Singapore's Raffles Hotel turns 125

Singapore's Raffles Hotel turns 125

Happy birthday to the hotel that brought the island its first electric lights. We've forgiven them for the Singapore Sling
If the walls inside this place could talk. Raffles Singapore guests have included Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardner.

With all the big flashy brands popping up around Singapore these days, the classic Raffles Hotel might be feeling a bit underappreciated. And old. 

The city icon celebrates is quasquicentennial anniversary in September -- 125 years of sickly sweet cocktails, celebrity scribe guests and unapologetic luxury. 

The hotel's history is certainly deserving of celebration. Raffles Hotel opened as a 10-room bungalow in 1887, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.

In 1904 the Bras Basah wing was added (the familiar neo-Renaissance main building we see today) and introduced many of Singapore's firsts including electric lights, fans and a French chef. 

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Lo and behold, the hotel was billed by the Western press as the "most magnificent establishment of its kind East of Suez.” Not that there was a huge amount of competition.

The celebrities rushed in. Famous guests have included Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward and Ava Gardner. 

The hotel also brought Singapore one of its most clichéd  experiences -- sipping a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Long Bar. 

Created by hotel bartenders sometime before 1910, the almost unbearably sweet drink is still being mixed in bars around the world. (Staff in celebrity chef Mario Batali's Singapore restaurant Osteria Mozza have even given it a stronger twist.) 

Fancy commemorative stuff

Let the corks start popping. Next month Raffles is bringing out a limited-edition 125th Anniversary Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve Champagne.

Exclusively bottled in honor of the occasion, the private label cuvée will be available not just at Raffles Hotel Singapore but at other hotels in the family -- in Paris, the Seychelles, Cambodia and China.

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The Champagne will make its debut in Raffles Singapore during the hotel’s anniversary festivities on September 16, which will launch a year of celebrations.

Priced at S$148 (US$118) per bottle, guests will be able to enjoy it in all the restaurants and bars at the hotel.

Prefer something a bit more tangible? In honor of Raffles' 125th birthday, watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre has created two special edition Reverso timepieces with alligator skin straps. 

The back of the his-and-hers watches are engraved with the words "Raffles Hotel 1887-2012."  Definitely time to celebrate.

1 Beach Road, Singapore; +65 6337 1886; Room rates from US$500/night.