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Smuggler's Cove

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650 Gough Street, San Francisco, US

By Hamish Smith

“What if there was a cave on an island where smugglers (not pirates – this is commerce-based not theft-based) had been shipwrecked and had to build themselves a clubhouse?” As concepts go, you couldn’t accuse Martin Cate of vagueness. Luckily his designer, an old friend, had a read on Cate’s mind and managed to bring his daydream to life.

When Smuggler’s Cove opened its doors (if caves have doors) in 2009, it soon established itself as one of the best concept bars in the world. Cate hadn’t held back with the details – it feels like a lifetime’s souvenirs have been sprayed on to every wall. Across three floors appear tiki and rum memorabilia, Polynesian antiques and hundreds of bottles of rum.

It’s tempting to call this tiki, but it’s nothing in the singular. It takes in every period and theme connected to rum’s 300-year existence. The menu, updated this year, charts colonial tavern drinks, Prohibition-era Havana, tiki, traditional Caribbean serves, until it arrives at the modern day. Drink through the 105-strong menu, and you’ll become a Voyager of the Cove – with accompanying badge of course. But if unbridled rum is your thing, being appointed to the Rumbustion Society is the ultimate honour.

There are three levels of the Cove – Disciple, Guardian and Master. But the most important thing is you get to wear red fezzes. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco.