Divyesh Chauhan

JungleBird’s Divyesh Chauhan talks cocktail culture in Kuala Lumpur

22 September, 2022

Over the last few years, Kuala Lumpur has emerged as a cocktail city to watch. Drinks International caught up with Divyesh Chauhan, co-founder and director of JungleBird, one of the bars putting Malaysia’s capital on the bartending map.

“The bar scene is growing. There are some really exciting new openings too. Bars like Reka, Bar Terumi, BAC, Bar Mizukami, Alcohall and Penrose are all great new editions to the city. You can have a fun night out barhopping and enjoying very different concepts and styles of drinks. There are a lot of bars using local ingredients and flavours in interesting and original serves, but most of all, it’s the great hospitality.”

Chauhan’s own bar, the rum focussed JungleBird, which he owns with Joshua Ivanovic and Lolita Goh, is a local legend despite only having opened five years ago. It’s become a mainstay on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list since its first appearance in 2018.

“We wanted to create a rum haven in the tropics, not a tiki bar but a rum-focused venue. To be recognised by 50 Best was humbling and a complete honour.

“When we first set up the bar, the [50 Best] list was one of our goals but not an immediate one, we wanted to establish our brand and ethos first. But, within a year we made the list and have stayed on it.

“There are customers, both local and international, who keep up to date with the rankings and try and visit the bars on the list, we offer them a great drink and great service and they walk away being impressed.”

Despite its short ride to the top, last year JungleBird suddenly found itself without a home and needing to relocate.

“During one lockdown we found out that our unit had been sold and it wasn’t viable for us to stay at the current location, so we moved and took three months to build the new venue ourselves. We added a new kitchen with our own food menu and opened the venue for day trade.

“But the city was hit hard [by the pandemic], and many small hawker stalls and venues had to shut down with no means to offer their trade. We were in the fortunate position to pivot and within a week we had a menu up and running and were able to offer bottle cocktails for delivery. This kept us above water for the first few lockdowns.

“Things are now back to normal whatever that may be, and we have seen our regulars and international guests come back. It is great that we survived and were able to change locations and give JungleBird a new lease of life.”

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