Old Love’s is the latest bar to be opened by Dre Walters and his team, and it’s a new, old school rum bar that aims to take the tackiness out of Tiki, bringing it up to a modern, classy level.

Located on the ground floor of the same building that is home to Old Mate’s and in the space that was Ginny’s, Old Love’s is a temple of rum, featuring a number of rare rums, that he admits many Australians might not even be aware of, as well as old school Tiki cocktails with a modern twist and Dre’s own Book of Rum.

Speaking about the bar and the book, Dre told The Shout: “Ginny’s was always meant to be a pop-up because we had a six-month lead time on the production of chairs and then it was a four-month shipping time from the US. So, we thought we’d do a pop-up and we wanted it to be the best pop-up you would ever do.

“And it was always the intention to make the space into a little Caribbean rum bar, but then I decided to write this rum book which just goes through every single island within the Caribbean or everything surrounding the Caribbean Sea. It also includes Central America and the top of South America as well as a few other things.

“The book took significantly longer than I thought it would, but once we got into it we just thought we should give this a proper go and 90 pages later we have a great rum book and a little cocktail menu all in one.”


The book is now available in the bar and is a great read to enjoy alongside your rum cocktail in the rum bar that it was almost inevitable Dre was going to open, as he explained to The Shout.

“[Old Love’s] just comes purely from my love of rum. I worked at Grandma’s, which was the first little, small bar on Clarence Street and that was always rum orientated and then I was at Lobo and that always had a big rum focus in there. I ended up writing their little Rum Bible, which is a bit different, it just goes through every single rum that they have got in the bar.

“And then in here we just started acquiring rum, like a really old bottle of Nephew 25, which is completely rare and not made any more, along with a few other rare and not-seen bottles of rum and so it made sense to make this a rum bar.

“I always wanted to do the book as well, it’s like a small educational piece to rum itself. Rum is one of those subjects that’s a little different; when you’ve got Scotch there are certain rules and regulations that you have to abide by. But with rum it really depends on the country and you have got so many different rules and from country to country, they’ll have the same rule but it’s just slightly different. Essentially you are starting with the same base products, but what you end up with from country to country and even within the same country, from distillery to distillery is just a wild difference.

“So, it was just one of those things that I always wanted to do and it just got super interesting while I was doing it.”

The Book of Rum (volume 1)


Dre is clearly passionate about rum and said that one of the reasons he wrote the book was because he does feel that the spirit isn’t fully appreciated to the extent that it should be.

“You can go into so much detail with rum and we could have made this book 300 pages, but then no-one is going to read it because there is a little bit of misunderstanding about rum,” he said.

“Obviously everyone here has grown up with a big Queensland rum, and you either love it or you hate it, but that’s only one particular style of rum and you either love or you hate that style. But there are so many different types of rum from your whites, or Spanish or English styles and many others and everybody likes something different and it’s just a matter of finding what is out there.

“The differences within rum are so wild, especially when you have a few smaller producers that have only been round for two or three years and they are doing different expressions of white rum or aged rum. They are doing these really wild things where they use a different breed of sugarcane or harvest it at a different time of year, but then it goes through the same process and comes out really different, simply because they change the sugarcane or when they harvested it.

“It’s really interesting stuff, but it’s things people don’t know enough about. And let’s face it, everyone loves rum, everyone loves a Mojito, but when are they going to sit down and sip on a rum that’s taken 20 or 30 years to age? That’s a harder one to get everyone into. With whisky, it’s not that it’s easy to understand, but you’ve got regulated rules that it has to be done this way and the age statements have to be legitimate, as opposed to rum where you’ve had some brands just slapping 23 onto their bottle and off they go. It’s just the wild west sometimes, but that’s also the fun bit as well and once I started diving into it, I felt like I opened a can of worms because there is just so much to learn.”

Dre said that some of the delays with the furniture where almost a blessing in disguise because it gave the team time to write the book, but also time to make sure the venue was right.

“It’s one of the hardest things when you’re opening a venue is just working out how it works over the first couple of months, and as much as you plan and prepare for it there’s always going to be a couple of hurdles that you have to get over.”


And what can people look forward to when they visit Old Love’s?

“With the food we’ve gone for a playful twist on Caribbean and Polynesian-styles. We’ve got our own Jerk Chicken roll, if you haven’t had Jerk Chicken it’s basically a Jamaican spiced chicken, but ours has got huge, creole flavours, it’s been slow cooked for four hours, pulled apart and put on a little roll and it’s great.

Food and flavours at Old Love’s

“We’ve got our play on a Cubana, which is a Cuban sandwich with a couple of types of pork, so really just playing with anything that goes around the Caribbean scene and paints the flavours that you get from there.

“But really when we thinking about the bar, we were thinking ‘imagine what the first Tiki bar would have been’ where it was before it got butchered with Tiki shirts and flashing neon lights. Tiki was really started by people travelling and they were experiencing papayas and pineapples and exotic flavours like that. It was all bright, fresh and exciting and that’s were all the colour comes from.

“So, we wanted to explore that first Tiki bar, that would have started with bringing back a turtle shell and putting that somewhere, just all those things you get when you travel, an old Polynesian oar or something like that.

“And that’s how we’ve set the place out, things that you’d find on your travels and that old Tiki bar before the tacky element took off and we’re bringing back the classy element.


“Cocktail-wise we wanted to tip our hat to some old school Tiki recipes. We found this recipe for a Kingston Palaka deep in the depths of these old Tiki books, and it highlights the use of Li Hing Mui Powder, which is essentially a pickled plum, dehydrated, then turned into a powder which is rehydrated and turned into a syrup.

“We’ve made a simple little Tiki cocktail with that, and we found a few old Tiki cocktails like this and then we’ve put our spin on them, to modernise them a little bit.”

The modernised Kingston Palaka at Old Love’s is called Pet Dragon, it’s a fresh, herbal and fruity cocktail with Australian mountain pepper, sage and shiso laying the groundwork for the Li Hung Mui Powder.

Dre continues: “We’ve got a Banana Hammock, which is our version of a Rum Old Fashioned, but we wanted to make it as Tiki as we possibly could, and as classy as we possibly could as well. So, we use fat-washing with coconut oil, putting some freeze-dried bananas in there and jazzing it up in our own little way.

The Banana Hammock and the Pet Dragon

“We’re tipping our hat to the classics, but then trying to modernise them and of course we’ve got a couple of our own cocktails in there and we’ll continue to put out own cocktails on the list but wanted to tip our hat to the old school Tiki stuff as well.”

And as well an amazing cocktail list Old Love’s has some of those special rums that Dre and the team have been collecting over the years, for you to enjoy, as he told The Shout.

“We’ve got some really cool old Bacardi, rare Nephew 25, rare Nephew eight-year. We’ve got some Ron Del Barrilito, both the five-star and three-star which is kind of cool because those ones are pretty hard to get. The five-star is released in such small quantities that it is usually just bought up straightaway and we’ve got a couple of bottles of those. And a lot of people in Australia and Sydney probably won’t know about them, so then it’s really up to us to highlight those to people and showcase just how special they are.”

And whatever you might think about rum, Old Love’s is there to challenge your ideas and highlight just how special and diverse the category is and it’s a very special venue to enjoy a great rum journey in.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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