It had been one of those days which couldn’t be over with fast enough: a stressed long-distance call back home, a tough day in the office and then a final battle in the traffic. But as I stepped out the tuk-tuk and entered through Raffles’ big, colonial gates, and already I could feel myself start to relax. I beelined straight to the Elephant Bar, by chance my favourite seat was free – the one by the glass doors that overlooks the patio, I slumped into it and ordered my drink.
A lady of ritual, I order a gin and tonic, its refreshing flavours, simultaneously relax me from my tiresome day and revitalise me for whatever the night may offer.
My favourite gin of late is the Ungava, an aromatic Canadian gin made from a selection of herbs that can only be found on Canadian arctic tundras during the summer months. The unique gin is yellow in colour, the result of the various botanicals, including the Nordic Juniper Berries, Labrador Tea and Wild Rose Hips. Mixed with some tonic water and a splash of lime, I can’t think of anything happier.
It is suspected that the mythical drink originated with Italian monks in the 11th century, whose version of juniper infused alcohol was used for medicinal purposes. In the 1600s, it became a popular drink for the Dutch, where they called it “genever”, before being adapted by the English during the Eight Years War. The well-loved gin and tonic concoction came about in Colonial India, where British Army used quinine – the bitter tasting ingredient in tonic water, to ward off malaria. Mixed with their gin rations and sweetened with sugar and lime, thus was born the legendary drink.
Whilst nowadays we have more efficient ways of protecting ourselves from life threatening malaria, it doesn’t make a good gin and tonic any less enjoyable. I often like to ponder whether the soldiers back then knew what they had invented – was it just a means to an end, or did they eagerly anticipate their gin and tonics, like I do, planning different ways to drink it?
It took me many years and many, many gin and tonics to fine tune my gin palate. Fortunately at Raffles’ Elephant Bar they have a variety of gins and cocktails to help you find the right one, from the herby Ungava ($12) to the floral Bombay Sapphire ($10.50), to the Original Gin Dry Martini ($10). Go during happy hour, which lasts 4:00pm to 9:00pm to catch a sneaky 50 per cent off all drinks (except champagne cocktails). Match with a cigar, good company, and a favourite song request for the regular pianist and sit back and watch all your worries disappear.