in the wooden head-shaped cups specially made for the bar and in the drinks, which features a selection of traditional cocktails, re-worked classics and punch drinks for sharing. Highlights include the Treacle, a dessert-like old fashioned made with rum, which is sweetened with a bit of apple juice in the classic category, plus twists on the martini, daiquiri, negroni and Tom Collins. Boys also mixes his special blend of overproof rums (cask strength rum undiluted by water) for use in some of the drinks.

In keeping with the unstuffy friendliness of the place, Masso and Potato Head Folk’s specialty chef de cuisine Adam Penney are working on pickles and toasted nuts to be stocked behind the bar, and a ‘faux cannery’, which Penney says will put confit meats, baby fish and squid in tins for diners to dig into.

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Outram Park
Bob's Bar
2/5

Bob's Bar

Bob’s Bar at the Capella Singapore has always been partial to the sugarcane spirit, but having recently enlisted the folks at Proof & Company (the drinks distribution company also by the people at 28HKS) to inject a stronger narrative and a more considered drinks programme, it’s raised the game to a new level on par with its stellar location.

For this project, Proof & Company researched their drink history and created a menu inspired by 1930s Havana, when the Cuban capital was a glamorous island playground for the Prohibition-parched American rich. Split into three cocktail categories – an elegant, sophisticated ‘At the Malecon Tables’ list, a more casual ‘A Day at La Playa’ for beachy drinks, and ‘A Night in La Habana Vieja’, with a range of other cocktails – and each drink is explained with a quick line of history on the menu.

Bob’s Bar wins extra points for using fresh-pressed juices, extracted to order with a top-of-the-line juicing machine and an old-school sugarcane press. There’s also, of course, an enviable selection of top shelf rums, including bottles of Plantation Rum dating all the way back to 1999, showcased in the cabinet nooks behind the indoor bar – with prices to match. Drinks in the lux ‘Malecon’ category, such as the strident El Presidente ($29), Hotel Nacional ($27) and the Bob’s Old Fashioned ($29) punch heavy with the use of aged spirits like Ron Zacapa 23 Solera, and Plantation XO 20th Anniversary rums, which helps justify the price.

In the casual ‘La Playa’ category, the Bob’s Fresh-Pressed Mojito ($26) edges further into fresher ground using fruity sugarcane and lime juices. The Rum Runner ($27), named after Prohibition-era smugglers, makes use of both Atlantico Platino Dominican and Plantation Overproof rums. To finish off the list, ‘La Habana Vieja’ breaks away from the rums to offer riffs on more tourist- friendly items like the Hemingway Daiquiri ($27) and the Sentosa Sling ($29), which fits right in with their alfresco seating near the seafront and Wednesday to Friday evening jazz performances by The Jeremy Monteiro Latin Jazz Trio outside the bar. Food-wise, the hotel’s executive chef David Senia has similarly embraced the renewal and incorporated jerk seasoning and Caribbean spices into palate piquing dishes like whammy prawn cocktail ($35) with rum-infused cocktail sauce, and sliders with jerk-spiced patties ($25).

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Harbourfront
Limeyard
3/5

Limeyard

Though they’ve already established themselves as the go-to location for a taste of Caribbean culture in Singapore since their opening last year, Lime House further refines their ‘liming’ (chilling out) concept by carving out a bar lounge in the back courtyard of the ground floor, now dubbed the Limeyard.

Restaurant general manager Ruben Mourino Casal designed the space mainly in response to customers’ demands for a chilled out terrace to sip cold drinks on, and the lime green pillowed rattan loungers surrounded by ferns and murals that supposedly hark back to the West Indies seeks to be the space right for warm weather, sundowner drinks.

They’ve featured an all-rum Caribbean cocktail menu ($16-$18) from the get-go, with options like the Lychee Ooh Lala, comprised of white rum, lychee liqueur and syrup and sprite, as well as the rich Palmwalker of dark rum and cream of coconut all made with Barbadian Mount Gay rum. All that will still be on offer in the yard, plus special Happy Hour promos from 5-8pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays.

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Tanjong Pagar
Nuvo Lounge
4/5

Nuvo Lounge

Though not completely rum-centric, Nuvo now showcases an impressive collection of over 30 rums, selected by general manager Kley Dhillon (formerly of Cache, Izy’s backdoor speakeasy), who was brought in to oversee the Marina Square restaurant’s revamp. There’s everything from basic white rum, which Dhillon describes as clean on the palate, to cachacas (‘with lots of fresh sugar cane flavours’), and Jamaican Demerara rums that he’s a big fan of with flavours of coconut and dark molasses, served up neat, on the rocks, or in reasonably priced cocktails ($15-$22) to entice the mall crowd.

Of particularly special note here is an incredibly rare bottle of Black Tot rum,which was produced for the the UK’s Royal Navy until the 1970s, when the distillery stopped its production. Now considered a dead stock, it goes for around $400 for an ultra- exclusive 45ml pour.

For regular mortals looking to sample a variety of rums, however, Nuvo Lounge will serve flights of rum grouped according to styles, country of origin or even showcase the variations within each distillery ($32/three 30ml shots).

The bar side will also work closely with Nuvo’s chef Mark Richards to play with sous vide machines and dehydrators to dry out chilli padi-infused pineapple and compressed watermelon with yuzu for more accessible cocktails, featuring Eastern- leaning flavour combinations to pair with the versatile spirit.

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Raffles Place
Sugarhall
5/5

Sugarhall

After two successful years slaking the cocktail thirst at Jigger & Pony, bar owners Indra Kantono and Gan Guo Yi found themselves ready to launch a new ‘fun dining’ concept next door to their Amoy Street institution. Featuring a combination of smoky grilled food and the sugarcane spirit, the idea for Sugarhall was born out of a particularly successful off-day barbecue about a year ago, where Jigger’s bar pro Aki Eguchi drummed up bowls of rum punch that just clicked with the charcoal-licked meats and veggies cooked up on Kantono’s Weber grill. It was then that the trio realised they were on to something with the formula, which they’re happily staying true to.

At the new space, the shelves stock a 50-strong repertoire of rum labels, split into clear, dark and tropical categories. The clear spirits feature the lighter-hued, lighter flavoured unaged rums and agricoles, while the dark drinks are spirit-forward mixes that give five- and twelve-year-matured, richer rums their due respect in renditions of the old fashioned and negronis, for example.

Peeks of tiki fun show up in the tropical row of drinks, with sunny day, beach-ready drinks like fruity coolers, coconut juleps and even Ron de Jeremy spiced rum mixed seamlessly with Thai iced milk tea and herby cardamom syrup ($22). Showing consideration for the solid food programme at the bar, each of the drinks bear a sliding scale below, indicating the cocktail’s suitability to imbibe before or after food, based on the ingredients put into each.

Everything’s priced at an unfussy flat rate of $22 per drink – and you won’t want to miss out on the food, either. Chef Polo Seah, an expert on meats from his days at the W Singapore’s Skirt restaurant, fires up the grill at the back of the house. The cuisine doesn’t strictly fall into the given brackets of South American, European or Asian, but they’re traditional dinner-sized plates that Kantono describes as ‘simple and honest, made with good ingredients over open- flame grills’.

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Telok Ayer

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