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.
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.
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.
The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling
Recipe from chinese.food.com
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
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.