No trip to Singapore would be complete without a trip to the iconic Raffles Hotel and it’s famous Longboat Bar to sample a Singapore Sling at it’s birthplace. Though popular history, especially as espoused at the Long Bar, suggests their own bartender created the drink, experts on such matters note “the earliest reference to a sling is from 1897”. Nonetheless the hotel and the bar embrace their legendary role and do little to set the actual historical record straight. (Note: that many different businesses, including other hotels, have embraced usage of the name “Raffles” so when making reservations or travel plans it would be wise to be sure you also have a street address handy. We made this error when choosing a hotel)
After dodging heavy traffic and circumnavigating the numerous “under construction” impediments scattered throughout the city we arrived at the Raffles Hotel in Downtown Singapore. With no clear signage pointing to bar it was also clear to the doorman we were not guests at the hotel. We were quickly brushed away to a courtyard corridor which bypassed all means of ingress to the storied hotel allowing lesser mortals access to retail stores and finally our destination.
Located all the way in the back of the Raffle property, the Long Bar is located on the second floor up a set of non-descript stairs with an understated entry. I suppose I expected something a bit more from THE birthplace of the Singapore Sling than a pub-ish sort of atmosphere with peanut shells on the floor but it was cozy and not too busy so we were able to get a seat along with other tourists. We were offered a burlap bag of peanuts along with a menu with many different varieties of “sling” drinks, not just the classic original gin drink recipe. The drinks were beautifully showcased on the colorful menu making choosing only one difficult.
Wikipedia tells us that “this long drink was developed sometime before 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender working at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel, Singapore.”
The drinks were, to our mind, overpriced but we each had two cocktails of different varieties sharing as we went along to fully immerse in the experience, and they were tasty. We were more than a bit disappointed to learn that the modern Long Bar is merely a “recreation” of what “they think” the original bar might have looked like at the turn of the century. It kind of took something away from the experience knowing you traveled half way around the world to a cocktail lounge that was likely as authentic as a your local pub, yet, it did stand on the original “hallowed ground” (albeit 12 feet above).
With stiff upper lips we did our level best to imagine ourselves transported back 100 years in time to a Singapore when everyone didn’t speak English and didn’t have their faces glued to mobile phones.
The Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore
More information: http://imbibemagazine.com/origins-of-the-singapore-sling/