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Muddy Drinks: Rum Bar, Surfside, Polzeath

In honour of National Rum Day, there's only one place to go for a tot (or a cocktail) - a secret rum bar in a quarry on the beach, paying homage to Cornwall's pirate past.

Cornwall is a magical, wild county, steeped in rum-related history. Magical, mythical stories cling to our rugged shores and the tales of sea-farers, smugglers, pirates and sailors run as deep as the high cliff tops which hang with mist to conceal the rum-smugglers and wreckers as they rolled the barrels ashore.

The perfect place then to while away this Sunday (or indeed any day of the week) is in a secret rum bar, tucked into the cliffs on the beach at Polzeath. Ramshackle, reclaimed and laid-back to the extreme, but also makes a damn fine drink, courtesy of rum expert Tristan and the team of mixologists.


You’ll find Rum Bar hidden at the back of the beach at Polzeath (behind the also awesome Surfside restaurant – below- from the same team).

Owner Tristan Stephenson is a bit of a rum expert (he’s even written a book about it) so the quality of the drinks is second-to-none. Rum Bar was set up to celebrate that “most diverse, rambunctious and irreverent of spirits – rum” and in all the times we’ve been, we’ve never had a drink anything less than excellent.

Rum has always been the drink of choice for sailors, pirates and of course anyone who loves a good cocktail. Did you know sailors in the Navy were issued with a tot of rum every morning, right up until 31 July 1970. Now known as Black Tot Day, it brought to end a 300-year-old tradition and Tristan got hold of an imperial gallon of Navy’s own blend, bottled in 1955, which he opened on 31 July to mark 50 years.


Ships wheels, treasure chests and pirates vie for space alongside palm trees, candles and all sorts of intriguing reclaimed furniture – Rum Bar definitely pays homage to rum’s pirate past, but all in good taste, backed up by an ever changing cocktail tiki inspired cocktail menu from the 90 and counting rums that sit behind the bar.

In usual times, cocktails are accompanied by a hedonistic beach party vibe, with live music, epic sunsets, barefoot revellers fresh from the surf outside the front, and occasional visits from celebrities – often those with houses nearby – including actors galore, fashionistas and um, the (now ex) prime minister (he’s well known for his Polzeath hols, so I guess it’s inevitable). Don’t let that put you off though, such is the vibe at Rum Bar that either you’ll be too busy to notice anyone else, or firm friends by the end of the night.

Things are a little more sedate this year, for obvious reasons, (including table service and a socially distanced queue with a vat of hand santizer) but Rum Bar is still the late night venue of choice for those in the know (just make sure you’ve worked out how to get home, as sleeping on the beach isn’t always as fun as it sounds in Britain).

We look forward to the return to late nights of live music and dancing under the stars.


Usually less of the scoffing and more of the quaffing – but if you sit outside the restaurant part (Surfside) at the front on the beach, toes in the sand, you can order seafood and burgers alongside your drinks.

If you’re in Rum Bar itself round the back, it’s cocktails alongside draught and bottled beer, fruity mocktails and even other spirits if you’re brave enough to request them. These guys are rum purists at heart and, despite their laid-back appearance, take their drinks very seriously.

Do – get a Zombie (above). Don’t – have more than two in a row (try something else) otherwise you run the risk of looking like this party fella the next morning…


Good for: Laid-back sunshine day time cocktails, drinks with mates, post-surf beers, a night out away from the kids, and you’d even get away with a date just as long as they’re up for something more wild and rustic. It *is* a bar – just a beach bar – that means sand and wearing something warm when it gets dark, even in August, so dress accordingly.

Not for: Anyone who likes to arrive at a bar in heels and nab a cab outside the door – like all good secret bars, Rum Bar is hidden away, in this case literally across a beach and usually requires you to cross some running water (best bring a torch or embrace wet feet / bare feet). If you look under 25 and can’t prove you’re over 18, you’re not going to be getting in. Oh, and if it rains, you’ll get wet!

The damage: ££ Pretty reasonable for a bar at around £8-£12 for cocktails.


Open 7 days a week, 1pm – late, accompanied children welcome until 9pm.

No bookings, table service only.

On the beach, Polzeath, Wadebridge, PL27 6TB

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