Step behind the bar of tropical rum house JungleBird in Kuala Lumpur through the story of its namesake cocktail. Created in the 1970s at the Aviary Bar of the former Hilton Kuala Lumpur on Jalan Sultan Ismail, the Jungle Bird was served in a bird-shaped ceramic mug as a welcome drink to guests.
A cocktail well hidden within the chapters of John J Poister’s 1989 The New American Bartender’s Guide, the Jungle Bird was then brought from obscurity to ubiquity in 2010 when renowned veteran bartender Giuseppe González replaced the dark Jamaican rum with a more intense blackstrap rum at the now-defunct drink cave PKNY in New York. Since then, the coral-red concoction has found its way to most modern-day drink menus as an exotic favourite.
BENEATH THE WINGS
Today, at JungleBird, Kuala Lumpur’s first rum-focused cocktail joint, Diplomatico Mantuano is chosen as the rich backbone flavour to the drink. Topped with pineapple and lime juice, as well as Campari, the Jungle Bird’s citrus flavour with a bitter finish offers a cool respite from the hot weather, and it’s no surprise why the iconic drink has a reputation akin to that of a Singapore Sling.
Lush leafy wallpaper, bamboo stilts, rattan furniture, and Hawaiian vibes aside, the JungleBird bar is shaped with an ethos of bringing rum to the fore while catering to every individual’s taste, without the typical kitschy tiki elements. A dedicated rum bar indeed, and a good reason why the drink to sip on after should be the slightly more intense spinoff of the Jungle Bird, aptly called the Big Bird. Smokey Amaro Braulio is used in place of the Campari, while the drier and spicier Plantation Original Dark is the preferred rum base of choice. Then, the Big Bird is topped with spice-roasted pineapples—the perfect garnish to the piquant drink.
GOOD OL’ DAYS
Quenched with tropical notes from the Birds, take a quick trip to Cornwall with the frothy Childhood Charlestown Fizz, which was recently made the Malaysian winner at the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge Asia 2018. The drink, inspired by JungleBird co-founder Joshua Ivanovic’s childhood home that was surrounded by orange groves and honeysuckle plants, uses orange blossom water to emanate a crisp scent, while the egg white keeps the liquid light, offering a milkshake-like drinking sensation.
THE NEW CLASSICS
To seal the complete JungleBird experience, rum classics are also given enthralling twists. Piña coladas are made with in-house coconut cream syrup and salt, while daiquiris are concocted with a blend of rums and finished with freshly pressed cane juice. The mojito—a real hit in BAZAAR’s books—is presented with the elegant body of Diplomatico Planas, grassy Clairin Casimir, and the green Chartreuse that brings out its herbal character.
As Quentin Tarantino would put it, “Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a colour after it.”
JungleBird, 15, Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara. Tel: 03-2011 7715. www.junglebirdkl.com