No discussion on cocktails is complete without discussing the Singapore Sling. The drink’s history was thoroughly documented by Mr. Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh in the Journal of Mixology and it is worth a read if you want to get deep into cocktail history. As a drink, the Singapore Sling, when done properly, is well-balanced with complex flavours and a visually appealing pink colour. Yes, it is supposed to be pink, not red, as it was created for women in 1915, but if your manhood isn’t challenged by mere colour, it is an enjoyable drink.
The earliest version of a sling was a simple alcoholic drink going back centuries. It usually consisted of gin, sugar and water with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Though like all cocktails, it had evolved and by the time the Raffles Hotel in Singapore started serving a sling, it was much different.
Most clubs and bars that serve this drink, today, take a lot of shortcuts and pass it off as a proper sling. For example, on a popular cocktail website, this easy Singapore Sling recipe is gin, cherry brandy, grenadine and sweet and sour mix with club soda. That makes for a sweet and insipid drink that is incredibly quick to make when you are tending the bar, but it lacks the character of the authentic version.
The recipe below is said to be close to the original, but the fact is that the original recipe was lost, so a recipe similar to the original Singapore Sling was created, through some research and second-hand information. Making this drink for people takes a little bit longer than the shortcut version, but the results are well worth the effort. The difference is between a fine dining experience and McDonald’s. If you just feel like a quick drink, by all means, whip up the easy Singapore Sling recipe, but at least use fresh lime or a homemade sour mix,—but if you have the time, make the classic version.When making any cocktail, quality ingredients will always taste better—for example, a good quality gin, like Plymouth Gin, Tanqueray or the gin being sold by your local startup distillery is important because it is the base ingredient for a Singapore Sling. Cherry Herring is said to be the original cherry liquor and is much different than a most artificial cherry brandy. Cherry Herring tastes less of fresh cherry and more like a cooked cherry molasses flavour. I have made excellent versions using other liqueurs like Cherry Marnier or Luksusowa Cherry Brandy. Use Cointreau, or a decent triple sec and always use fresh juices when possible. Use Pomegranate Juice or syrup instead of grenadine if possible. You may be tempted to skip that 1/4 oz of Benedictine, but don’t, it really give the drink depth and character.
The great thing about cocktails is that you can modify them for your personal preference, just don’t use a name already being used, it creates confusion. Making one with Cherry Marnier is a cherry flavoured cognac, but the aromas are much brighter and more reminiscent of fresh cherry. The use of pomegranate juice is probably close to what the used in 1915, plus most grenadine sold today are a coloured sugar solution flavoured with vanilla and almond extract. Not exactly the same, but if you can find a good version, it will make everything you use it in better.
Consistency is what creates a great experience. If you went to the aforementioned fine restaurant and you received a Happy Meal and a bill for $100 you wouldn’t be too happy. A good bartender should always stick to the spirit of the original recipe. Sometimes key ingredients are unavailable, but knowledgable substitutions can make an equally good drink.
The Singapore Sling is a great example of a creative cocktail. If you want to impress guests, friends, family or customers, throw away your old recipe and try the following Singapore Sling recipe.
If you liked this cocktail, you might also like the Strawberry Daiquiri.