By Taylor Melton
Translated by Anna Yang
Photos by Michael van Rensburg
38, Taiwan Blvd, Sec 3, Xitun Dist
Hours: 8 pm-3 am (closings posted on Facebook page)
Anyone would be forgiven for not noticing Ruler Bar--sandwiched between an apartment complex and a wig shop--at first glance. However, it is one of Taichung's many hidden gems and inside you'll find an intimate little cocktail bar serving meticulously crafted cocktails. When entering, you feel like you've walked into someone's living room, with couches and chairs huddled around small tables, white walls with a few pictures, copper piping on the ceiling, and the small bar in the back. Dim lighting and swing jazz music provide a relaxed, cozy vibe.
This is far from your average cocktail bar, as bartender/owner Tim wants the drinks here to be unique, with flavors you won't find anywhere else in the city. He infuses many with his own liquors like a spiced oolong tea gin and smoky longan berry vodka. In addition, cocktails are made with lesser-known, yet high quality, spirits.
The menu is divided into different sections, such as "Rule Not Always Right", featuring classic cocktails like a Martini (NT$350) and Negroni (NT$350) made by Tim with personal twists while keeping the integrity of original flavors. By contrast, "Ruler Makes Rules" includes selections that don't deviate from original recipes, such as the Old Fashioned (NT$300) and Mojito (NT$300). If you're looking for drinks with attitude that break the rules, those listed under "Rock'N'Rule" are for you, with an example being the Taiwan Mule (NT$350), a variation on a Moscow Mule using various gins, root beer and stout beer.
Wanting to better connect with patrons, Tim left Bar Alchemy, the top-rated bar in Taiwan according to Asia's 50 Best Bars 2016, to open Ruler Bar. If you ask, he'll gladly make you a drink off the menu after he's gauged your tastes. I told him I enjoyed the Gimlet (NT$250) but noted it was a little too sweet for me. Knowing that I like whiskey, he presented me with a drink he calls a So-so (NT$350), made with bourbon whiskey, sloe gin, Disarrono and Chambord, garnished with a flamed, dried orange slice. I was extremely pleased with the result.