If any drink has come to symbolise the height of colonial chic, it has to be the Singapore Sling.
Brightly coloured and reminiscent of the tiki drinks of the Caribbean with its pineapple garnish, the Singapore Sling was – according to history – created in 1915 at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.
In colonial Singapore, Raffles was the gathering place for rich and well-to-do expats, and the Long Bar was the spot they chilled out. There was also a Billiards Room but rumour has it they kept a real live tiger chained up in there so…
There was also a really ‘fun’ (read: grotesquely outdated) etiquette rule in place that dictated that ladies couldn’t be seen to be drinking alcohol in public. Hence a pretty pink, gin-spiked pineapple juice concoction became very popular, very quickly. It’s also a rather humid place, so the refreshing nature of the Singapore Sling certainly increased its popularity.
But where does it come from?
Originally based on, and marketed as, a Gin Sling – an American cocktail that was basically gin and water that was sweetened – the recipe that Raffles now touts as the ‘original’ is reportedly based on the memories of former bartenders and a few scribbled notes that were uncovered in the bar on the back of a napkin. This recipe was documented in Savoy Cocktail Book as early as 1930, cementing its classic status.
- 45ml Gin
- 15ml Cherry Heering
- 10ml Cointreau
- 10ml Benedictine
- 120ml Pineapple juice
- 15ml Lime juice
- 10ml Grenadine
- 1 dash of Angostura bitters
- Fill a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients.
- Shake thoroughly to ensure a nice creamy froth.
- Pour into the glass and garnish with a pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry.
However, there are a few issues with the current official recipe, and the historical record – isn’t there always? According to Business Week in 1932 the recipe was as follows: “Mix 2 oz. Boodles British Gin, 1 oz. cherry brandy, 1 oz. lemon juice; pour over ice in a tumbler and add a splash of soda”. That version was backed up by Hotel & Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union in 1941, with Boodles apparently becoming the ‘official’ gin in the drink as early as 1938.
Then, to throw in another spanner, cocktail historian David Wondrich believes that the while the ‘official’ Singapore Sling may have originated in the Long Bar, the drink was around much earlier. In fact, as early as the late 1800s the concept of the Sling – or at least the English version of the American drink that had fruit juice added to make it more of a punch – was already universal in bars across the colonial outpost of Singapore.