Septembarrrrr 19 is International Talk like a Pirate Day, a day to celebrate the colourful language of our romantic swashbuckling heroes of the sea.
Out of curiosity and of course to brush up on my pirate lingo, I looked up the definition of swashbuckle; to engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado and flamboyance. Fearsome pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, had around 14 wives and when he was killed, he was beheaded and his head was tied to the yardarm of the ship. If that isn’t a life of romance and flamboyance I don’t know what is!
And what does a swashbuckling buccaneer kick back with, after a hard day of raiding and looting? Rum. Yo ho ho. While rum might be the pirate’s drink of choice, it is often overlooked by those of us that aren’t buccaneers. Rum has a long and colourful history, both in Australia and in the Caribbean, where it originated. Australia was practically built on rum, with the liquor being used as currency in the 18th and 19th century. Channeling my inner Jack Sparrow I went out in search of rum to a few bars specializing in the rum trade.
The Rum Diaries, Bondi
The Rum Diaries, located in Bondi, is a hidden gem in plain sight. The restaurant and bar is on the main strip of Bondi but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it might slip right past you. I was actually looking for it and I still walked right on by.
The bar is small and intimate, with dark paneled wood, cosy rooms and authentic decorations. The doorways and windows are arched, and there is an intimate function room out the back that has a wall-to-wall bookshelf, antique trinkets as decorations and a secret door behind the bookshelf (just leading to the office – but still, you have my attention!).
The Rum Diaries has been in Bondi for six years, with a change of ownership mid-last year. The new owners have changed things up a bit, and aim to bring rum to a wider audience of people. The rum list has been updated and the cocktail list adjusted. The list changes seasonally, and a recent addition includes the refreshing basil, lime and ginger cocktail. It is deliciously light and not too sweet; and would be the perfect start to a balmy spring evening.
Another cocktail prepared for us has apricot brandy, bitters and spices, and is a sharper hit than the refreshing basil drink. Sweet is probably more my thing (hence my love of cocktails) but I believe I am expanding my horizons. And I believe it because I actually enjoyed the apricot cocktail, even with its dark, sharp taste. It is a good palate cleanser.
The Rum Diaries has 103 types of rum currently available. A recent addition to the menu sees the launch of the Rum Voyages – a journey of rum that can be experienced with three ‘fleets’ for the rum newbie to the seasoned rum enthusiast. The fleets, named after early explorers, each offer four nips of rum from a range of makers that allow you to explore and experience quality rum.
The Voyages are a whole experience, with servers setting up at the table and giving a bit of history and background to the rum tastings. They aim to personlise the experience and make it just that; an experience.
Another experience you have to partake in is the Rum Blazer. The cocktail is tailored around your choice of rum and prepared at your table, and is accompanied by explanation and history of the processes.
Going back to when rum was used as currency, the strength of the rum was tested by covering the surface in gunpowder and sparking it alight. The residual burn left over indicated the alcohol content. If there was no residual flame, it was weak rum.
The rum in front of us has been mixed with chocolate bitters and caramel liqueur for a touch of sweetness. Overproof rum is added to give a high alcohol content to burn. The fumes light up straight away. Cinnamon is heated up to release the aroma, followed by star anise and vanilla bean. Orange flesh is also heated up over flame to release the oil and is added to the glass with the spices. The rum is burnt off by pouring between jugs.
Once it has burnt off it is added to the glass. Nutmeg is sprinkled over the top. The nutmeg doesn’t need to be heated to activate, it begins straight away. A napkin is placed over the glass to keep the flavours infusing.
A word of warning; don’t use your nose when first sipping the drink because the fumes left over from the overproof rum will burn! The more you sip, the mellower it gets.
The Rum Blazer(#19.50)
The result is a heady, spicy warming drink. It almost smells like Christmas, with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It is a good drink to finish on, warm and ideal for sipping. It is definitely an experience not to be missed.
The Angry Pirate, Redfern
I couldn’t do a story on rum and pirates and not go to the Angry Pirate. The tiny bar is located in the unassuming streets of Redfern, just a few minutes walk from the train station.
Co-owner of the Angry Pirate, Peter Groom, and his business partner toyed with the idea of a themed bar before settling on the piracy theme. He loved the idea of the American civil war era and cannons, but realised it wouldn’t translate on paper. The idea of cannons stuck though, and moved more towards piracy.
The maritime theme and modern day piracy of images stuck, and was easy to translate as a concept. The name comes from the villain in the cartoon Captain Pugwash, a show the owners used to watch as kids. The rest came naturally and organically.
Buccaneers visiting the Angry Pirate will feel right at home amongst the seagulls, parrots, and sea-bounty. There is a chart of the world on the back wall, drawn by Peter’s grandfather and a ‘pirate wall of fame’ where regulars to the bar are inducted into the crew, given a pirate name and have their photo displayed on the wall.
Even the furniture has a fascinating maritime history, with some of the wood in the bar coming from the side of an old Sydney ferry and from Pyrmont Pier. What more could a pirate want?
The Angry Pirate will be getting jolly on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, featuring drink specials, best-dressed pirate competition and even mooring a boat in the bar. Yarr, a real row-boat filled with beer, because pirates party hard!
The Angry Pirate Grog
Grog is a pirate classic; it is a spiced rum that Peter brews himself. It is used in several cocktails including the Grog Zombie, the bar’s signature cocktail served in a tiki cup and topped with a flaming passionfruit. The Zombie is fruity and tropical, with a strong passionfruit taste.
The Grog Zombie [$18.00] and a shot of Grog
Lavender and Lemongrass Martini, soon to be added to the spring menu
A Dark and Stormy [$16.00] and a Mojito [$16.00]
Peter also makes a martini that he has been experimenting with for the spring menu, with the unusual combination of Lavender and Lemongrass. It packs a punch, with a softer lavender aftertaste. It is unusual, but it works. Hot mulled cider is available [$6.50] and it is delicious. It is warm and not too cloyingly sweet, as mulled cider or wine can be in danger of becoming.
The Angry Pirate might be a little more out of the way but it’s worth the sail. It is a good middle ground for those wanting some rum classics and a friendly crew to swashbuckle with.
The Lobo Plantation, Sydney
Another must visit on the rum circuit is the Lobo Plantation. Tucked away on Clarence Street in the city, you get a feel for the place as soon as you head through the doors. The flamingo printed spiral staircase takes you below, where lush plants hang in pots and tropical palm fronds decorate the dim nooks and crannies. The Lobo Plantation is named after Julio Lobo, a Cuban sugar baron in the early 1900s, and it definitely has a Cuban feel to it. Lobo was a man that epitomised the era of decadence and opulence, and this feeling flows through into the bar.
The Lobo has a solid bar selection, featuring around 220 rums. They source and import rums from around the world, focusing mainly on caribbean rums. Owner Jared Merlino believes that rum captures the air and essence of the Caribbean, and transports you to a fun place. Part of the Lobo is the feeling that when you walk down the stairs, you feel like you’re a world away.
There is set to be a Rum Bible released in a few weeks, detailing the rums’ history and tasting notes. This will be in the bar and down the track they plan to sell it. For a more detailed rum experience, there will be Rum Flights, featuring 6 nips of different rum and one of the staff to walk customers through a rum journey.
A cocktail to try is the Old Grogram, an adaptation of grog-mixed drinks swilled in the days of piracy and maritime. They make their own Vermouth, made from a blend of reduced stout beer and spices, and pair it with spiced rum, sugar and lemon juice.
It became one of the bar’s most popular drinks, and even though it has been taken off the current menu, you can still request it. And I’d definitely recommend you do. It is spicy and smooth, easy on the eyes and goes down a treat. The fun part is watching the bar-tender play with fire as he toasts the cinnamon stick garnish.
The bar is cosy but exotic, and it is easy to picture Cuban men in white linens fanning themselves on a summer afternoon and sipping from a rum-based drink. The Lobo is a haven for rum enthusiasts, with a wealth of knowledge and experience hiding among the palm fronds and flamingoes. It is renowned for its cocktails particularly, and it’s definitely worth a few visits to work through the menu.
Grandma’s Bar, Sydney
Conveniently, also on Clarence Street is a little place called Grandma’s Bar. Grandma’s is a secluded little hideaway found through an easily-missed doorway and passage. Walking down the narrow stairs past the giant moose-head decorated with garlands of knitting, you find yourself in a room not too dissimilar to one in your nanna’s house. Which is isn’t always a bad thing. The aim of Grandma’s Bar is to provide a home away from home, a familiar, nostalgic family that you can escape to. Knitting baskets are strewn on side tables, crocheted blankets flung over the couch, and vintage floral chairs provide a decorative spot for you to kick back in.
Grandma’s has around 70 rums available, and is largely cocktail focused. It has more Spanish styles of rum, which are sweeter and stickier.
Dark ‘N’ Stormy ($17.00)
While Grandma’s has more of a cocktail focus, it is still worth a visit to check out their range of rums.
[divider]The Rum Diaries 288 Bondi Road, Bondi NSW Phone: (02) 9300 0440 Web: www.therumdiaries.com.au The Angry Pirate 125 Redfern Street, Redfern NSW Phone: 9698 9140 Web: www.theangrypirate.com.au
The Lobo Plantation Basement lot 1, 209 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW Web: www.thelobo.com.au Grandma’s Bar Basement 275, Clarence Street, Sydney NSW Phone: (02) 9264 3004 Web: www.grandmasbarsydney.com.au