Andrew “Dre” Walters waited nearly a year for the perfect bar stools to arrive from America before opening Old Love’s, a basement rum bar underneath Old Mate’s Place. Walters owns the favoured rooftop bar four levels above and the new rum-fuelled digs with his wife Gabrielle Walters and Daniel Noble. In the dream-chair-free interim, the subterranean space was graced with Ginny’s Canoe Club.

“I’m pretty stubborn,” Walters tells Broadsheet. “When you open a venue, it revolves around a couple of ideas, and if you don’t get those big-ticket items, it feels like you’re sacrificing something.”

Walters’s perfect stools are dark cane with green leather seats, with a palm tree carved into the backrest. They fit well with the charming tiki-style fit-out of the space, and importantly, they swivel.

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“I think sitting at the bar should be the best seat in the venue,” Walters says. “You might chat with the bartender, or meet the people next to you, and it’s easier to talk to multiple people if you can swivel.”

Sitting in Old Love’s, you'll be spoilt with an exhaustive rum offering, with options for anyone from beginners to connoisseurs. There are elaborate cocktails and rums mixed with sugar cane juice that’s freshly pressed at the bar, and there’s a seasonal Daiquiri that changes every few weeks. “We have a really good fruit supplier who gets us the best of the season. We recently did a lightly blended Daiquiri of charred nectarines, and we’ve done lime leaf, coconut and mango, and honey-roasted papaya with Sichuan pepper.”

There’s also a rare bottle of Wray & Nephew 25, an aged rum that was exclusively given to staff of the Jamaican distillery to celebrate 25 years of Jamaican independence. Caution: it sells for $2100 a shot (so best saved for a very, very special occasion, if that).

“It’s a once-in-a -lifetime rum. Something that’s this rare, who knows if you’ll ever get a chance to drink it again. When we got it, I opened it up and tried some. The person with me was mortified, but you’ve got to live your best life.”

Atop one of Walters' prized bar stools, along with your libation, you're free to receive a thorough education on the history of rum, both from the bartender and the Book of Rum. The team spent six months working on the 100-page book. It lays out the origins of the sugar-cane-based spirit, including fermentation, distilling and ageing techniques, and the flavour profiles of rums across the world. And it also doubles as a menu.

In his research, Walters found myriad old rum recipes and modernised his favourites, like the Pet Dragon, a citrusy take on a Kingston Palaka. The cocktail is typically mixed through with Drambuie and a puckeringly sour hit of li hing mui (pickled plum) powder. “To update it, we mixed red shiso, sage, native pepperberry and infused that into our ‘rum-buie’.”

After 18 years of bartending, the opportunity to try something new is maybe as rare as that bottle of Wray & Nephew 25. “I’ve been making cocktails for a long time. But when we were working on the menu and researching, I came across recipes I’d never heard of before. It’s really exciting.”

Old Love’s
199 Clarence Street, Sydney

Tue to Sun 5pm–2am