Since notre aniée (the French term for oldest daughter), recently moved to Australia with her family, we spent Christmas in the southern hemisphere, where instead of snow we had palm trees and sparkling skies. To break up the brutal flight, we made a stopover in Singapore. In this orderly land of orchids and omnipresent street food, the first stop is always the famous Raffles Hotel. Built on the waterfront in 1877, it was named after Singapore’s founder and frequented by the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Noel Coward, and Somerset Maugham.
Nothing embodies the romantic, louche lifestyle of the British Colonial era like the Raffles. Picture arched loggias, ceiling fans languidly spinning, amidst a garden of palms and tropical blooms. Imagine bringing out your best jewels for dinner and deep conversation in the garden with the litterati and the glitterati, followed by waltzing to the live band long into the night. In the hot afternoons one sips Singapore Slings--a Raffles invention---in the dark, cool, Long Bar, a favorite hang-out of Joseph Conrad and Ernst Hemingway.
The last time I was there (decades ago), we had a drink in the famous Long Bar, but the rest of the place was closed for renovation. Like many legendary institutions, this one has given way to modernization. Skyscrapers now form the backdrop of the lush gardens. The hotel is still luxe but has been renovated to within an inch of its life; and instead of string quartets on the veranda in the drowsy heat of early afternoon, pop music is piped in from speakers in a shiny new courtyard. And to try the traditional Singapore Sling in the Long Room? Well, these days that will set you back $30 a drink. They did have a nice little museum, though, where you could dream over the lavish Raffles lifestyle, back in the day. Photos above, from the Raffles museum. Below, the newly renovated Raffles.
RECIPE: The Raffles Hotel's Singapaore Sling
This recipe from Food.com claims to be the orginal. Have one if you're dreaming of summer.
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 bitters
Shake with ice, strain into a tall glass, and serve with a cherry and a slice of pineapple.
Friends in Burgundy have renovated a gite, all spiffed up and ready to go. Read about Les Volets Bleu here.