Singapore’s Traditional Watering Hole

by Rosemarie John on October 22, 2012

Known today as the Long Bar at Raffles, this heritage watering hole is steeped in history and quirky traditions. A place when many a traveller visits to make their Singapore journey complete.

Entering what was formerly known as the “Rendezvous of Planters”, the Long Bar encapsulates each visitor in a world of rustic décor, old ceramic tiles and the crackling sound of peanut shells being stepped on by its patrons. A place when established traditions never die, a place where the past and present merge in cocktails, food and merry making.

The Journey

Back in the early 1900s, when rail and road travel improved, rubber and oil palm plantation owners from Malaya would retreat to Singapore during the weekends initiating a ritual known fondly as the “Planter’s Weekend”. Though not a formal bar yet and located at Cad’s Alley facing Bras Basah Road, it was here that its patrons would sit sipping cocktails and embrace the bar’s vantage point from which male visitors surveyed the procession of ladies.

With the creation of a 40ft long bar and a name change in the 1921 to restoration and relocation to Level 2 of the Raffles Hotel Arcade in 1991, the bar today is where visitors continue to undergo one of the true rites of passage of world travel – savouring a Singapore Sling.

Sling Sensation

Photo Courtesy: Raffles Hotel

The legendary hot pink cocktail with a reputation of iconic proportions, having travelled the world since its creation in 1915 at the Long Bar by Hainanese-Chinese barman, Ngiam Tong Boon has put Singapore on the map by bar hoppers and travellers alike.

As approximately 2000 Sling’s are served up each day at the Long Bar, it’s fascinating to point out that the famous Singapore sling was originally meant as a woman’s drink. But with time, growth in popularity and taste, the Singapore Sling is enjoyed by both men and women despite its attractive pink colour.

A New Generation

Photo Courtesy: Raffles Hotel

More than a century later, 125 years to be exact, the Long Bar has created a new Champagne Sling, called ‘1887’ inspired by the legendary Singapore Sling coupled with a base of the hotel’s limited-edition Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve Champagne.

Not your standard tipple, the 1887 is a subtle twist on the traditional sling.  While the recipe for the traditional Singapore Sling is readily available, the recipe for this high precision cocktail is a closely guarded secret, but its creator, Randolf Velasco, reveals that Gordons Gin, Cointreau and essence of orange, lemon and lime all play a key role.

The utterly indulgent anniversary sling is available exclusively at Raffles hotels, including Singapore, Raffles Beijing Hotel, Raffles Dubai and Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris.

Asianlosophy

The Long Bar is not just about its Singapore Sling. It is about the whole bar experience with numerous types of drinks on offer. A new line of cocktails under the Asianlosophy banner is made using tropical Asian fruits combined with healthy flavoured tea to give it a unique twist.

Asianlosophy creator, Aron Manzanillo from the Philippines has been with Raffles Hotel in Singapore for the last three years. His creative take on the art and craft of mixing brings a refreshing style and exciting blend of liquids.

“With Mixology as my background, the most important factor to me is the product, its taste, and sharing experiences with the patrons rather than trying to impress them with juggling bottles”, when asked what he thought of flair bartending.

With 9 options to choose from, evoke the flavours of Asia at its best. Zhi Ke − meaning “thirst quencher” in Chinese is made with lychee fruit, lychee liquor, gin and lime juice. Mahzaa − a Hindi word for “having a good time” is made with Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, lemon grass gome, kaffir leaves and curry leaves. Queyen Ru − Cambodian for “Seductive” is made from cachaca, grapefruit, grape juice, grenadine, sugar cane and brown sugar.  There are 6 more to savour, so head on down!

Food for Thought

What’s a visit to a bar without bar snacks? The Long Bar’s lunch menu complements the bar list with traditional pub foods such as Beer Batter Fish and Chips and Spicy Buffalo Chicken Wings. There is also a wide selection for snacks like Chicken, Beef or Lamb Satay, Fried Calamari Rings, Long Bar Mini Burgers and decadent cakes to choose from.

A Quirkilicious Flare

Photo Courtesy: Raffles Hotel

What makes the Long Bar different from any other bar on the island is its provincial charm. The earthy decor of the two-storey Long Bar is inspired by Malayan plantation way life of the 1920s.

Its interiors are simple yet oozing in ancestral feel. The tiled floors are graced with oriental carpets and the furniture is made from traditional stained cane and rattan. Outside, along the veranda that wraps around the Bar, are cane and rattan lounge chairs and wooden tables.

A timber spiral staircase connects the two levels of the Long Bar while the seating above is interspersed with teak lounge chairs. There is nothing contemporary or modern about its ambience making it truly an exclusive experience.

While the deep, rich colours and greenery bring patrons back to the edge of the tropical plantation, the relaxed atmosphere and quirky disregard for Singapore’s infamous fine system creates an already unique experience all that more intriguing as guests are invited to brush peanut shells off the table and bar-top to the floors; quite possibly the only place in Singapore where ‘littering is encouraged’.

Located at 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673, the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel has a seating capacity of 292 and is opened from 11:00 am to 12:30 am (Sunday – Thursday) and 11:00 am to 1:30 am (Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays).  Moodique Band plays from 9.00pm to 12.00 am (Sunday – Thursday) and 9.00pm to 1.00am (Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays).

Dress Code: Casual – A more relaxed attire is accepted. Sport shirts, slacks and bermudas teamed with appropriate shoes for the gentlemen are welcomed. Ladies can be dressed in their casual best, in casual dresses, skirts and trousers with appropriate footwear. Pool attire is not permitted.

**Disclaimer: We thank Raffles Hotel for inviting Travel and Beyond  to spend an evening at the Raffles Courtyard Launch. However, as always all opinions expressed are exclusively that of the author. Photographs courtesy of Raffles Hotel.

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