The Sultans of SLING
Asia's last great colonial hotel,
over 120 years old,
the elegant grand old dame of Singapore.
Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad
all stayed at this historic hotel
and wrote some of their masterworks here.
That fact alone should make this destination
a pilgrimage for any writer or blogger.
I can see why there was no case of writer's block;
the hotel is nothing short of conducive
for a communion with one's literary muse:
the airy verandahs, the lush gardens,
the turn-of-the-century architecture,
a perfect blending of myriad influences
from all over Europe and Asia.
The other major reason for visiting
The Raffles Hotel?
It's the birthplace of the world-famous cocktail,
fabled in prose, cinema, and song,
The SINGAPORE SLING:
And while the gin-based drink is quite easy to mix:
1 1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering brandy
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce Benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine syrup
dash of Angostura bitters
Shake with ice.
Strain into an ice filled collins glass.
Garnish with cherry and slice of pineapple.
there's no other gin joint in the world
that can serve it with as much character as
the Long Bar,
where a Hainanese-Chinese bartender,
Ngiam Tong Boon, first concocted it in 1910.
An original handwritten recipe
is locked away in a vault in the Raffles Hotel Museum.
The electric pamaypays on the ceiling
remind you of that fine cultural assimilation
between Industrial England and Tropical Singapore.
(This same idea was brought to a wonderful bar in Bacolod,
and I recall getting Hemingway-inebriated there
on ice-cold Tanduay Rhum 5 Years Old)
And finally, here it is;
much like my other favorite,
the esteemed Martini,
the sensual Singapore Sling,
the finest fruit punch with a most cosmopolitan kick,
certainly deserves its historic reputation,
as a classic civilized cocktail.
I was glad that I was able to share the experience
with my best bud from high school;
from binge drinking P5.00 Red Horse beers at San Ting
on Katipunan across Ateneo's Gate 3
when we were entering puberty as HS freshmen,
to toasting to each other with SG$20.00 Singapore Slings
at the Raffles Hotel's Long Bar
as we approach (No, NO!!!) middle age and DOM-hood.
It's been quite the journey for these two Manila Boys!
The Long Bar's peanut shells on the floor...
remember the short-lived TGIFriday's Bar
that was open for business a decade ago on Makati Ave.?
They had a similar free pulutan, dried sung-sung peanuts,
and patrons were encouraged to throw the shells
on the floor to create a crunchy textured flooring.
The Raffles Hotel and The Long Bar,
timeless testaments to tradition.
And as I left the hotel,
I felt a twinge of regret
that our Philippine equivalent,
The Manila Hotel by the bay,
Gen. Douglas MacArthur's tropical sanctuary,
is now a seedy, cheesy, hangout
of greaseball politicians and customs fixers,
barely a shadow of what it once was,
Manila's counterpart of the Raffles Hotel.
(It's no big surprise that
during last week's Manila Pen siege,
the primus inter pares of trapos, JDV,
was holed up at the Manila Hotel)
I need another Singapore Sling.