Traces of British Colonial life still linger in today’s Hong Kong as reminders of its particular swirling blend of east and west–modest Buddhist temples close to grand Christian churches, feng shui principles guiding the design of high-rise office towers, one of best Chinese noodle/dumpling places in town taking its name from a Scottish city, high tea with Chinese pastries, etc.
With a few exceptions, the city drives to devour anything considered old and replace it with something new. In the bustling Central district just off of a major street lies a restaurant named Jimmy’s Kitchen, a city institution that has survived since 1928. The dark-wood paneled pub atmosphere, with white table cloths and a maitre d’ in an impeccable black and white uniform, set the tone for many generations as the place to go for international cuisines. (Today, Hong Kong, has many more compelling options.) Jimmy’s was the destination for businessmen to settle deals over Turtle Soup, Escargot, Beef Wellington, Bangers and Mash, Vindaloo, or the house version of Chinese Fried Rice.
It was so clubby, male, foreign . . . and sophisticated, especially to me, as a teenager on one particular visit. I had dined there with my family previously, but on this Saturday, I came with my father. We were immediately greeted by the statff since my father was a regular. We were escorted to his regular table, a quiet alcove that was both cozy and provided a great view of the restaurant.
I had my favorites at Jimmy’s: Baked Pork Chops over Fried Rice. Steak Diane, the famous French Onion Soup, and the ever alluring Indian Chicken Curry served with Basmati Rice, Pappadam, and an array of condiments. Even though the heat of the curry posed a challenge for me, I kept on ordering it. My father would tease me about clutching the tall glass of iced water to sip between bites.
After ordering lunch, the waiter asked about our choice of beverage. My father ordered his usual, gin and tonic. I then said I wanted to have that, too. A little taken aback since he had only observed me consume a few drops of wine at family banquets, my father paused then ordered a Singapore Sling for me. He said that I’d like it better. Since I had no basis of comparison at that point in my life, I trusted his decision and tried to patiently wait for it to arrive.
At the sight of the translucent ruby beverage, I immediately fell in love with its appearance. I took my first sip while my father studied me for a reaction. The fruitiness was pleasant, but I could not decipher the taste of alcohol. I told him that I liked it a lot and that I felt like an adult. He chuckled and said he was glad his son had grown up right in front of his eyes.
At the end of that wonderful luncheon, my father then confessed that he told the waiter to add nothing more than a splash of gin to my beverage. I was a bit disappointed at my father’s trick, but quickly realized he probably knew more about what I could handle than I did. Years later, the memory of that Singapore Sling with my father at Jimmy’s Kitchen still lingers.
Adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
Yield: One cocktail
Glassware: Highball glass
2 oz. (59 ml) gin
3/4 oz. (22 ml) Cherry Heering
2 tsp. (10 ml) Benedictine
2 tsp. (10 ml) Cointreau or Triple Sec
4 oz. (120 ml) fresh pineapple juice
3/4 oz. (22 ml) fresh lime juice
2 dashes grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Pineapple, for garnish
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Combine all of the ingredients except soda in an iced shaker.
2. Shake. Strain into a highball glass with a few lumps of ice. Top with a splash soda water.
3. Garnish with a cherry, a pineapple slice, and orange.