Asian Mash-Up: The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

220px-Singapore_Sling

image via Wikipedia

We started the party with the perfect cocktail for our “Asian Mash-Up” theme: the Singapore Sling.  This drink was created in the storied Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, long a favorite of British Colonials in the era of Somerset Maugham.  None of us had had one before, though one of us had made an attempt (see below).

Thanks to the internet, we found a recipe that involved many liqueurs, but ended up tropical, fruity and bright, without excess sweetness.

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And now for the story, from Spicebox Travels:

The story behind this is the tale my husband has heard thousands of times over the last almost twenty years, the one during the telling of which he actually will cover up his ears, even in the company of people we might want to impress, or at least not scare away. I refrained from sharing it in the company of the new Spicebox Supperclub, lest it dampen the mood.

In 1991, I was a student (i.e. poor) from a liberal university (i.e. a little bohemian), and it was hot (definitely no stockings for me, regardless of the dress code). I had been living as a study abroad student in Singapore for at least four months at this point, and while I was no longer dripping sweat constantly, I could not wear the sweaters and tights that the local girls could, as if they were in merry old England. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the grand re-opening of the famed Raffles Hotel, which had undergone its first major renovation in the years prior to my arrival. This is the place that invented the Singapore Sling and the former hangout of Somerset Maugham, in the days that tigers might have still been found roaming the streets of this former jungle. It was the archetype of British colonial architecture and society. As such, “she” was considered a venerable institution, to be respected.

So I combed my hair, which went crazy wild in that humidity, put on a neat outfit of a top and shorts, and excitedly walked inside, where I saw lots of other tourists milling about, in similar or even more casual attire. I gazed at the beautifully restored woodwork, and made my way back towards the famed Long Bar to have a taste of the Singapore Sling, at its birthplace. But I didn’t quite make it there. I was stopped by a uniformed employee, who gently directed me outside. “No shorts are allowed. This is an expensive hotel.”

“Pardon me?” I asked. “What about all those other people?” I gestured to the scruffy long-haired Australians in their board shorts and flip-flops, lounging casually and having a raucous good time.

“They are guests here.”

I was embarrassed, but wondered what made me look like someone who could not possibly be a guest at “an expensive hotel.” It wasn’t my clothing that made me stand out. In fact, I suspected that my welcome was because I didn’t stand out– I looked like a “local.”

I discussed the incident back in the hostel’s canteen (dorm cafeteria) with my local friends. They immediately and unanimously concluded that it was the customary discrimination against locals, while pandering to Western (appearing) tourists. They shrugged it off, it was such a commonplance occurrence to them. But I was enraged, on my own behalf but also theirs.

I wrote my first ever letter to the editor to The Straits Times, the local/National newspaper (it’s a very small country), in which I implied that the hotel had race-based double standards. I kept the clippings from my letter, which I think still emanates heat almost thirty years later. In it, I concluded, “It reminded me of what the glorious Raffles must have been like in colonial times– attentive Asian staff catering to every caprice of their esteemed Western guests. Perhaps the newly renovated Raffles hotel should also update her thinking.”

Like a harbinger of blog posts gone viral, this letter generated a month of responses. A few sadly sympathized that there were post-colonial attitudes, but the vast majority threw insults at me, someone they had never met or seen. I was called “scruffy and sloppy.” The best insult was “Raffles hotel is no place for… scruffy or unkempt visitors. For these people, there are lots of coffee houses, beer lounges, karaoke joints and perhaps even hawker centres.” The Sunday Times had a full editorial dedicated to the subject of… Me. And the major tabloid did an investigative report where they sent two journalists, separately, to re-enact my actions. One was Caucasian, one was a local Singaporean Chinese. They were both dressed in bike shorts (I would never!), and each went in the lobby, as I had done. In the end, both were thrown out, though the Chinese one by a good ten minutes earlier. The conclusion was that there was no discrimination. Yes, these were my fifteen minutes of infamy.

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So, decades later, I was overjoyed to finally have a chance to enjoy a Singapore Sling, in the comfort of the Spicebox Supperclub.  And now you can, too.  No dress code.

Cheers!

The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

Recipe from chinese.food.com

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters

Method

1.  Shake with ice.

2.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass

3.  Garnish with pineapple and a Maraschino cherry

Thanks for coming by! To see the rest of the Asian Mash-Up menu, read here.  Check back next week for another recipe from the menu.

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The Inaugural Spicebox Supperclub Dinner: Asian Mash-Up

Welcome to the Spicebox Supperclub!
Who are we?
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spicebox– masala dabba, a traditional container used by Indian cooks to organize and store spices
supperclub– an eating establishment that functions as a social club; a pop-up restaurant; a speakeasy
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We’re a group of four couples in San Francisco who share a love of food, travel, adventure and conversation. To be clear, we really, really love food.  Several of us have been known to fly across the oceans in pursuit of one particular meal.  One of us is the author of SpiceboxTravels.com, a food and travel blog.  While we all enjoy eating in restaurants, the idea for our supper club came about from a member who has vivid memories of his parents’ supper club in the ’70s, enigmatic adult-only dinner parties that would last into the wee hours of the morning.  We’re reviving the model and planning quarterly themed dinner parties.  As might be expected from people who travel to eat, we can be a bit fanatical in our menu planning, and we’ll be sharing our menus, recipes, and stories here.
The inaugural dinner was a multi-course menu with the theme of “Asian Mash-Up.”

SpiceboxSupperclub

Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #1 Saturday, September 7, 2013

Asian Mash-Up

Hosts: Heather and Nalin

Executive Chef: Nalin

Bartender:  PCH, assisted by Linda (AKA SpiceboxTravels, the original)

Sommelier: Chris

Pastry Chef: Dave

Menu

Cocktails: Singapore Sling

Appetizers:

Pani Puri with Mango-Tomato Chaat, Pani Puri Chaat, Tamarind Chutney and Essence of Tomatoes

2012 Gritsh Gruner-Veltliner

Miso Soup

Main Courses:

Miso-Ginger Salmon with Sumeshi (vinegared sushi rice) Round and Sweet Soy Glaze, served with Mint-Cilantro Chutney

2012 Hovey C2 White Wine Blend:  tasting room is in the Murphy, CA, childhood home of Albert Michelson, physicist and 1st American to receive a Nobel Prize for calculating the speed of light; visited by the hosts in August, 2013

Kimchi Sesame Noodles

2004 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf du Pape that Chris and Diana had shipped back home while traveling and wine tasting in Provence in 2006.

Lychee-Plum Soju Sorbet

Indian Influenced Char Siu Pork, served with Wok-Seared Baby Bok Choy with Chili Oil and Garlic and House-Pickled Cucumbers

2004 Finca Sandoval (83% Syrah, 9% Monastrell, and 8% Bobal), a Rhone style wine from Spain

Desserts:

Gingersnaps with Sugar Sparkles

Tea Truffles: Lapsang Souchong Truffles with Candied Ginger, Earl Grey (Blacker originals)

Cardamom-Vanilla Panna Cotta with Mango and Toasted Coconut

2001 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes 

It was an epic meal, full of conversation and laughter, lasting close to seven hours.  If you’re tempted by the menu, please check back in the coming weeks for the recipes.  Thank you for visiting!