The Return Of Sugarhall

Four years on, the rum-centric bar is back at a brand-new address on Cecil Street. Only this time around, rum gives way to a few more spirits.

Rarely has a bar closed only to be resurrected in a 2.0 sort of format. The original Sugarhall door sign was dusted off and reinstated; rum brought to centre stage, and ex bartender Sam Loh back behind the bar.

Sugarhall first popped on the Singapore bar scene in 2014 and earned itself a passionate fanbase. Known for its hand-crafted rum-based cocktails, the bar was popular for its communal vibes. Just as well, it found itself at no.38 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list in 2017.

The closure in 2018 was lamented by many, and the reopening was equally feted by the nostalgic imbiber community.  The “rum-focussed cocktail pub”– as it’s now called – sits in the heart of town, above sister restaurant Rosemead.

Hui Designs and Indra Katano of Jigger and Pony sought inspiration in a British-style pub calling in dark wood accents amid distressed walls. Fairy lights dance on the ceiling, with painted-over pipes and ample soft yellow lighting setting the perfect ambience. It is grungy and somewhat polished, cavernous, and familiar.

The menu is an ode to classics, and rum features as an ingredient in over half of them. “We didn’t want people to feel intimidated by a rum bar,” says operations manager Davide Boncimino. “The idea was to have a little more focus on rum but still make it very accessible for anybody who doesn’t like rum.”

Boncimino adds that the drinks are more spirit-forward and drier than before. Consider the Classic Daquiri, which blends two rums, including citrus-noted Bacardi Superior 1909 and the herbaceous Veritas, to build layers of flavour. Dark and Stormy, a mainstay of the old menu, returns in two sizes and highlights Jamaican Hampden 8-year aged overproof rum known for its intense estery fruitiness. It is combined with locally brewed craft ginger beer “I Shot the Ginger”.

From the non-rum cocktails, gin-based French 86 stands out for its complexity of flavours drawn from almond and peach leaf liqueur, and makrut lime leaf.

While only eight rums are mentioned on the streamlined menu booklet, the QR code reveals much more. “The rum selection now is just above a hundred, and it will grow,” says Boncimino. Ultra-premium rums line the shelves, including the prized 37-year-old Jamaican rum Clarendon ($258 for a 45ml pour), and known names like Carribean’s Dictador (available in a tasting flight).

Age, however, is no longer the only defining attribute of a good rum – the new approach to rum classification circles around provenance and process. Boncimino points out that the rums at Sugarhall are categorised by country of origin. “We have rums from Jamaica, Guyana, Martinique, and Trinidad, and we try to support both small and big brands.” For the curious, Loh and Boncimino are only too happy to guide you through the collection and, if you’re pliable enough, convert you to the lure of rum.

As for nosh, expect a limited menu of elevated pub grub offerings from Rosemead’s chef David Tang. While he works on a full menu, the bar is packed, bustling from Happy Hours starting from 5.30pm to 7pm till the wee hours of the night, tapping to reggae and funk beats.

Sugarhall is back with a swagger. 

Sugarhall is at Level 2, 19 Cecil St, Singapore 049704.