Try the world’s most famous drinks and dishes in the hotels that created them, writes Katie McGonagle
When I arrived in Singapore as a cash-strapped backpacker, I had only a couple of days to explore the city. So I wasted no time swapping my hiking boots and scruffy rucksack for something smarter and making a beeline for its most iconic hotel, Raffles Singapore.
Having strolled swiftly through the hotel’s Ritz-like arcade of designer boutiques – Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton were well beyond my budget – to take a seat at the famous Long Bar, I could practically feel Somerset Maugham and all the other great names of British Empire-era Singapore at my shoulder as I asked the bartender for a cool Singapore Sling.
It arrived like the cocktail equivalent of Carmen Miranda – hot pink with a slice of pineapple and a cherry on top – and if I’m perfectly honest, it was too sweet for my tastes.
Yet that didn’t diminish the experience. The drink has gone beyond a simple cocktail to become an institution – and it’s not the only culinary invention to achieve such iconic status.
Here, we find out where to try the dishes and drinks that put their creators on the tourist map.
10 of the best culinary inventions
1. Singapore Sling
Where: Raffles Singapore
Why: The ‘sling’ is looking pretty good for its age, considering this September it will be 100 years since barman Ngiam Tong Boon decided to jazz up the simple gin sling with his own recipe.
It started life as a ladies’ cocktail, hence its fruity presentation, and gets its daring pink colour from the dash of grenadine, which is added to gin, Cointreau, Dom Bénédictine and lime and pineapple juices to create the saccharine blend.
Book it: A Courtyard Suite at Raffles Singapore starts at £710 a night.
2. Waldorf Salad
Where: Waldorf Astoria, New York
Why: If all you had in your larder were apples, lettuce and a jar of mayonnaise, your first thought probably wouldn’t be bunging them all in together. But that’s exactly what Waldorf chef Oscar Tschirky did in the 1890s – along with grapes, celery and, later, walnuts – to create the eponymous Waldorf salad.
He wasn’t wrong, as the salad was such a hit it even warranted a mention in 1934 Cole Porter song You’re the Top.In fact, you could add breakfast and a preprandial cocktail at this hotel and still be dining only on house specialities, as the Waldorf Astoria is credited for inventing the Rob Roy and (arguably) eggs Benedict around the same time.
Book it: The Waldorf Astoria is a stop on the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of downtown New York, included in Attraction World’s All Around Town Tour, from £41 for adults and £35 for children.
3. Crêpes Suzette
Where: Café de Paris, Monte Carlo
Why: Legend has it that crêpes Suzette – fine French crêpes with orange zest, Grand Marnier and finished with a burst of flame – came about in 1895 when a 15-year-old waiter was asked to whip up a dish for the then-Prince of Wales, but accidentally set his creation alight.
Luckily, the dessert is as delicious whether or not diners believe the story, while Monte Carlo remains the place to hobnob with the rich and famous.
Book it: Three nights at Hotel De Paris starts at £1,049 in summer, or £829 between November and March, with Kirker Holidays. The prices include flights from Gatwick, concierge service, entrance to museums and attractions and private car transfers or, in summer, a helicopter transfer on departure.
4. Peach Melba
Where: The Savoy Hotel, London
Why: The 1890s must have been a time of intense culinary creativity because it was also during this decade that French chef Auguste Escoffier invented a dessert of peaches, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream (a rarity in the days before freezers) in honour of Australian opera singer Nellie Melba, who was performing in Covent Garden at the time.
The hotel made a habit of naming dishes after regular guests, as the soprano also lent her name to favourite breakfast Melba toast, and in the 1920s, writer Arnold Bennett so loved the smoked haddock omelette he was served at breakfast that it bears his name to this day.
Book it: SuperBreak offers a night’s B&B at The Savoy from £246 a person based on two sharing.
Where: Hotel Sacher, Vienna
Why: This is the sort of dessert chocoholics want to dive into head first, because under its shiny dark chocolate surface, always finished with the word ‘Sacher’, is layer upon layer of rich chocolate sponge sandwiched together with apricot jam and – you guessed it – chocolate filling.
It was so successful that a local bakery, where inventor Eduard Sacher also worked, tried to claim rights to the original recipe. But none of that will matter once you tuck into a slice.
Book it: Cresta Holidays offers A Taste of Vienna sightseeing package with coffee and cake at Hotel Sacher, plus a half-day city tour, wine-tasting and dinner, and a concert at the Kursalon Wien, from £145.
6. Pina Colada
Image credit: Hilton Hotels & Resorts
Where: Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why: A pina colada is a ubiquitous sight at poolsides across the Caribbean, but it wasn’t always so. The first time this blend of rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice was served was in 1952 at the Beachcomber Bar of the Caribe Hilton – evidence of the burgeoning tourism industry on the island.
These days, the creamy cocktail is so popular it’s even spawned National Pina Colada Day on July 10.
Book it: A night at the Caribe Hilton starts at £121 per room.
7. Tarte Tatin
Where: Hotel Tatin, Lamotte Beuvron, central France
Why: The French clearly have a serendipitous knack for discovering new dishes, although no one would complain when they taste this good.
The story goes that sisters Caroline and Stephanie Tatin ran the hotel in the late 19th century and, after accidentally overcooking apples meant for an apple pie, Stephanie simply put pastry on top then flipped the pie upside down to become the sticky caramelised tarte tatin we know today.
Book it: Hotel Tatin is a member of Logis Hotels. Rooms range from €66 to €139 a night.
8. Bloody Mary
Where: The St Regis, New York
Why: It was only a year after the end of prohibition that the Red Snapper – the name substituted when Bloody Mary was deemed too racy – became a regular fixture at the King Cole Bar.
Vodka and tomato juice weren’t entirely new bedfellows, but it was only when barman Fernand Petiot spiced things up with salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire sauce in 1934 that the classic brunch cocktail was born.
Book it: A double room at The St Regis New York starts at £604 a night, including taxes and charges.
9. Imperial Torte
Where: Hotel Imperial, Vienna
Why: This is proof that the best things really do come in small packages. The truffle-sized Imperial torte, invented to mark the hotel’s 1873 opening by Emperor Franz Joseph, bears no relation to the time and effort it takes to make.
Its layered chocolate sponge and marzipan, encased in yet more chocolate, is deliciously rich but worth every calorie.
Book it: A double room at Hotel Imperial, A Luxury Collection Hotel, starts at £312, including taxes and breakfast.
10. Boston Cream Pie
Where: Omni Parker House Hotel, Boston
Why: This one is less familiar to Brits, but every American will know that despite its name, this is more of a cake than a pie.
Suggest guests walking the Freedom Trail stop in for a slice of the custard-filled cake at this historic hotel, which was the first in Boston to have hot running water and a lift, making it quite the icon in its day – rather like the dessert invented there.
Book it: The Old Town Trolley Tour of Boston stops opposite the hotel. Prices start at £26 for adults and £12 for children with Do Something Different.
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