Friday, 20 March 2015

Chin Chin! Timeline Cocktails at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore

I'm in Singapore this week, currently being hosted by the luxurious Raffles Hotel. Unsurprisingly I've drunk a couple of Singapore Slings, the famous cocktail which was invented here a century ago:


As it's synonymous with the hotel and its glamorous colonial-era image, the Raffles still serves vast numbers of this cocktail each day. 

The most entertaining place to drink it is in the hotel's Long Bar, where patrons are encouraged to throw peanut shells on the floor after consumption (note the mechanically-operated ceiling fans):


The Sling is not the only drink with echoes of the past on the drinks menu, however. Recently (perhaps desperate to make drinks other than the Sling) the hotel's bar staff created the Timeline menu, a selection of cocktails connected to events in the Raffles' past.

Coordinating the creative process was this man, head bartender Aron Manzanillo from the Philippines:


Manzanillo and his team drew on a variety of sources for inspiration for the 12 cocktails, representing each decade between the 1880s and the 1990s. 

One obvious reference was the infamous occasion in 1902 on which a tiger was discovered beneath the raised floor of the billiard room (not the billiard table, as has often been reported). That event gave rise to The Stray Tiger (with white rum, Cointreau, vermouth, lime juice, absinthe and lemongrass foam).

At a table in the Long Bar, he talked me through a representative sample comprising three other cocktails from the Timeline list:


The first of my samples was the British India, representing the 1880s when the Raffles was founded. A tribute to the classic gin and tonic much enjoyed by the British officer class, it includes gin, tonic, a herbal shrub and lime:


I could definitely detect the underlying G&T in this, though with a strong herbal flavour overlaid.

Second was the Rose & Rickey, based on the popular gin rickey which appeared in the hotel's cocktail repertoire in the 1930s. This one contains Hendricks gin, calamansi juice (a type of citrus), gomme (a syrup), and carbonated rosewater:


This was a clean, refreshing drink, with a hint of the cucumber slices floating in it.

The final test cocktail was the Pretty Polly (Cointreau, rosé wine, grapefruit juice), celebrating the 1960s movie of that name which was filmed at the Raffles:


The film, about a young British woman travelling in Singapore, was based on a story by Noel Coward, a regular guest at the Raffles. 

The cocktail I found fresh and light, a little sweet but not excessively so. Hopefully just like Polly.

There are nine other cocktails in the Timeline list, so if you've had enough Singapore Slings in your life you may find these of interest.

Be aware, however, that history in alcoholic form doesn't come cheap. Each of these cocktails is S$27, which rises to about S$31.50 once tax and a service charge are added.

The peanuts, however, are complimentary.

Disclosure: On this trip I'm travelling courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board and the Raffles Hotel.