I am currently in Malacca, Malaysia, tracing a little family history.
My mother was born here (Malacca/Melaka General Hospital – we visited earlier today), and my grandfather spent most of his working life here, representing the Dunlop Rubber Company in their local plantation operations.
I never met my grandfather, but seeing the wonderful old town of Melaka, I’ve been having fun imagining what the colonial Brits got up to in this melting pot of Portuguese, Malay, Dutch, English and Chinese influences. This has included giving some consideration as to what they drank.
Clearly the Gin & Tonic must be high up the list. Whilst Malaysia has a reasonably low rate of malaria, there is a possibility, and I feel that would have been enough of a reason to warrant a reasonable intake of quinine, obviously taken in the most palatable manner available.
Secondly, my grandfather was here around the time the Singapore Sling was being flung across the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. Singapore was the staging post for travellers from the UK heading to Malacca, and while the journey now only takes a few hours, back then it would have been a fairly bone-shaking ride that would have been made more acceptable by one or two sharpeners in the hotel before setting out. Who knows, my grandfather might have even been served by the originator of the drink himself, Ngiam Tong Boon who created the drink around 1915. Singapore is the next stop for us, so perhaps I’ll check under the bar counter for surreptitious graffiti or unpaid bar tabs…
I’ll be looking into this more, and hopefully finding some records of what the old company sent out with their managers. Something detailing gin brands or volumes would be ideal as I plan on putting together a Malacca Sling based on what they would have had available to them. I like to think that after a few Strait’s Slings in Singapore, they came up with their own local variation back at the bungalow.
Attempts will have to wait until I’m back behind a bar, but in the meantime, here’s one of the supposed original Strait’s Sling recipes, given by Charles Henry Baker Jr in The Gentleman’s Companion (1946):