There is one public space in still slightly-stitched-up Singapore where the act of littering is not only tolerated, but encouraged. It's the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, a recreation of a traditional Malay planters' cafe, complete with perpetually flapping rattan ceiling fans. Atop each table inside this bar sits a small hessian bag - like a leftover from a Lilliputian potato-sack race - stuffed full of unshelled peanuts.
Patrons are invited to dispose of the empties directly on to the floor, creating a shag-pile of shells that crunch volubly underfoot. But, really, anyone would be nuts to think they are the main attraction here. The peanuts at the Long Bar are merely an accompaniment to the famed Singapore Sling.
The Sling ranks as one of the world's greatest cocktails though, curiously, not so great as to be consumed much outside of Singapore itself. Have you ever seen anyone barge into a saloon and slam their fist down on the counter, demanding, "I wanna Sling - and I want it now!"
The Long Bar was one of the first sections of the recently extensively-refurbished Raffles to reopen and for perfectly sound accounting reasons – sales of the gin-based cocktail account for a large proportion of Raffles' handsome profits, with 1000 or so of the beverages sold daily at a hefty $S33 a pop (do the math, as the Americans like to say).
Before the Long Bar's long-awaited return, Raffles took the huge risk of deciding to alter the recipe of their famed Singapore Sling, to bring it in line with contemporary tastes. Once sickly sweet, it is now far less sugary and syrupy. The alcohol content has been increased and the artificial, blush-coloured macerated cherry garnish has been replaced with a more authentic-looking, well, dark cherry-coloured one. Once made from a cheating "premix", the cocktails are now expertly mixed from scratch behind the bar.
Raffles likes to credit itself for inventing the pretty pink-coloured cocktail, claiming the hotel's Hainanese barman, Ngiam Tong Boon, devised it in 1915. However, the provenance of the Sling, which was designed mainly to appeal to colonial-era women, is actively disputed, with some believing the cocktail was conceived at least two years earlier at the Singapore Cricket Club.
Whether the Sling was invented at Raffles or somewhere else matters not to fans of the drink, most of whom are pilgrim-like foreign tourists, who pour into the Long Bar for their ceremonial pour. But to this day, Raffles' bean-counters still flay themselves with a paper cocktail umbrella for not taking out copyright on the original recipe.
Imagine the even greater riches, let alone the sheer number of spent peanut shells, that could have been amassed from it.