Sipping a Sling in Singapore

Sling Maybe, Rudyard Kipling or Somerset Maugham sat on one of these stools. My imagination took me back. Photo by Carol Bowman
Rudyard Kipling or Somerset Maugham might have sat on one of these stools. Photo by Carol Bowman

Travel in Singapore

The furnishings consist of traditional cane and rattan chairs and tables, centered with small burlap bags of Malaysian variety peanuts. Singapore has strict laws against littering, to the point that even discarding chewing gum in the street brings a hefty fine. Cracking peanuts open and throwing the shells on the floor feels like a crime but this is perhaps the only place in the entire city where intentional tossing of debris is permitted. However, just in case patrons can’t make themselves litter, a wooden ‘shell’ receptacle sits alongside the peanut pouch.

A spiral wooden staircase in the center of the room leads to a second floor where live music is featured nightly. On the ceiling, rows of palm-shaped 19th century style cooling fans oscillate back and forth, representing the air conditioning technology of the period. The architecture reflects true colonial design with long shuttered windows that transport the room back to a reserved British feel.

But it wasn’t the interior’s motif or the fruity punch-like drink that enthralled me. The people who graced these halls and what they had been doing there became the focus of my fascination. I wanted to hear their conversations, I wanted the walls to talk. I wanted the floors to squeal secrets of the past. I wondered what topics Charlie Chaplin or Ernest Hemingway had discussed, if Elizabeth Taylor got drunk on too many slings, what transpired when the Japanese occupied Singapore during WWII and renamed the hotel, Syonan Ryohan, and if the staff quivered when they buried all the silver cutlery and tea sets in the Palm Courtyard before Japanese officers took up residence there. This is where my imagination took me as I sipped my Singapore Sling.

Sling The outer façade of the hotel retains its late 19th century architecture. Photo by Carol Bowman
The outer façade of the hotel retains its late 19th century architecture. Photo by Carol Bowman

An annoying din of chatter brought me back to reality. I looked up to witness the evidence that the hordes had arrived: every table and barstool occupied, every patron drinking the same pink cocktail, the frenzied bartender pouring twelve identical tipples at a time, a line forming at the entrance. It was time to go. We forked over the $72 S, grabbed our coasters displaying the unique Raffles Logo and a copy of the original recipe for the Singapore Sling and headed down the sweeping, wooden staircase. We had completed our ‘travel rite of passage,’ and I had loved every tourist-trapping moment.

Critics say that there are many other establishments throughout Singapore, where visitors can get a better tasting, freshly mixed Sling that costs far less. That’s probably true, if just having a drink is the goal. But I doubt that I would be able to see the image of Rudyard Kipling sitting on a barstool.

Author’s Footnote: Raffles Hotel Long Bar closed on Feb. 13, 2017 for extensive renovations. In the interim, Singapore Slings can be had at the First-Floor Billiards Bar, or you can make your own!

Original Recipe of Ngliam Tong Boon’s Singapore Sling

1½ ounces gin
½ ounce Cherry Herring
¼ ounce Cointreau
¼ ounce Dom Benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce Grenadine
Dash of bitters

Shake in drink shaker filled with ice to encourage foam; strain into ice filled glass.
Garnish with cherry and slice of pineapple

Author’s Bio: After a life-long profession of treating the mentally ill at a PA psychiatric hospital for 33 years and also serving as its Director of Admissions, Carol retired to Lake Chapala, Mexico in 2006 with her husband, to pursue more positive passions. Her family thought that she, too, had ‘gone mad.’ She’s been teaching English to Mexican adults for ten years, in a program operated by volunteer expatriates and writing for local on-line and print publications. Using her adventures experienced during visits to over 80 countries to capture a niche in travel writing, Carol also dabbles in ‘memoir.’  A frequent contributor to Lake Chapala English magazine, “El Ojo del Lago,” she’s won several literary awards from that publication, including Best Feature in 2010 and Best Fiction in 2014. She also netted a story regarding her psychiatric field work in the published anthology, “Tales from the Couch.”