The Story Behind Our Signature Cocktail: Plantation 1840

We are storytellers – always have been …

Sit at The Bar at 15 Stamford for any length of time and you will find yourself regaled by stories told by our passionate bartenders. Their knowledge of the liqueurs and spirits we serve will astound and entertain. Yet storytelling is in our heritage.

Imagine, if you will, where today stands a wall of wine in the 15 Stamford restaurant, there once stood a wall of books. For, in the 1930s, 15 Stamford was home to The Green Circle, a children-friendly library and bookstore that almost rivalled the Capitol Theatre for taking its patrons away from the realities of daily life and transporting them to magical places in the imagination. (We’d like to think that is the role of the Bar at 15 Stamford today, of course.)

The Bar at 15 Stamford, The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore

So, what exactly is our connection to rum, you ask?

We are passionate about rum, as you will see from the 160 brands available behind the bar. But the connection goes much deeper. Rum has always been associated with sailors, and our location has in the past been home to a sailor’s boarding house before the present building was built in 1904.

‘The Sailors Home’ was the onshore home for visiting crew on shore leave when ships docked in Singapore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Sailors Home was immortalised in three novels by renowned novelist Joseph Conrad: The Shadow Line, The End of the Tether and Lord Jim.

We also take inspiration from the story of Joseph Balestier. While he served as the first US Consul to Singapore, it was not a well-paying position, so Joseph supplemented his income like many diplomats of the era by consulting to traders who were bringing goods into Singapore. He also established a vast 89-hectare sugarcane plantation in a 405-hectare area of land he leased that is now known as the Balestier area of Singapore. Setting up a steam-powered mill and a boiling facility able to make up to 2.7 tonnes (6,000 pounds) of sugar a day, as well as copper stills and fermenting vats, with the help of his son Revere, Joseph also distilled rum from molasses or sugar syrup. An advertisement placed by J Balestier in May 1840 proclaiming rum for sale and stating the product to be “Rum distilled after West India process and equal in quality may be had at any time in suitable packages”.

The Bar at 15 Stamford - Plantation 1840 - The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore

 Why pineapples play a starring role in our signature cocktail menus

While the Balestier plantation was mostly dedicated to the growing of sugarcane Joseph also planted pineapples around the boundaries to help retain the soil. Sadly, troubles plagued the plantation with tigers killing workers in 1942 and crops eventually failing due to flooding from the monsoon rains. This was the final straw for Joseph, who had recently lost his wife, Maria, two short years after the death of their only son. Already in debt and unable to find a buyer for the plantation land (which was eventually reclaimed by the government), Joseph left Singapore in 1848. He briefly returned to the Far East in 1849 on consular duties, returning to the US in 1851. Six months later he remarried and remained in the US until his death in York, Pennsylvania in 1858 aged 70.

The Bar at 15 Stamford - Plantation 1840 cocktail

We created the Plantation 1840 cocktail in Joseph Balestier’s honour. We invite you to try one on your next visit to our bar. We also have a range of specially crafted cocktails that you can enjoy from the comforts of your home by having them delivered to your doorstep.