Summit Sips – Drink of the Week: Singapore Sling

Supposedly, July 27th was National Scotch Day. I know it’s not the most popular holiday, but the timing was pretty good (it was a coincidence, really) for describing the Scotch tasting event last week and for featuring the Blood and Sand cocktail the week before. I thought about selecting another Scotch drink this week but I decided it was time to move on. That’s when a friend of mine finally tracked down some Cherry Heering and made the Blood and Sand. I wondered if perhaps there were other readers looking for additional ways to use cherry brandy, so I thought I would feature the Singapore Sling.

It can be a delicious cocktail, depending on the recipe you use. That said, it’s just as easy to make one taste awful. Part of the problem is that like a lot of cocktails, the original recipe was lost and this has caused many enthusiasts to experiment with ingredients over the years. It’s certainly considered a classic, dating back to the early twentieth century when it was created at the Raffles Hotel Singapore, but it disappeared around 1930. The official “restored” version was supposedly discovered on an old bar napkin and pieced together based on bartender memory, but not everyone agrees that it is the proper recipe. Another drink called the Straits Sling is a close match, and more than a few cocktail historians think this might actually be the real recipe. Whatever you want to believe, one thing is absolutely clear—right or wrong, there’s more than one way to make a Singapore Sling.

And that’s another problem with this cocktail. It’s just never the same drink in two different locations. Finding a favorite version would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many ingredients to assemble. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore any cocktail that has more than a few ingredients, but if you are in a hurry, it’s probably not going to be your first choice. The traditional recipe is a combination of gin, Dom Benedictine, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, lime juice, fresh pineapple juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters. It’s not impossible, but how often does anyone have fresh pineapple juice anyway? Now, normally I’d be excited about the opportunity to use some homemade real pomegranate grenadine, but there is a real risk of ruining this drink with too much syrupy sweetness. Imagine my surprise when I found a version that not only leaves out the grenadine, but drops the pineapple as well!

This version of the Singapore Sling is found in the pages of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s excellent Beachbum Berry Remixed, a revised compilation of tiki drinks from his two successful books in one volume. Some of you might argue that the pineapple juice is what gives this drink the foamy head and that it’s an essential flavor element. Well, I am not here to argue, but but I gotta say, I am a lot more likely to make this drink in it’s less complicated form than I am to carve up a fresh pineapple in order to conform with tradition. Besides, I like the flavor of this version because it has a nice balance without being overly sweet. Do what you like, especially if you have a pineapple and some pomegranate grenadine, but I’m saving mine for another time and making this version from now on:

Singapore Sling
from Beachbum Berry Remixed
2 oz gin
.5 oz brandy
1 oz Cherry Heering
.5 oz Benedictine
1 oz fresh lime juice
1.5 oz club soda to top

Add all ingredients except the soda to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a tall glass of ice. Add soda to top and garnish with an orange wedge and a sprig of mint.

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