Rum, for most of us has been a rite of passage. It perhaps would not be an exaggeration to say that we all have an Old Monk story to share. This makes the walk down the blue lit glass path, on the third floor of the Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, nostalgic, seeing how the upper shelves are lined with those distinctly familiar square bottles. This little pathway leads to India’s first high-end lounge bar dedicated to the ‘Spirit’ of Rum – RumBah.
RumBah promises to not offer you the rum and coke experience of the ‘good ol’ days’ but, as one of the very few single-spirit bars and the only dedicated to rum in the country (and with a Caribbean vibe to boot), it hopes to introduce you to nuanced aspects of the spirit that you perhaps did not know existed.
Once past the blue-lit glass shelves, Bob Marley and some good reggae instantly makes you smile. The 60-seater space is a cosy affair, with a mix of communal seating, small group settings, and single-seaters by the bar. As I peruse the menu, I get chatting with mixologist Gaurav Dhyani, who, in his close to a decade of experience, has started and helmed quite a few premium bars such as Molecule in Gurgaon, the bars of Perch and PCO, as well as those at Olive, at the Shangri-La and Taj Palace, all in New Delhi, and, who feels rum has really not got its due. “Despite India being among the largest producers of sugarcane in the world, not much has been done to showcase the drink. That is what we are doing here,” says Dhyani, who has been prepping house-made syrups, bitters, and infusions for close to four months prior to doors opening.
International brands on offer currently at RumBah include Ron Diplomatico, Ron Diplomatico Reserva (which I had the pleasure of sampling), Mount Gay Silver, and Pita Cachacha. Very soon the likes of Kraken (Trinidad and Tobago), Boukman Rhum (Haiti), El Dorado 12 year Aged Calypso (Guyana), Myer’s Original Dark (Jamaica), Oronoco Rum (Brazil) and many more will grace shelves. RumBah also offers premium Indian rum brands.
The rum-based menu also features 17 special cocktails and (just) 6 classics. Dhyani believes that anyone can create classics like a Mojito or a Cuba Libre, but the specials showcase the versatility and nuances of rum for every kind of rum aficionado. And heads up, they are listed in order of potency, giving you a chance to build from light and fruity to strong and multi-layered profiles.
If you are looking to start with something mild and sweet, the Ripe and Rock, with a three-berry jam that is off-set with some red wine vinegar, is for you. Not flavours that you would think of in a glass, but all coming together to make a refreshing drink. The RumBah Spritz is another pleaser, with Aperol, white rum, elderflower syrup, and Prosecco. The Midnight Maitai takes its inspiration from the original, but with a milder fruit profile and edible charcoal giving it an intense colour. The Evening Blossom is like a lovely dessert in a glass, with Dark Rum, Cognac, vanilla-infused milk and nutmeg. A lovely rendition if you will, of the warm glass of milk for a good night’s sleep perhaps!
Among the classics, you will want to try the Hemingway Daiquiri, which includes grapefruit juice, something that makes all the difference, but is rarely used in bars, Dhyani believes. The El Presidente, with Rum, Orange Curacao, Vermouth, and Grenadine is lovely. What I especially appreciated was the skill it took to ensure that the orange peel in my drink didn’t turn bitter while I nursed it.
One thing that’s evident across the cocktails is the finesse that has gone into the creation of the bitters, purees, infusions, and the balancing of them in the drinks. This is why when Dhyani says he is now experimenting with onion jam in his cocktails, I can’t wait to see what he will do.
Of course, the food complements the alcohol (besides rum, there are a range of other beverages as well). The menu is a mix of South Indian and Caribbean flavours. Try the Lamb Skewers with Chilli – slice of a bit of the chilli with each mouthful of lamb and then have a sip of your rum. You will be surprised at how the flavours change. The Jamaican Jerked Prawns have a lovely char to them and are complemented by the grilled pineapple they are served with. The Grilled Lamb Heart Anticucho does a lovely dance on your palate when you rub a bit of the grilled Habanero chilli that it comes with. The Cauliflower Malli Varuval has a peppery finish, which again works perfectly with the rum. There are several other options for vegetarians.
Single spirit bars are all about passion and are a concept driven by conviction. There is a certain nostalgic comfort that comes with a RumBah experience, and that is what this passion project hopes to achieve.
Where: Ritz Carlton, Bengaluru
Contact: +91 80491 48000
Opening hours: 3:00 pm – 12:00 midnight
Recommended drinks: El Presidente and Evening Blossom
Price: Rs 3,000 for two. Taxes extra
Noise levels: Medium
All images: Courtesy RumBah