Rum’s The Word! Head to Newcomer Buccaneers Bar for an Intoxicating 101
“An old ship crashed in Poblacion years ago and was never discovered until three buccaneers found it and made it a rum tavern,” so goes the curious legend behind the resurfaced and now remodelled “shipwreck,” in the heart of the thriving enclave of Poblacion in Makati.
True to its mysterious come on, once inside Buccaneers Rum & Cocktails Bar, one is instantaneously transported below deck of an amber-lit Galleon Trade ship of yore, sailing from Acapulco to Manila. Aboard this well-stocked vessel, one will find that the only “spice” traded here, however, is of the spiced rum variety. To date, the tavern currently boasts 166 rums. Sign me up, Cap’n!
Manila has certainly ridden the trendy tidal wave of speakeasies, the gentleman’s whisky-cigar tandem, and the now ubiquitous gin bar. And it still is. But shall we all agree that a rum-centric concept has well and truly piqued everyone’s curiosity? It’s high time this underappreciated spirit steps into the limelight and it was in the interest of our three aforementioned buccaneers to take it upon themselves to do just that.
At the helm is Captain Buccaneer, Ulysse Jouanneaud, the nose and palate behind the Shangri-La at the Fort’s acclaimed and award-winning bars, and whom rallied his fellow sea rovers, Dr. Wine’s Vincent Landais and Apotheke Craft Spirits Co’s Simon Côté. The result is an education you never knew you needed.
When one thinks of rum, aside from that infallible rum-coke combo on every dive bar’s drink list, there’s always that pop cultural image that comes to mind: the romanticised rum-swigging pirate, staggering from coconut tree to coconut tree on some sun-kissed shoreline in the Caribbean in search of treasure.
Somebody forgot to tell Jack Sparrow that rum is quite the treasure these days. For starters, you have your premium aged, ultra-premium blends and then you have your limited edition, vintage batches from boutique labels oft hailing from the French islands. To the Sparrow point, because of the incumbent mainstream drinking culture in the Philippines, there’s so much more to rum that we simply do not know.
Neat, this tropics appropriate spirit is as nuanced and complex as a fine wine or botanical gin; a sip will map out the exotic terroirs and climates of sugarcane growing Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Thailand and let’s not forget our very own Philippines (shout out to Don Papa!). European and North American blends, of course, import their components.
Rows of unfamiliar as well as rarely seen bottles line the sultry backlit bar, tempting the eye with luscious hues of caramel, honey, gold, and treacle. Do try the speciality rums such as the rich and funky 69% Plantation O.F.T.D Overproof Rum—most might require a mixer to take down the alcohol content a notch or two, but I urge you to enjoy this firecracker of a blend neat. And slowly.
Neat not for you? Arriving in vibrant paper parasol-topped tiki mugs or prettified cone glassware, Jouanneaud’s cocktails range from Php 200 to Php 450. Of the 10 concoctions, he says “some are sweet and complex; some sour and refreshing to tanatalise each palate. The drinks list will definitely appeal to both men and women.”
A refreshing and somewhat piquant signature cocktail is the La Sayona comprising Diplomatico Mantuano rum, amontillado sherry, lime juice, and pineapple and pepper jam. On the sweeter, rounder side is La Batanga. This good-looking cocktail is part Plantation 3 Star rum, part San Juan lambanog (local gin) with pale ale syrup, lemon juice, pineapple juice, and peach-rosemary jam thrown into the mix.
Being the thoughtful master mixologist that he is, one such special libation was deliberately designed to share. But take heed! This stunner combines seven rums, tequila and mezcal). The guy runs a tight ship!
One will also find other lesser known spirits here such as Brazil’s Plantation Novo Fogo cachaça (rum is typically derived from molasses, while cachaça is fermented and distilled fresh sugarcane juice).
If rum makes any of you out there a little “crazy,” the good news is that their late night street food-type bites (hot dogs, etc.) are a delicious pre-emptive cure. Even better is that when the ship is at full capacity—or if you and your crew are doing the Pobla bar crawl—a kitchen window facing Don Pedro Street becomes easy access.
The Buccaneers crowd is typically a probing bunch led by their rum-loving enthusiasts. “Early evening, we see the rum connoisseur, curious people who want try something new, and cocktail aficionados,” shares Jouanneaud. “Late evening, we get a younger crowd who want to enjoy cocktails with friends and dance all night long.”
- Photography Mon Monguila