Around the world in five signature drinks
The iconic Singapore Sling cocktail at its birthplace, the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. (Kevin Clogstoun/LPI)
There is a certain romance to sipping a cocktail in a strange city, and there is no better way to make friends than to buy a round for your fellow travellers. Here are some of the classics and the best places to drink them!
The Singapore Sling
This cocktail was invented in the early 20th Century by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon while he was working at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, in Singapore. The drink is essentially a sweet red concoction which comprises pineapple juice, gin and Cointreau, among other ingredients.
While the atmosphere is a little contrived and the drink is overpriced and mass-produced to cope with demand, there really is no better place to sample the Singapore Sling. Tourists pack the colonial-inspired bar where they can munch on peanuts and toss the shells on the polished floorboards while imbibing their $30 cocktail.
This famous drink, made traditionally with gin, dry vermouth and garnished with an olive was invented in the US and probably gained its fame thanks for Ian Fleming's James Bond. For the classic (and anti-Bond) experience, have it stirred, not shaken.
The bar at the iconic Algonquin Hotel in New York serves up the world's most expensive martini. At $1,000, the "Martini on the Rock" is strictly for the rich and, perhaps, the crazy. It is a regular martini except for the replacement of the olive with a half-carat diamond. While you are there, look out for New York's oldest bartender, Hoy Wong. He was still serving drinks at age 94 at last count.
The Piña Colada
Legend has it that Piña Colada was invented by Caribe Hilton's bartender, Ramón "Monchito" Romero, after three months of experimentation. The original recipe included white rum, pineapple juice and cream of coconut. Puerto Rico's government recognised its contribution to the world at large by declaring it the national drink in 1978.
Head to the Oasis Bar at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan. While it is now missing all the glamour and tiki-chic of the heady '50s, it is the birthplace of the piña colada.
Not be outdone by Puerto Rico, Cuba has its own variation of sweet rum-based drinks. Like most other drinks of legend, the origins of the daiquiri are shrouded in myth and quite often disputed. One legend has it that a bunch of American mining engineers working in Santiago de Cuba came up with the concoction in 1900, though the recipe involving white rum, lime juice and syrup has been around in some form or another since the 1700s. Hemingway and JFK were both big fans of this particular tipple.
Head to the source for a classic daiquiri - the El Floradita bar in Havana. It was once a Hemingway haunt and this old school bar is still serving the drink, complete with a bronze impression of Hemingway leaning on the bar with a book by his side.
Sake, aka Nihonshū (rice wine), is Japan's national beverage, and the variety of grades, flavours and regions of origin can be astounding. Although many visitors to Japan arrive assuming that sake should be drunk hot (and indeed this can be quite satisfying on a cold Tokyo night), purists would never dream of drinking a higher grade sake (such as dai-ginjō) any way but chilled. The website www.sake-world.com has a concise yet comprehensive guide to different types of sake.
Interestingly, sake is falling out of favour with the younger generation, while the potent shōchū (liquor distilled from grains or sweet potato, for example) is becoming ever more popular. Taste testing shōchū onzarokku (on the rocks) is a great way to sample the different flavours.