A Singapore adventure is incomplete without a visit to the 19th-century colonial hotel, Raffles. Named for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, the 10 roomed Raffles Hotel opened on December 1st, 1887. 100 years later the Singapore Government declared it a National Monument and S$160M was spent on restoration and expansion.
The land where the hotel is located was originally on the water’s edge but after extensive reclamation now sits about 500m from the bay. Surrounded by contemporary architecture, views into the entire Raffles complex are stunning. With lush gardens, atriums and expansive courtyards, the ambience is of a bygone era.
The famous Long Bar, originally in the hotel lobby, is now a double story bar complete with plantation era furniture. Imagine previous guests, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway and Alfred Hitchcock sipping cocktails and discussing their latest endeavours, cooled by the slowly oscillating ceiling fans.
Singapore has had much to celebrate this year reaching 50 years of independence. At Raffles, they have marked the occasion with historical tours of the property along with promotions on dining and accommodation.
Raffles have something else to celebrate too; Chinese barman, Mr Ngiam Tong Boon’s creation of the Singapore Sling. There is some controversy surrounding the date of creation, some say 1913, the hotel itself claims pre-1910 although they have accepted the more popular, 1915 to mark the centenary. The distinctive pink drink was originally created for ladies to enjoy alcohol in public. Bar staff at Long Bar follow Mr Ngiam’s original recipe today, put together from old notes found on chits. Book yourself in for a Singapore Sling Masterclass or follow the century old recipe below.
- In a cocktail shaker, add ice and the following:
- 30ml Gin.
- 15 ml Cherry Brandy.
- 7.5 ml Cointreau.
- 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine.
- 10 ml Grenadine.
- 120 ml Pineapple Juice.
- 15 ml Lime Juice.
- A Dash of Angostura Bitters.
- Shake, then strain into an Ice-filled Collins Glass
- Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and a Cherry.
7.5ml of Dom Benedictine is the clincher. You are not drinking a true Singapore Sling without it. The absence of sugar syrup is a pleasant surprise, although the S$31++ price tag may not be. Justify it this way: you are sipping the original recipe of a 100-year-old cocktail in the hotel of its creation. It’s hard to put a price on that.
Raffles Courtyard is an alternate spot to imbibe. Palms sway in the breeze created by surrounding white arches. Serving simple Italian fare, the history here is less Singaporean. Wine is served in miniature anforas, handmade terracotta jugs dating back to 12th century Venice. Anforas maintain the wine’s cool temperature and for the heat and humidity in Singapore they can be placed in a sturdy string handled ice bag to bring the temperature down a notch further.
History continues at The Bar & Billiard Room. In its original building and location since 1896, it once was a billiard hall with an original table still used today. The first in the country to employ a female bartender in the 1920’s, the Bar & Billiard Room is now a haven for whiskey drinkers. 400 whiskeys, with some limited editions, are all handpicked from Scotland, Japan, and the USA. Champagne flows here too. On Fridays from 5-8pm indulge in the Champagne and Oyster promotion. For S$30++, you receive two glasses of champagne accompanied by shucked-on-the-spot oysters.
There are freshly baked pastries at Ah Teng’s bakery, North Indian cuisine at Tiffin Room or find a quiet corner in Writer’s Bar and let the creative juices flow. Where ever you decide to enjoy the Raffles experience, you will be centre stage in Singapore history and that’s a thing we love….