I knew one thing I definitely wanted to do once I landed in Singapore: sip a Singapore Sling.
Raffles Hotel graciously offered me a complimentary tour and drink and I headed there one stormy afternoon. The warm tropical weather, swaying palm trees, afternoon downpour and magnificent splendor of the immaculately-kept balconies made me feel cozy and privileged. This was THE Raffles Hotel, where royalty often stay, and my gracious tour guide Catherine made me feel like I was one of them.
The doormen discreetly check that anyone entering the lobby is actually a guest. The people staying there want their privacy. This part of Raffles is not open to the public.
Catherine guided me through the lobby and up into an area that is strictly reserved for guests: The Hall of Fame. Here, dozens of framed photos of distinguishes guests at Raffles hung on the wall. The very first picture caught my eye and I almost didn’t move further. William and Kate had just been there in September. I’d just missed them! I was starstruck immediately.
The list of royalty, presidents, movie stars, singers, and writers continued. Jimmy Buffett had stayed there. The Prime Minister of Greece, Bill Clinton, James Michener, Noel Coward, Ava Gardner, Charlie Chaplin, Ken Follett, George Lucas, Isabella Rossellini, Joseph Konrad, Somerset Maugham, etc., etc.. Everyone who was anyone had stayed at Raffles. I perused the pictures and waited for Catherine to ask me to pose, too. She didn’t, but I felt like royalty just the same.
She toured me along the balconies and explained the history of Raffles and all its restorations and additions. She took me to the museum there, and the Billiards Room, past the long line of people waiting for high tea, and finally to Long Bar, where bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the now-famous Singapore Sling.
We sat under the Pankawalla fans and munched on peanuts as the bartender whipped up our drinks. It didn’t take him long; he does this about a thousand times a day. The drink is a destination in itself in Singapore.
“This is the only place in Singapore where you’re allowed to litter,” Catherine said. She encouraged me to shell my peanut and throw the shell on the floor. “When you walk on them they sound a little like crickets, don’t they?” I’d never thought of it that way before, but I liked that idea.
“Ladies weren’t supposed to drink alcohol back in the early days, so Ngiam Tong Boon created this pink drink to mask the fact that it was alcoholic.”
It was fantastic. Sweet, and not too strong. I sipped my drink and let ripples of air from the Pankawalla fans blow over me while I imagined myself staying at Raffles,playing billiards and penning a masterpiece before meeting William and Kate for high tea. It was the kind of place to fantasize about that kind of life. So I did.
Have you tried a Singapore Sling? Or is there some other drink that inspires dreams of grandeur for you?
(Full disclosure: the tour and Singapore Sling were kindly provided by the Raffles Hotel. All opinions, however, are mine.)