“When in Singapore, you have to try a Singapore Sling at the Raffles hotel!”
What is it about travelers and their aggressive advice?!! (See Wow Place #133.) I don’t have to do anything!. I mean, geez, I don’t even like drinking. Why in the world do I need to get myself all gussied up, go to a fancy hotel, and consume a pricey drink with a bunch of rich tourists? Haven’t I already had my required Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista café in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf? Haven’t I already drunk a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans? Do I really need to go to the home of the Singapore Sling and sample their signature drink?
Uh yes, in fact, I do, I really do. Why you ask? Because 1) I love a challenge, and 2) I can’t resist a quest. Call it FOMO, call it stubbornness, call it whatever you like. When a fellow-traveler challenges me to do something, nine times out of ten I’m going to do it…just to see if I can.
Even back in the late 80s when I visit the Raffles, it’s a fairly hoity toity hotel – far fancier than the dusty, battered travel clothes I’ve stowed at the bottom of my backpack for occasions like this. Still, what choice do I have? I’m certainly not going to find an iron at the Bencoolen Street crash pad I’m sharing with 5 other people. Doing my best to smooth out the wrinkles of my brown khakis, I approach the Raffles front entrance – expecting a stern gate keeper who will insist I wear a dinner jacket to enter. To my surprise, however, there’s no one there to prevent me from entering. I just walk right in! On the way to the Long Bar, birthplace of the Singapore Sling in the 1930s, I stop and linger in a separate lounge decorated wall to wall with hunting trophies. There’s nothing that gets you thirsty for an expensive fruity drink like the sight of glassy-eyed lion and tiger heads. Ugh! Once again, like the Strand in Rangoon, I’ve somehow stumbled into another remnant of the British Raj! How many more places are there like this scattered across the Far East? As it turns out, quite a few!
At last I find the Long Bar and, settling into a wicker chair, I motion a waiter to take my order. “One Singapore Sling please!” I say with a grin. A few minutes later, I’m face to face with one of the biggest drinks I’ve ever seen, $15 worth of gin, Grand Marnier, cherry liqueur, herbal liqueur (often Benedictine), pineapple, lime, bitters and club soda. I take a sip, then another. And you know what? It’s not half bad! Somehow all the ingredients manage not to overwhelm each other. As a flowery magazine review once described the drink, my Singapore Sling is “fruit-forward, herbaceous and strong.” So many quests end in disappointment. But this one turns out to be pretty good. I suited up, I pierced the hallowed gates, I acquired the quest object. I didn’t die. Sounds pretty heroic to me!
(What’s your latest quest? Run a marathon? Start a tech start up? Get VIP seats at a Taylor Swift concert? Quests are fun. They’re challenging. They might even be essential for human beings. Let’s all start a quest tomorrow, if not today!)