The official story, as told by Raffles Hotel, is that in 1915, bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the Singapore Sling. At the outset of the 20th century, the Long Bar, then located in the courtyard of the hotel, was a popular watering hole for Europeans living in or travelling through Singapore.
During this era, it was considered improper for ladies to consume alcohol in public, and so women at the Long Bar would be relegated to drinking cold teas and fruit juices. Inspired by the gin slings of an earlier era (simply gin that had been sweetened and poured over ice), Boon created a drink that gave the appearance of juice but the potency of a martini. The drink is made primarily with gin, cherry brandy, Cointreau and a generous serving of pineapple juice served straight up in a hurricane glass. Between its hue of bright pink and the pedestal-style glass it is served in, the drink looks deceptively tame.
American travel writer Charles H. Barker describes the sling as a ‘delicious, slow-acting, insidious thing’, lending the Long Bar an air of exoticism that one can imagine existed when he visited the bar before penning A Gentleman’s Companion: An Exotic Drinking Book in 1939. And while that mysteriousness is certainly missing today, the Long Bar is not without its charm – the beautiful colonial building feels like stepping into the past with its spacious dark wood interiors and vintage cooling system.
For now, the Raffles Hotel has temporarily closed the Long Bar as part of its ongoing refurbishment program and relocated to the Bar and Billiard Room on the ground floor of the hotel. Also, since every bar across the island has their version of the drink, there are still many places to try the famous cocktail.