On my virtual happy hour series I’ve been pushing people a bit beyond the three-ingredient cocktails we started with. In part because there are only so many three-ingredient cocktails you can do before it starts getting repetitive. In part because some viewers have asked for a bit more of a challenge. And lastly, because there are plenty of phenomenal classic cocktails that are a bit more complex and deserve their time in the spotlight.
This week, I featured the classic Singapore Sling in Wednesday’s episode. This is a learning experience for me as much as it is for my viewers. With every classic cocktail I shake up, I dig into the unique history behind the drink and its provenance.
The Singapore Sling was created in 1915 at The Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. There are theories that it gained popularity amongst upper-class ladies, the wives of British colonialists, as “punch” was one of the few socially acceptable alcoholic drinks women were permitted to enjoy in public.
You might be surprised to see that my version of the classic is yellow and not pink. There are reasons for that. First, no two recipes for the Singapore Sling are the same. The version still on offer at the famous Raffles Hotel is sweetened with grenadine and uses cherry brandy instead of the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur I’ve opted for. Both of those ingredients contribute to its rose-coloured hue.
I haven’t used any sweetener in my take on the classic – relying on the sweetness from the cherry liqueur, orange liqueur, and pineapple juice. Unfortunately, given that there is no standard reference point for the recipe on this drink, it often gets bastardized into a vacation-friendly saccharine mess.
For the same reason I don’t trust Yelp reviews in popular tourist destinations (Key West, Las Vegas, New York, etc.), I don’t trust drinks that are made for a tourist tastebuds: when people are on vacation they are in a good mood and are primed to LOVE everything they put in their mouths.
A proper Singapore Sling should be well-balanced but boozy. It has acidity from the citrus and pineapple, subtle sweetness from the liqueurs, bitterness from the herbal liqueur, and of course a fair bit of heft from the gin and three different liqueurs.
It is truly a GREAT drink but often done a disservice by an overly sweet or artificial composition. If you wanted to add a bit more sweetness, throw in a teaspoon of grenadine. Either way it’s sunshine in a glass.
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top up with soda water.
Garnish with a slice of pineapple and a cherry.