Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Travel Blog  •  Alexander Basek  •  01.23.09 | 2:31 PM ET

Raffles SingaporePhoto via yeowatzup via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at the Hotel Hotsheet, Kitty Bean Yancey is up in arms about the cost of a Singapore Sling at the Raffles in, er, Singapore. Kitty is making a larger point about “hotel sticker shock,” but for our purposes, a pricey Singapore Sling is a fine example of something that’s a struggle for any frequent traveler: the paradox of drinking at the bar of a landmark hotel. 


Students of history—and I think it’s fair to include World Hummers in that category—are drawn to historical places, and in a lot of cities, that itinerary includes an old hotel bar. Alas, there’s a premium to “experience” history. The Singapore Sling at Raffles, a martini at the Oak Bar or a glass of champagne at the Ritz are fun, but their pricing hovers just below extortionate on the overpriced scale. And those bars have good service and good ingredients—some hotel bars just coast on reputation alone. 

Yet, we go anyway. If you really want to tick off the experience, think of your overpriced cocktail as part drink, part museum ticket. Still, there’s no harm in passing these places by. They’re historic—you’ll likely have another chance to see them, and maybe a drop in business will kick-start some surly waiters into friendliness. I skipped the Raffles my last time through Singapore in favor of the bar where you sit in a wheelchair and sip mixed drinks from an IV. After all, Raffles will be there next time, but something tells me that the wheelchair bar won’t.

Alexander Basek is a food and travel writer based in New York City. He is the Best Deals reporter for Travel + Leisure. His writing has also appeared in the New York Post, Time Out New York, and Fodor's.

4 Comments for Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Valerie Conners 01.23.09 | 3:35 PM ET

oh Alex, I must say, the white chocolate martini at the Oak Bar is one I won’t soon forget, and well, well worth the price of admission. I lived in Boston for a stretch, and haven’t returned since ‘04. I honestly think if there’s one factor that drives me back to Beantown, it will indeed be an Oak Bar martini. Mmmm.

Alexander Basek 01.23.09 | 4:55 PM ET

I have a special place in my heart for the St. Regis’ bar here in New York, but more and more places are ditching the fusty aspects that make them so much fun. That means you, Grammercy Park Hotel.

Jill B 01.24.09 | 1:06 PM ET

The day they closed the Oak Bar at the Plaza in New York I thought I would cry. I am so glad they reopened it…. even if it is different.

Ling 01.25.09 | 8:18 AM ET

Never got a museum ticket get me drunk before. If the MET started serving free drinks, I could spend a lot of time studying Egyptian art.

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