Last week we headed downtown for dinner, and we found ourselves near the storied Raffles Hotel. I asked that we pop in for a drink at the famous Long Bar, home of the Singapore Sling [cocktail]. The family agreed.
The Long Bar hostess asked if we had a booking, but alas. We did not, and unfortunately the Long Bar was fully booked. I later learned from a colleague that the only way to secure a spot as a walk-in is to arrive mid-afternoon, between the lunch and dinner rushes. Never mind that the Long Bar’s website states that the Bar is open to walk-ins only.
So instead we headed to the courtyard bar. I imbibed my first Singapore Sling back in the 1990’s, during a port visit to Singapore on my first US Navy ship. I remember the drink as very red, sickly sweet, and rather overpriced.
On this visit I almost chickened out at the last second and ordered an Old Fashioned like Mark did, but I decided to go for it and order my second lifetime Singapore Sling.
The verdict: now a paler pink, but still super sweet and shockingly overpriced at S$37 (about $28 USD). So that box is checked, and I don’t see the need to try another Sling anytime soon.
I did not imagine the brighter red color from the 1990’s. While discussing my Sling experience with my co-workers, one mentioned that the current iteration is much less red than it used to be, and this post mentions a new cocktail recipe after Long Bar’s renovation in 2021.
The current version contains gin, Bénédictine, orange liqueur, cherry liqueur, grenadine, lime juice, pineapple juice, and bitters, with pineapple and maraschino cherry garnishes. I know. I had a blood sugar spike just typing that out.
The Long Bar’s website helpfully explains the drink’s creation in 1915:
Unfortunately for the ladies, etiquette dictated that they could not consume alcohol in public. So, for the sake of modesty, teas and fruit juices were their beverages of choice.
Ever insightful, Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boonthus saw a niche in the market and decided to create a cocktail that looks like plain fruit juice but is actually infused with gin and liqueurs. The clever bartender made the beverage pink to give it a feminine flair which, together with the use of clear alcohol, led people to think it was a socially acceptable drink for women.
So–thanks, I guess, for letting the ladies drink? All kinds of feelings about this one, especially the idea of hiding clear spirits in a drink so sweet you can’t even taste the booze.
We wandered the arcade and peeked into the sumptuous lobby in all its colonial splendor, then headed home.