Cocktail bar JungleBird, located in the affluent residential suburb of Bukit Damansara in Kuala Lumpur, is a must-visit for those who love their rums and rum-laced drinks.
Started by co-founders Divyesh Chauhan, Lolita Goh and Joshua Ivanovic as a tiki bar back in early 2017, rum-centric JungleBird in Kuala Lumpur immediately became a driving force in the city’s resurgent nightlife scene. The rum bar quickly picked up a slew of awards, even entrenching itself on the vaunted Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for many years (it most recently placed No.35 on the 2022 rankings). In 2021 the bar relocated, nestling into its current digs in a row of commercial shophouses still in the Damansara Heights area.
And there it continues to offer the same formula that made it a raging success in its earlier years.
The bar itself is decked out as a laidback tropical getaway, in a Caribbean beach resort meets Peranakan rattan chic sort of way. Designed as an all-day destination, JungleBird now offers mixed seating for every kind of party. There’s a casual open lounge for those who prefer to kick back and relax, banquette seating for those there for a proper meal, and – for serious tipplers – bar seats where the action is.
JungleBird established its reputation as a revered rum bar for good reason. Its beverage list is largely dedicated to that cane spirit, converted into a range of well-loved classic cocktails, nostalgic tiki drinks, and irreverent localised concoctions.
JungleBird is named for Malaysia’s national cocktail the Jungle Bird, first served at Aviary Bar in Kuala Lumpur’s Hilton back in 1973. And they make their namesake perfectly here. Their Jungle Bird – a mix of Diplomatico Mantuano, Campari, fresh lime and pineapple – is deeply refreshing, layered, and far from numb-achingly sweet like some other versions around town. Those love their Daiquiris must order JungleBird’s version. The Best Drink In The World here uses a blend of Diplomatico Planas and Veritas white rums, giving it a sensual, seductively silky complexity.
The fun doesn’t end there. There are many cheeky takes of rum-based cocktails here. Their JungleBird Piña Colada is a clarified version that’s potentially opinion-changing for those who don’t quite appreciate the creamier original. Their Queen’s Park Swizzle is, well, called Queen’s Park Not Swizzled.
There are Malaysia-inspired cocktails as well. Pilot’s Getaway is a liberal rum twist on the classic Aviation but infused with local flavours of coconut and pineapple. Then there’s Nyonya Business, a cocktail version of rojak salad, while Cendol Colada takes the traditional Penang dessert as inspiration.
The grub at JungleBird follows the Caribbean-meets-Malaysia theme, and offers bar bites that straddle both sets of cultures. You cannot not order The Cubano. Their version – a pressed sandwich jam-packed with slow-cooked pulled pork, ham, salami, Swiss cheese, and a plethora of condiments – is as authentic as any this side of the planet. Have that with a side of Trinidadian-style Trini Chadon Beni Spicy Slaw.
Prefer more local grub? There are street food favourites such as Perkedel Kentang (Malay potato dumplings), Bakwan Jagung (corn fritters), or even turmeric-spiced ‘KFC’ Kunyit Fried Chicken Wings, all of which make great finger food to go with your cocktails.
JungleBird is worth checking out because, along with other venues such as swanky hotel lounge Bar Trigona and edgy watering hole Coley, it has helped showcase the diversity of Kuala Lumpur’s cocktail culture.
“JungleBird plays a unique role in promoting Malaysia’s cocktail scene to the world,” Kim Choong, editor of Malaysian drinks publication ThirstMag.com, asserts. “Plus the rum-focused bar has given the classic Jungle Bird rum cocktail – which originated in Kuala Lumpur – a home to call its own.”
[Main image credit: JungleBird]
JungleBird (Kuala Lumpur)
Address 61M, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 4pm to 12am Mondays and Tuesdays; 12pm to 1am Wednesdays and Thursdays; 12pm to 2am Fridays and Saturdays; 12pm to 12am on Sundays
Tel (60) 3 2011 5715