For the last decade on and off I have worked as a bartender, first working full time in a variety of cocktail bars and eventually managing one before just working over weekends to make some cash whilst completing my history degree. Over this time I had built up a considerable knowledge of cocktails and the stories behind them. Because of this, something that I had to do while in Singapore was to go to the Raffles hotel to try the original Singapore Sling in the bar where it was created. The story of the drink goes back to 1915 during a time when it was frowned upon for ladies to drink in public. A bartender at the long bar at the hotel came up with a clever solution – he mixed clear spirits in with fruit juice and syrups to make it appear to be a fruit punch. This became known as a Singapore sling. It’s one of the best known cocktails in the world and the Long Bar at Raffles is a popular destination for drinks loving tourists.
The hotel is stunning to arrive at, it is a low but sprawling stunning complex of Victorian splendour. There are several bars, restaurants, luxury shops and even a tailors. The long hallways and grand Victorian staircases didn’t seem out of place with the modern high rise surrounding it, instead seeming to be a smooth mix of old and new. In fact it was a marvellous sight to see the progress of the city being displayed by looking at the grand old hotel with the huge new buildings around.
We made our way up to the long bar and could hear the sounds of live music drifting along the hallway. Inside the bar is simple and classy, not too many frills and quite pleasantly it had no touristy vibe despite the number of people coming just to have the drink. We sat at a table and ordered two slings, at $35 each they seemed a little steep but not much different to a high end central London hotel bar. At the table there are large bags of peanuts and you can have as many as you like while you drink. The tiled floor is littered with shells as you are encouraged to throw the shells on the floor and not anywhere else, something considered a little edgy for Singapore as laws against littering are strictly enforced.
Our drinks arrived surly quickly in specially stamped Raffles glasses and were the bright and frothy mix I expected. They tasted great, sweet and fruity with a healthy slug of gin. The Singapore sling isn’t by any means the drink of choice for the discerning drinker, but it was a great experience to have one in its birthplace.
For anyone interested the recipe for the original is as follows;
1 1/2 ounce dry gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce Benedictine
4 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash of angostura bitters
Shake well with ice and strain into a sling glass, garnish with a cherry and a slice of pineapple.