Singapore Sling at Raffles

Is a Singapore Sling at The Long Bar in Raffles a 'Must Do'?

Long Bar sign
Long Bar | ©EatingOutorIn

What is a Singapore Sling at Raffles?

A Singapore Sling is a gin-based cocktail that was invented by Chinese barman, Ngiam Tong Boon, in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore around 1915, although no one is sure of the exact date.  

Singapore Sling at Raffles
Singapore Sling | ©EatingOutorIn

Singapore Sling Recipe

  • Gin
  • Cherry Brandy
  • DOM Bénédictine
  • Cointreau
  • Grenadine
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Angostura bitters

Why was it created?

Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel | ©EatingOutorIn

Origianlly called the Gin Sling and renamed at a later date. A number of theories surround the reasoning for its naming and creation.

  1. During the colonial period it was deemed inappropriate for women to be seen out drinking in public. Therefore, it’s thought that Ngiam Tong Boon created the long drink to look like a non-alcoholic fruit punch. Allowing women to take a sip without being looked down upon.
  1. ‘Si Ling’ is the Mandarin for ‘Commanding Officer’, so another suggestion is that it was created and named in honour of the colonial high society who frequented Raffles during the early 20th century.
  1. The Sling was a North American drink from as far back as 1790 that consisted of a spirit like whisky, rum or gin with water, some sort of flavouring and then sweetened. It could be that Ngiam Tong Boon added a few ingredients and colour to The Sling to create the pink gin drink now known as Singapore Sling.
  1. Or it was just a refreshing cocktail using local ingredients to quench ones thirst in the sweltering Singapore heat. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s certainly a great cocktail and as popular now as it was back then.

Free Nuts

Bag of peanuts at the Long Bar
Nuts at the Long Bar | ©EatingOutorIn

The Singapore Sling is of course served all over the world. But where better to get one than The Long Bar in Raffles Hotel? Named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the creator of the modern-day Singapore.

The Long Bar is as big an attraction as any other in Singapore. The hotel and gardens are beautiful. The Long bar has it’s own entrance around the side. Follow the signs and head up some stairs directly from the street. It’s a must do in Singapore, so you’ll likely be greeted with a queue. But once inside the grand colonial style venue you’ll be shown to your table to make your order. It’s quite surreal looking around and seeing everyone with the same long pink drink and bag of peanuts. That’s right, every drink comes with a large bag of peanuts. Tradition says that you must throw your shells on the floor, so everyone does. Peanut shells everywhere.

How do they make so many cocktails?

In days gone by, they would have been made by hand. As demand has grown they needed to figure out a faster method. That’s why you’ll now see a very futuristic green machine sitting on the bar which can mix many more Singapore Slings at the same time compared to your lonely barman.

What does it taste like?

Singapore Sling at Raffles and bag of peanuts
Singapore Sling | ©EatingOutorIn

With its bright orangey pink colour, it looks as if it’s going to be a lot sweeter than it is. Don’t get me wrong, it is sweet, but it’s very well balanced between sweet and sour. The taste develops the more you drink it. And for an alcoholic drink, it is refreshing. Although it has a kick, you can imagine those early 20th century wives quite enjoying their time in The Long Bar. 

Is it a Tourist Trap?

Singapore Sling | ©EatingOutorIn

I mention in my about page that I will help you to avoid tourist traps. So, is a Singapore Sling at The Long Bar a tourist trap? It is a bit, but one you should walk into willingly, once. Everyone’s there for the same reason, to have a Singapore Sling. The same drink is being dished out as if it were coming off a conveyer belt. You’re surrounded by tourists. It costs about $30 Singapore dollars (about $20 US) per drink. However, there is some romanticism to sipping a Singapore Sling in the place that it was invented in, and in the same bar frequented by such famous clientele as Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemmingway. Raffles is a beautiful hotel that not all of us can afford to stay in. The Long Bar is a beautiful bar and part of history that we can afford to drink in, even if it is just for the one drink.

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See my full list of other places in Singapore here.

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