In re: How the Sling was Slung

Singapore sling

I hadn’t ever given much thought to the Singapore Sling until a friend of mine who was getting into cocktails ordered us up a pair out in San Francisco a couple years ago.  It wasn’t a signature of the bar we were at (I think they had to look it up in fact) and I don’t think they made it as good as it could be, but nonetheless I had it, thought it was okay and kinda slipped my mind.  Fast forward a year or two and when thinking of a gift for that friends birthday it suddenly dawned on me that the supplies for the Singapore Sling (a drink that uses some non-standard ingredients) would be a great gift, but I needed to learn about the Sling first.  The search led me to an article in Imbibe magazine: How the Sling was Slung: getting to the bottoms of Singapore’s most famous cocktail by David Wondrich (by the way if you don’t know that magazine and are interested in drinks it is really good).

In the article I learned that the drink today (at least as served in Singapore at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, the place of the Slings creation) is not what the drink was originally having been reformulated in the 1970s to be more like a tiki drink or punch that includes pineapple juice as the primary ingredient.  Wondrich in the article goes to great length to find a recipe for the original and a new searchable archive of the national paper in Singapore gave him the answer.  So unfortunately and sadly today if you visit the apparently beautiful and expensive Raffles Hotel and the long bar you will find plenty of people drinking the famous sling, but they will be drinking a pre-made drink from a dispenser that goes into a blender.

To make the drink you indeed need some ingredients you might not have on hand, depending on how well you stock your bar (making drinks like these sure causes the number of bottles you have on hand to increase!)  To make the original version the two things that are out of the ordinary you need are Bénédictine, a sweet herbal liqueur from France and Cherry Heering a Danish liqueur made soaking crushed Danish cherries and spices in a neutral spirit, aging that in casks and adding sugar.  Cherry Heering was a complete surprise to me and I had not known it before.  Whereas a lot of cherry things taste artificial and cloying, Heering somehow avoids that taste and I hope to figure out some other uses for the stuff (see Imbibe’s article on Cherry Heering with some suggestions of what to do with it and more information the stuff itself).

Singapore Sling

With those ingredients in hand (purchased here in Columbus at Weiland’s grocery store) I was all set to go making a sling already having gin, bitters, some limes and soda water.  The drink is on the sweet side so depending on your taste and mood I think upping the gin a tad can make for a less sweet version which is quite nice as well.  Either way while sipping its nice to sit back relax and maybe try and picture that your sitting in Singapore, back in 1915 watching  a cricket match.

Slings

I think Wondrich’s recipe for the original is the superior drink, but the pineapple version served in a Poco Grande glass has its time and place and is fun in its own right.

The recipe for the original sling from Imbibe:

1 oz. London dry gin

1 oz. Bols Cherry brandy or Cherry Heering

1 oz. Bénédictine

1 oz. fresh lime juice

2 oz. soda water

1 dash Angostura bitters

Tools: barspoon

Glass: Collins

Combine all ingredients except soda water and bitters in an ice-filled glass. Top with soda water, stir briefly and dash with Angostura bitters. Note: The original Singapore Sling appears to have been ungarnished.

 

Current version of the Singapore Sling as served at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore 

1 oz gin

1/2 oz Heering Cherry Liqueur

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/4 oz Cointreau

1/4 oz Dom Benedictine

1/3 oz Grenadine

A Dash of Angostura Bitters

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Strain into Poco Grande glass.  Garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry.  (Note: the Raffles Hotel Long Bar currently services a blended drink, which adds additional froth and is dispensed from an automatic machine, but upon request they will mix it from scratch).

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