Wine lovers often speak of terroir, the term best explained as “sense of place.” Think of it as how a vineyard’s climate, soil, and all the other environmental aspects combine to give a particular wine its character. And lately spirits drinkers are increasingly talking about how the provenance of raw materials influence a whiskey or rum’s flavors. It was on a recent trip to Singapore that I started thinking about the terroir of experience.
The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, a magnificent colonial-style luxury establishment built in 1887, flings you back to an early 20th-century tropical plantation, complete with rattan furniture and peanut shells on the ground. At the turn of the century, it became the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, and today it’s one of the very few bars in the world that’s a destination for its signature drink. (The only other I can think of is Harry’s Bar in Venice, known for creating the bubbly Bellini. Though of plenty of bars are famous for doing an iconic drink — one not originated in-house — quite well, like the Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House in New Orleans.) The Singapore Sling tends to be the main draw for the tourists who queue up daily, as evidenced by the fact that they turn out over 600 most days, according to one bartender I chatted with. As legend has it, he added, the bartender who created it used grenadine to turn it pink so that it’d be suitable for the society ladies who were discouraged from drinking in public.
The gin-based drink, fortified with an assortment of juices and liqueurs, is not a spectacular tipple, but it is a functional one — a very cooling elixir that’s useful in Singapore’s tropical heat. And sitting in this elegant bar sipping on the sweet mix surrounded by an international crowd, it’s easy to imagine how the society ladies were tempted to linger. Liza Weisstuch
Makes 1 drink
1 ounce London dry gin
½ ounce Cherry Heering (or another cherry brandy)
¼ ounce Triple Sec
¼ ounce Benedictine
½ ounce lime juice
4 ounces pineapple juice
⅓ ounce Grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
1. In a cocktail shaker, pour all ingredients over ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
2. Strain into a Collins glass.
Adapted from Raffles Hotel