Drinking in the afternoon is not for the faint of heart. Ernest Hemingway, renown lover of the rum-based daiquiri, liked his ice-cold, and as stiff as a plank. But he never drank in the morning, and rarely drank late into the night, and certainly not when he was writing. Two out of three will have to do.
JungleBird opened last month, taking over a space that sits on top of a decent Italian restaurant in Damansara Heights. There’s a definite attention to detail: dimmed lighting to hide the bags under one’s eyes, old-school Malaysian matchboxes that you feel bad for taking (is this part of the décor?), and that wallpaper. You can’t help but love a place with good wallpaper. The walls are lined with bamboo, softening the music vibrations just enough so that you can have a conversation with the person next to you. Or eavesdrop on someone else, depending on your style.
When I got to JungleBird that afternoon, I expected to have the bar to myself, but I found the Lost Generation (Ed. The name given to a group of young artists, that included Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce who lived in Paris during the Roaring 20s), and all of us were happy to enjoy a little tipple before sundown. Rum never hurt anyone, ask any pirate.
I tried four cocktails. All of which I paid for myself, so here is my unfiltered, dark and stormy review.
My first drink was the namesake, the Jungle Bird. It’s got Diplomatico rum, Campari, fresh lime and pineapple juice. It tasted alcoholic, but not overpowering. It also came with a leaf, and wedge, of Sarawakian pineapple decorating it. I recommend eating the wedge, and not the leaf.
My second drink was the Pantai Julep. Well. Here’s a drink that tastes so smooth, so refreshing, I will accidentally drink 6, and proceed to rap Ja Rule to whoever will listen. You can’t really taste the alcohol, but you can feel it, so take that as my word of warning. Maybe turn off your phone after 2 of these so you don’t accidentally start texting everyone you know.
My third drink was by far the shining star, a riff on my personal favorite drink of all time, the Old Fashioned, a Rum Old Fashioned. Again, more Diplomatico, some Ron Zacapa 23 (a rich, Guatemalan rum), house-made chocolate-cardamom bitters and just enough rock sugar to stop you from growing chest hair. It’s served with a house-made spiced, rich cocoa biscotti, that is excellent for dipping. By the time I finished this I felt ready to captain a ship and started using words like squall, swashbuckling, and starboard to describe things. If you like your drinks less sweet, and order one thing, let it be this.
My last drink was an ode to Hemingway, and runner-up in favorite drink … the dry daiquiri. The owners and bartenders were fond of it too, calling it The Best Drink in the World, on the menu. By this time the bar had filled out, and a DJ started spinning 90s grooves (you see where I was going with Ja Rule). It was served just as Hemingway liked it, ice-cold, and scant syrup.
And that, dear reader is how to end your night. Four drinks may have you three-sheets to the wind, so start with one… and see how far you get.
The only thing missing… Food to keep you sober. You can order from Sam’s or Neroteca downstairs, but with drinks so good, you want food to match.
And… for those who like their drinks sweeter, pro tip: you can order a piña colada from the unwritten page of the menu, and it will have you in coconut heaven by the time you get to the bottom of the glass. Ok, I may have had 5 drinks.
15 Plaza Damansara, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Mon-Sat, 5pm-late, Sun, 3pm-late.