Will the Real Singapore Sling Please Stand Up?

Bangalore Food & Beverage Article 

By: Ashwati Parameshwar

Geographically named cocktails are legion: the Manhattan, Long Island Iced Tea and the Cuba Libre are known the world over, and most have fairly similar recipes whether they’re served in New York, London or Hong Kong. Even variations have their own well-known recipes, usually following the prescribed one in the International Bartenders Association (IBA). The Singapore Sling, however, is one that comes with a great deal of controversy and variation.

Connoisseurs agree that the Singapore Sling was developed by Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender working at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel Singapore before 1915. There is also plenty of disagreement as to how closely the current version of this drink that is served at Raffles is to what was originally served. Apparently the original recipe was lost and forgotten sometime in the 1930’s, and the drink that they currently serve at the hotel’s Long Bar is based on memories of former bartenders, and some written notes that they were able to discover.

Most bartenders use the IBA recipe as a base, with the absolutely immutable ingredients being gin and cherry brandy as well as lime for taste. And that’s where the similarity ends. The IBA recipe also calls for Cointreau, Benedictine, a dash of Angostura bitters and, the primary ingredient – pineapple juice. Ted Haigh, curator of The Museum of the American Cocktail, and author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, insists on all of the above, as well as soda water and pomegranate grenadine. Esquire Magazine’s Big Black Book features a recipe from a 1948 cocktail guide that leaves out the pineapple juice altogether, relying on soda water for the foamy top. On the other hand, a 1982 New York Times article insists that the cause of the foamy sweetness is that the original recipe used freshly squeezed juice from Singapore’s Sarawak pineapples.

Here are the IBA recipe as well as Ted Haigh’s. Cheers to your own Singapore Sling!

Singapore Sling from International Bartenders Association

  • 8 parts Gin
  • 4 parts Heering Cherry Liqueur (cherry brandy)
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part DOM Bénédictine
  • 2 parts Grenadine
  • 16 parts Pineapple juice
  • 6 parts Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

To Prepare:
Pour all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into Poco Grande glass. Garnish with pineapple and maraschino cherry.

Singapore Sling From Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

  • 2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 2 tsp Benedictine
  • 2 tsp Cointreau
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes real pomegranate grenadine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Soda water
  • Real maraschino cherry, for garnish
  • Pineapple wedge, for garnish
  • Orange wheel or twist, for garnish

To Prepare:
Combine all except soda in an iced shaker. Shake, and strain into a Collins or highball glass with a few lumps of ice. Top with a splash soda water. Garnish with a cherry, a pineapple slice, and orange.

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