After a week of bar analysis in Jamaica, we just happened to find a little neighborhood spot that stood out above the rest. Say hello to Sunset Bar.
As a popular Jamaican tourist destination, Montego Bay is a playground of bars. It seems like there are hundreds of them. They come in all shapes and sizes, waiting at the ready to serve up the throngs of fat-pocketed tourists who wander aimlessly through the city streets.
There are the usual spots that cater to cruise ship passengers who will only be in town for three or four hours. They serve bright, overpriced frozen drinks, burgers, chicken wings and a wide array of powerful shooters. American music blasts from the sound system and happy patrons sing along to popular tunes they hear on their radios back home.
There are the hotel bars that are just a bit more upscale and pretentious than other places up and down the strip. Though they might not be exclusively for “Guests Only,” you better behave yourself or risk getting booted out by a thick-necked security guard.
There are beach bars that serve up rum & Cokes and Red Stripes at a rapid clip to sun-loving tourists who spend their daily cash allowance on booze, cheap bracelets and hair braids. There was a good one near our hotel, but nothing about it felt Jamaican. It could have just as easily been in Daytona Beach or San Diego.
And then there are the local places. These taverns and rum shops are simple, uncluttered, inexpensive and always filled with a cast of character ready for a dirty joke or heated political conversation. It didn’t take our crew long to find our local hangout spot in Montego Bay. In fact, one walk up and down the main strip revealed a hoppin’ little locals joint called Sunset Bar. After one visit, there was no reason to go anywhere else.
Like many of the rum shops on the island, this bar had all the elements covered: good service, cheap rum and friendly people. We ordered flasks of Appleton, a few mixers and settled in for a session. We talked, joked, drank, discussed rum with the bartender and local patrons and the hours flew by. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Mark, the owner/bartender, flipped on the TV, searched the channels and settled on a classic Western film. Rum, old movies and a room full of friends….. it honestly doesn’t get any better.
So if you ever find yourself on the Hip Strip in Montego Bay, skip all of the tourist traps and head directly to Sunset Bar. It’s just about as authentic a drinking experience as you can have in this tourist town. Be sure to tell them that you read about the bar on Rum Connection. It won’t score a free drink, but might result in a friendly smile and raunchy joke.