Iconic, exotic, not at all basic. Who's up for a Singapore Sling?

Iconic, exotic, not at all basic. Who's up for a Singapore Sling?
  • Tall and refreshing variation on the Gin Sling

  • Originally created in the Raffles hotel in Singapore

  • A classic gin-based cocktail

One of the most iconic gin cocktails has to be the Singapore Sling. It has an inviting pinkish colour, an exotic sweet and fresh flavour and of course some dispute about the original recipe. This refreshing long drink was invented in the Raffles hotel in Singapore and can be seen as an early Tiki style cocktail.

How to make a Singapore Sling?

The Singapore Sling is made with Gin, Cherry Brandy, D.O.M. Bénédictine, Angostura bitters, pineapple juice and grenadine syrup, topped with soda water. It was first made sometime between 1889 and 1915 by a bartender named Ngiam Tong Boon who worked at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel. There is little controversy as to who created the Singapore Sling, but there's huge debate over the original name and ingredients of the cocktail. 

Singapore Sling ingredients

45 ml Damrak Gin
15 ml Bols Cherry Brandy
10 ml Bols Triple Sec
10 ml DOM Bénédictine
50 ml pineapple juice
15 ml lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 bar spoon Grenadine syrup
Dash of soda water

Singapore Sling glassware and tools

Sling glass
Cocktail shaker

  1. Pour all ingredients except the soda water in the cocktail shaker

  2. Fill the shaker two thirds with ice cubes

  3. Shake for around 10 seconds and strain into the sling glass filled with ice cubes

  4. Top up with a dash of soda water

  5. Garnish with a lemon peel and a cocktail cherry

Sweet, yet balanced

According to the above recipe, the Singapore Sling is a sweet yet balanced cocktail. It can be seen as an early example of a Tiki cocktail but instead of using rum as the base spirit, gin is used. The fruity and sweet notes of the liqueurs are brought to life by the fresh lime and pineapple juice with a little soda water to provide sparkle. The gin along with the D.O.M. Bénédictine give the cocktail a herbal and strong bite. This drink has a beautiful fresh pinkish colour which makes the cocktail look very festive.

History of the Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling cocktail was indisputably created in Singapore at the Raffles Hotel sometime between 1889 and 1915. There are many theories about why these exact ingredients were used and how the name came about. However, we know the inventor was the Chinese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon who worked at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel from 1889 to 1915. The Gin Sling, a cocktail with gin, lemon, sugar and soda water was a famous gin cocktail at the time. The Singapore Sling was Boon's variation on this cocktail. 

In the 1930s, recipes for the Singapore Sling and the Straits Sling appear in The Savoy Cocktail Book (Harry Craddock, 1930). The Singapore Sling is described as a cocktail with gin, Cherry Brandy, lemon juice and soda water. The recipe for the Straits Sling Is actually more similar to the modern-day Singapore Sling cocktail as it includes D.O.M. Bénédictine, Angostura and Orange bitters. 

The Raffles Hotel has promoted itself fervently since the 1970s as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail. The low point of this PR campaign was when the Raffles cocktail bar began making the cocktails using a ready-made cocktail mix. Guests could of course then buy this mix in the gift shop. Since 2012, the popular Long Bar has made the Singapore Sling according to the original Raffles Hotel recipe using fresh ingredients.

Singapore Sling recipe variations

Cocktails with many ingredients don't often lend themselves to variations. Switching out just one ingredient has a limited effect on the final flavour. The effect of switching one ingredient is much more noticeable when there's only 3 ingredients in the original recipe. To create variations on the Singapore Sling, we'll be choosing strong flavours that will stand out in the final flavour of the cocktail. 

Recipe variation 1 - change the base

We use Damrak Gin in this recipe, which is an exceptionally smooth gin with a pronounced citrus flavour. To give your Singapore Sling a more complex, malty flavour, you can switch the gin for Bols Genever adding a whole new dimension to the recipe. 

Recipe variation 2 - change de modifiers

A modifier is a cocktail ingredient, usually alcoholic and typically a fortified wine or a liqueur, that both softens the base spirit and adds flavour to the drink. In the Singapore Sling the modifiers are The D.O.M. Bénédictine, Triple Sec and the Cherry Brandy providing herbal, citrus and cherry flavours. We can make variations here by replacing the herbal notes with the beautiful complex flavours of Galliano l'Autentico. This adds notes of star anise and vanilla to your Singapore Sling. The Triple Sec and Cherry Brandy can be replaced by many other Bols liqueurs. Always consider whether the flavours add anything to the final cocktail. For example, Bols Ginger is a good replacement for Triple Sec. Bols Pineapple Chipotle can also work well as a replacement for Triple Sec because it strengthens the pineapple flavour in the cocktail and adds a touch of spice. 

Recipe variation 3 - change the fruit juice

Changing the fruit juices will change the taste of the cocktail entirely. If this isn't a problem for you, try replacing the lime juice with lemon juice and the pineapple juice with grapefruit juice and see how this completely transforms the cocktail. Because the grapefruit juice adds bitterness to the cocktail, I would leave out the Angostura bitters in this version.

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