American novelist Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (1952) is a Moby Dick -like take of a Cuban fisherman’s epic struggle with a giant marlin. James Tamang, co-owner of Central bar The Old Man and its newly opened Sheung Wan sibling, The Sea, explains how it changed his life. The Old Man and the Sea was on the syllabus at my high school, in Nepal. I didn’t take it seriously at the time, but came back to it in 2016 by accident. A friend gave us (Tamang and his fellow bar owners, Agung Prabowo and Roman Ghale) an original edition of the book. When we read it again, we found it was very close to our personal lives. All of us had worked in five-star hotels for a long time. Hotels have a lot of regulations about what you can and can’t do, and you really can’t do any crazy stuff – if you do, you could get fired. For a long time we had been thinking of opening our own bar. We came up with the idea of taking our inspiration from a book. We had been thinking of doing something with the concept of a speakeasy, but this book made us decide to base it on Hemingway, as he was so keen on cocktails and did so much to promote cocktail culture. We opened The Old Man in 2017. To me, The Old Man and the Sea is about a hardworking person trying to achieve his goal, trying to get to where he wants to be. Coming from a third-world country, it’s very hard to get where you want to be. There are a lot of obstacles in your way, and this gave me an emotional connection with the book. Our cocktails are inspired by Hemingway’s books; we have copies of them in the bar. Hemingway often mentions spirits and cocktails in his stories, and other times we try to work out what he would have been drinking, for example, when he was on African safari, so there’s always a connection between Hemingway and the drink. Our second bar, The Sea, completes the book’s title. Now we also have The Old Man Singapore, which opened last month. I started off as a kitchen helper but now I’m running three bars, so I feel very satisfied. I’m not sure there are any other bars around that were inspired by a book title. It was just our instinct to do it this way – it wasn’t logical. We felt this story was so connected to us.