Bar review: Discover rum in The Ship's Hold

Published May 29, 2019

St. Petersburg natives Pete Boland and Ian Taylor have done their town proud with The Galley, a well-loved nautical-themed bar and restaurant that's been a consistent downtown favorite in the nearly three years since it opened.

The bar's subtle theme, bolstered with a premium location and a diverse menu, has helped make it a success, so it's not especially shocking that an expansion was planned when a next-door hookah lounge closed.

The Galley's new addition, The Ship's Hold, is separated by a kitchen, allowing guests to order food and drink from either spot, although the focus of the latter is a little different. Whereas The Galley is a full-service bar and restaurant, The Ship's Hold is all about rum: boozed-up tiki drinks, rum flights and over 240 different rums in stock at any given time.

RELATED: The Galley pub's nautical theme makes for smooth sailing.

Taylor, a former sailor himself, has once again taken the helm for the bar's look and feel. It's a relatively minimal space, decorated with little but some spare barrels, chairs, cargo netting and a large map of the Caribbean, and it's designed to have the feel of being in, well, a ship's cargo hold, complete with faux skylights on the ceiling.

To that end, the walls and ceiling are covered in the same wood as the flooring, and there's a slight curve at the bottom, mimicking the curvature of a ship. Wooden figureheads loom above a slim, wall-mounted bar, and tall shelves of rum rise from behind the corner bar on the opposite side.

An entryway lounge offers seating facing the sidewalk entrance, with natural light pouring in through plate glass windows. It's a nice contrast to the rest of the interior, which is dark and windowless, in keeping with the theme.

There's one beer on tap here — Guinness — but there are quite a few bottles in the cooler. Really, though, you'd be missing out if you didn't scope out the rum list, which is phenomenal.

Rum is one of those spirits that never gets proper recognition. It's a staple in tiki-style drinks, but the diversity and range of complex flavors in it is about as varied as you'll find in any spirit. One of the best ways to get a feel for this is through one of the bar's 19 rum flights, which are grouped together by four 1-ounce pours of different rums from a single region.

I tried the Guyana flight for $22, which featured the smoky and dry Mezan Guyana rum, the dessertlike Lemon Hart spiced rum, the rich and potent El Dorado 12-year and the finely-aged Pyrat XO. There are flights of exclusively local rum, rum from the rest of Florida and from Key West, rums from the Greater and Lesser Antilles, from the Leeward Islands and so on. It's a rum paradise.

Naturally, The Ship's Hold stocks its fair share of rum-forward tiki drinks. Some have an interesting house signature, like the bar's version of a zombie: spiced up with the addition of guava and smoke cinnamon bitters. The East India Trading Company Old Fashioned subs Chairman's Forgotten Cask rum for bourbon to great effect.

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Then there are authentic renderings of classics: mai tai, painkiller and a traditional daiquiri (known as a J.F.K. Daiquiri here, rather than the more commonly-named Hemingway Daiquiri).

The non-rum cocktails are also worth a look. For example, the Spring Boulevardier gives a slug of Old Forester 86 a warm weather vibe with some Galliano and strawberry-infused white vermouth. A Blueberry Cucumber Bramble is another warm weather cooler, while the Irish Riviera keeps the Caribbean spirit going by combining Tullamore DEW with coffee-coconut syrup and bitters.

You may not consider yourself a rum fan, but a trip to The Ship's Hold is liable to change your nautical tune. There's plenty to enjoy outside of the rum sphere, but boy is it nice to have a place so focused on an underappreciated spirit that there's no question it's been given its due.

The Ship's Hold makes a compelling case as a standalone rum bar, but as an extension of The Galley, it's one of the smarter and more satisfying executions of a theme I can think of. As with The Galley itself, I have no doubt that The Ship's Hold will quickly become a staple in downtown St. Pete, and rightfully so.

— Contact Justin Grant at Follow @WordsWithJG.

The Ship's Hold

37 4th Street N, St. Petersburg. (727) 575-7071

The vibe: A rum-centric offshoot of The Galley, with floor-to-ceiling wood creating the illusion of being in a ship's cargo hold.

Food: Snacks, salads and sandwiches, $8-$16; entrées, $14-$49.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $4-$7; wine, $7-$12 by the glass and $28-$105 by the bottle; liquor, $6-$12, with some premium options priced higher.

Specialty: Rum. Rum, rum and more rum. Over 240 of them, in fact, and they feature prominently in the bar's strong, tiki-style cocktails. A guava-tinged version of a classic zombie hits the spot, and the spicy-sweet East India Trading Company Old Fashioned is a novel and immensely satisfying take on the original. Alternatively, you can just dive into the rum directly via 19 origin-based flights, showcasing an impressive diversity in both style and region.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight or later daily.