If you thought rum was the preserve of sailors, pirates and other people with bad teeth, then you have much to learn. That's according to Max Traverse, the owner of tiki cocktail lounge Honi Honi in Central, whose passion for the stuff is such that he is staging Hong Kong's first Rum Festival today and tomorrow.
The Frenchman's own eyes were opened to the wonders of the beverage when his manager at Monte's Club, in London, made him try a Pyrat 1623, and nowadays he can't get enough of it.
"There's just so much about rum that can surprise you," he says. "It is such a versatile spirit, and as a guy that loves making cocktails, it's nice to have found a spirit I feel I can make 30 different cocktails out of.
"Not everybody can tell the difference between a golden rum and a dark rum, especially when it is mixed in a fresh, fruity cocktail. It's a spirit not fully understood by many in Hong Kong, but people here are always hungry, or, shall we say, thirsty for more information. They are open to learn new things and open to new trends."
Traverse has organised the festival along with Ian Burrell, a self-described "rum ambassador" from Britain, who will talk about the history and styles of the spirit as well as how to appreciate it.
Ten rum makers will offer samples, both straight from the bottle and in cocktails - including "the Molokini", which contains Plantation Barbados five-year-old rum and Koko Kanu coconut rum - that have been crafted especially by Traverse and Honi Honi's general manager, Fabien Marcault.
Traverse promises a lively two days, with food, music and dance providing added spice to an event he hopes will appeal to aficionados and novices alike.
The Hong Kong Rum Festival is being held today from 3pm till late and tomorrow from 1pm till late at Honi Honi (3/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central). For inquiries, call 2353 0885.