We’ve all heard of the lost city of Atlantis. And then there are lost Rembrandts, lost causes, lost virginity – the list goes on… But lost cocktails?
The Singapore Sling certainly qualifies.
Due to its complexity and sketchy origins, the Singapore Sling is an enigma wrapped in mystique – an impression that is only enhanced by the type of alcoholic question marks we’re left with after an evening of experimental drinking.
The Myth of the Singapore Sling
Whether real or imagined, the Singapore Sling seems to be shrouded in an aura of mystery. Even the name sounds vaguely illicit. Conceivably the topic of hushed whispers in dark corners or the name of a risqué dance that scandalized straight-laced suburban towns of the 20s, the Singapore Sling has an exotic reputation.
Ground Zero: Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Sources agree that this drink was created exactly one hundred years ago at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Numerous bar yarns report that the recipe for the cocktail was jotted down on a scrap of paper one busy evening. Apparently, Ngiam wasn’t much of a record-keeper and the Singapore Sling recipe was lost.
After a brief reappearance in 1930, this classic cocktail quickly vanished once again. This is why, if you do a bit of research, there are so many recipes for this drink – mostly listing the same components, but nitpickily different when it comes to the amounts of various Singapore Sling ingredients for the most authentic taste.
Like a good secret agent, the Singapore Sling rarely shows up in the records, and when it does, we’re not sure what we’re looking at exactly. For decades, it periodically surfaced in cocktail books worldwide in a different-woman-same-dress kind of way. Eventually, nobody seemed to know what a Singapore Sling was originally supposed to taste like.
To add insult to amnesia, along came the 80s. And then, like so many other things, the drink was bastardized and cheapened, becoming as thin and tasteless as most of the pop hit drum samples of this accursed decade.
The Recovery of the Singapore Sling
Fortunately for us, an historically accurate Singapore Sling recipe has been rescued from obscurity. Due to mixological sleuthing and the high-quality ingredients widely available today, it’s very possible to recreate this refreshing cocktail from the comfort of your own home.
I’ll say up front that the Singapore Sling is probably not something you’ll whip up on a whim. It requires a bit of overhead, not to mention a well-stocked bar, and it’s probably best enjoyed on a special occasion with a buddy, significant other or fellow alcochemist.
It’ll Become a Favorite
With the cocktail resurgence of the last two decades, bartenders across the globe have discovered the Singapore Sling for the first time and have placed it among their favorites.
Perhaps this is best expressed in the wise words from a bartender friend:
“This cocktail has been on my list since the very beginning, it’s legendary, it’s a classic. I love it because it’s exotic and complex. Before you try it, you get this idea that it’s going to be overwhelming because of the ingredients, which each have these well-defined flavors. But it’s actually really well-balanced, really drinkable, not too sweet. It’s not an overwhelming explosion of tastes, but a gradual evolution of flavors (such as the pineapple and cherry) that shift in your mouth over time. Whoever invented it had to be really experienced or a real booze genius.”
Singapore Sling Recipe
Thankfully, now that we have a solid historical reference, we can create the legendary Singapore Sling; this recipe can be found in The Art of Making Cocktails, by Manuel Wouters.
- 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire
- ¾ oz. Cherry Heering
- 1/3 oz. Bénédictine
- 1/3 oz Cointreau
- ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
- 2 cocktail spoons grénadine
- 1.5 cocktail spoons Angostura bitters
Garnish: A sprig of mint and a pineapple wedge.
Make sure you get a nice sniff of that mint as you take your first sip.