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Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

THE city's first rum bar has opened in a "ship's hold" and pours free grog for anyone with a patch over his eye, a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg. Sam Riley knocks one back.

The favorite tipple of buccaneers and the British navy, rum (grog) has been the warming elixir for high-sea adventurers since Caribbean slaves first fermented the liquor from sugarcane in the 17th century.

Shanghai's mateys can step back into the history and romance of rum, with the city's first rum bar, Rhumerie Bounty, recently setting its sails in Jing'an District.

The small bar dedicated to all things rum is ingeniously designed to feel like the hold of a ship.

Dark wood paneling and 17th-century antiques create the perfect backdrop for a range of bracing brews that could put the roll of an ocean swell into even the sturdiest sailor's sea legs.

Started by childhood friends, Frenchmen Jeramy Villard and Julien Stelmach, with local partner Gabriel Wang, the bar on Wuding Road has a range of fruit-flavored rums and rum and fruit juice cocktails.

Fortunately, it serves real rum - white, golden and dark - for drinking straight, or on the rocks with lime. The charm of the bar comes in the details: Beers are pulled from a tap fitted into a ship's wheel and the antique books and memorabilia are regularly changed to keep its growing following intrigued.

Wooden chests converted into seats and big barrels as tables complete the nautical theme.

"We will give you a free drink if you come in with a wooden leg, a parrot on your shoulder and a patch over your eye," jokes Stelmach. "The concept of a rum bar is well known in France. Most of the time they have some sort of nautical theme and often look like a ship."

After a visit to Shanghai last year, Villard and Stelmach decided to sell up their rum bar in Valence in France's southeast and relocate to China.

"We know that rum and the concept of a rum bar is not so well known in China so we decided to give it a try," Stelmach says.

Bounty is the latest addition to an area north of the Jing'an Temple that includes a collection of funky bars and a tapas restaurant at the historic alleyway at 528 Wuding Road.

This area of Jing'an District has become a magnet for expats and upwardly mobile Chinese, and new restaurants and bars are duly popping up in the area, giving residents every excuse to ditch the taxi to the downtown area and take a stroll to their local.

Bounty serves a range of fruit juice and rum mixers, including cocktails with orange and mango or orange and guava and Havana Club rum. The refreshing cocktail comes served in small, vintage-looking handmade bottles with a cork stopper and 500ml costs 80 yuan (US$11.70).

The pair also makes a range of stronger brews from big glass bottles hanging along the back of the bar.

The fruit-infused drinks are a heady brew with a real kick and are usually served with crushed ice in shot glasses. A 250ml bottle costs 125 yuan. Flavors include strawberry, blackberry, melon and ginger.

A highlight is the cooked apple and banana flavors. The cooked banana has complex spicy undertones and a dash of marmalade adds a twist to its caramelized flavors.

Villard explains that the pair makes their fruit brews from recipes they developed in France and it takes one month for the flavors to fully infuse the rum.

"We are adapting our flavors to meet Chinese tastes. We are constantly testing on our friends and we also plan to use seasonal fruits like peach," Villard says.

Villard and Stelmach hope to showcase a range of aged rums, the oldest being a 1970 vintage.

"We want the Chinese to drink the rum like whisky, to drink it straight with ice but for now they seem to like the rum with fruit juice and the rum with fruit," Villard says.

It is no surprise Stelmach and Villard did their homework, extensively researching the local market before taking the dive into Shanghai.

A small stage in the corner will cater for live music nights, the bar will soon have wireless and a tapas menu is planned.

Like the small cocktail bar Constellation in Luwan District, some of Shanghai's most successful new establishments have jettisoned size for intimacy and atmosphere.

Stelmach says they quickly realized that Shanghai had more than enough lounge bars and they wanted to provide a different style to intrigue Shanghai's fickle bar hoppers.

"Everyone wants to make a lounge bar, we could have made a rum bar with a lounge bar-type atmosphere but we wanted to do something different," Stelmach says. "This has a different type of ambience, where people can come with their friends and have a great time drinking good rum."

Rumerie Bounty

Opening hours: Daily, 1pm till late

Address: 550 Wuding Rd

Tel: 2661-9368


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