The sling, be it a gin, whiskey, rye or other is usually a mix of sweetened spirits and water. These sips pre-date the cocktail with the most famous of slings, the Singapore Sling, credited to Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon of Raffles Hotel in the early 1900s. Like most vintage drinks, it has undergone multiple transformations, often swaying dramatically from the classic. The original version is nostalgic for me.
You see my family was passing through Singapore on my mom's 50th birthday. So in good cocktail etiquette mom detoured us to Raffles so we could taste the real deal. Mind you it was 11 a.m. but hey when in Rome....
This was the most memorable trip of my lifetime. My dad, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran with seven Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars among his numerous medals, was taking his family back to Vietnam for the first time. We didn't have the pleasure of staying at Raffles but years later as fate would have it I returned for one more Singapore Sling in the historic Long Bar at Raffles.
It was in one of my past lives where I was involved with a company trying to clean up land mines. I'll save that story for another time. It was on this second trip that I truly understood that drinks — wine, cocktails or even an espresso — taste completely different when you travel. Cushioned in one of the plush rattan chairs at the famous Long Bar, enjoying the lazy speed of the tropical ceiling fans, all the while throwing peanut shells on the ground, yes just like at a baseball game in the States, and sipping on Singapore Slings* just can't be recreated back on the home turf. But you can't blame a girl for trying!
The original, the one still served at Raffles Hotel today is a frothy-topped, refreshing sip perfect for summer. If you order one in a bar stateside you're more likely to get a sweeter version made with sweet and sour mix instead of fresh lime and pineapple juice and most likely they skip the subtle ingredients like the Benedictine and bitters that graced the classic cocktail. These too can be delicious but beware of the sugar-induced hangover headaches. The best way to recreate this vintage cocktail at home is to invest in the Benedictine and bitters, listed in the Original recipe below, and enjoy a little bit of history from the comfort of your home.
*If you did the math then you realize on my first trip I was not of legal drinking age, but they have bigger fish to fry over there, you know like chewing gum in public and loiterers.
The Original Singapore Sling Recipe
From Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. Makes one drink.
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounces Cherry Heering
2 teaspoons Benedictine
2 teaspoons Cointreau
2 ounces pineapple juice
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
2 dashes real pomegranate grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Real maraschino cherry, for garnish
Pineapple wedge, for garnish
Orange wheel or twist, for garnish
Combine all except soda and garnishes in a shaker full of ice.
Shake, and strain into a tall glass (highball or Collins) with a few lumps of ice. Top with a splash of soda water.
Garnish with a cherry, a pineapple slice, and orange wheel.
The Singapore Sling: Shortcut Recipe
makes one drink
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry Brandy
1/2 ounce grenadine syrup (less if you don't want it sweet)
1 ounce sweet and sour mix
Add all of the ingredients except the club soda and maraschino cherry to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with ice.
Top with a splash of soda and a cherry.
Maureen C. Petrosky writes what she knows, food, booze and parties. Author of The Wine Club, she appears regularly on The TODAY show to share her vices (and advice) with the world. For more info check out www.maureenpetrosky.com or follow her on Twitter @maureenpetrosky
(Images: Maureen Petrosky)