The Singapore Sling

I sit down and order a Singapore Sling. Original style as the menu contains a dozen variations on the Singapore icon. I’m in the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. Working the bar is a single bartender. He moves with the precision and speed of a professional. Peanuts wait in bowls on the counter. Their shells litter the floor. I crack a peanut open, pop it into my mouth before obeying the rebellious signs and defy the public littering laws. Above me motorised fans push the air around slowly, doing something to take the edge off but not doing what air conditioning can.

Next to me, two women with thick British accents yabbering on about this fing and that fing. If not for the Asians on my side of the bar it could have been in the Long Bar's halcyon days: pre-WWI. It wasn't until the 1930's that Asians were permitted as guests of the hotel. I wonder if that is tied in with financial troubles the hotel experienced during The Great Depression. The end result was a public listing of the company in 1933.

The sling recipe has changed over the years as ingredients ebb and flow in their availability or if the hotel is trying to cut costs and use premixed ingredients. Has the recipe has changed to meet the shifting tastes of Singaporeans and the hotel guests? I don't know and Wikipedia doesn't know either.

The Raffles hotel too has changed. It used to be by the sea but through land reclamation it is now inland by half a kilometre or so. The long bar isn’t where it used to be either. Once in the lobby, when the hotel was rebuilt and revamped in 1991, it moved to the adjoining shopping arcade.

The drink has changed, the bar isn’t where it used to be and the hotel is both migrating inland and is no longer racist. Am I having the real experience or just a photocopy of something that once was? At $32 Singaporean dollars one could call this icon nothing more than profiteering. Selling a memory of a time and a place. Throw your shells on the floor, sip your sling and wax lyrical about the cultural experiences you bought today.

It was a nice drink, if a little sweet.

when: Friday, January 03, 2014