Saturday, May 19, 2018

singapore sling

2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin (Beefeater)
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Grenadine
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Benedictine
1/4 oz Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass filled with ice (wine glass without ice), and garnish with a cherry and a pineapple slice (omit garnish).

Two Saturdays ago, I decided to make the Singapore Sling for the blog. It was a drink I frequently made a few months ago as it was one of the two dozen or so gin classics on the menu at Our Fathers; in fact, one thing I did to speed up the process was making "Sling Juice" that was a one ounce dispense of the three liqueurs from a cheater bottle. The recipe that I utilized here was the one from the PDT Cocktail Book; the one at Our Fathers was similar save for the gin call and only a quarter ounce of grenadine. Moreover, I opted here for a fashion closer to the way we served it at the bar which was in a cocktail coupe sans garnish. While the Singapore Sling was perhaps created around or before 1915 at the Raffles Hotel by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, the recipe above is a more modern one. Moreover, the recipes for this drink vary greatly in the literature.

To get at the heart of the matter, I went back to my notes from Tales of the Cocktail 2016 to a talk by Jared Brown entitled, "The Life & Times of the Singapore Sling." Singapore is a one city country in the East India Isle chain near Vietnam. The various islands there all adopted Slings as a popular drink type. Sir Stanford Raffles worked for the East India Trading Company in the 19th century, and he selected Singapore to settle down since it was not occupied by the Dutch like many of the other islands. The hotel itself opened for business in 1887.

Slings have a long history with one of the earliest mentions being in 1759 from the History of Sweden where it noted that "Long-sup or sling was one half water and one half rum with sugar in it to taste." In 1862, Jerry Thomas defined the Gin Sling as the same as the Gin Toddy except a little nutmeg is grated on the top. So with sugar, water, gin, and ice, the Gin Sling appeared to have been derived from Punch with the citrus and spice dropped from the roster (the nutmeg garnish could be considered a spice in a way). By the turn of the 20th century, the drink was so common that there was a dedicated glass -- an article in 1903 mentioned a "Gin Sling glass" in Borneo. Around 1908 is when the Gin Sling is speculated to have arrived in Singapore, and the first recipe for a Gin Sling there was recorded in 1913 with a description of "They walked into the S.C.C. [Singapore Cricket Club] and ordered one cherry brandy, one D.O.M. [Benedictine], one gin, one lime juice, some ice, water, and a few dashes of bitters." The bartenders apparently would not mix it for them, so the guests chose to assemble the drink for themselves.

Ngiam Tong Boon started bartending in the late 1890s before retiring shortly before his death in 1918. He is believed to have created the Singapore Sling around 1915, but not the Singapore Sling recipe that is served today at the Raffles Hotel. Moreover, attribution of the drink occurred several decades after his death, so it may be inaccurate (see the Wondrich hoax link below where a recipe was found in a hotel safe). Around that time in the 1910s, a dozen bars in Singapore were making Gin Slings and half of those had a drink called the Singapore Sling. The Straits Hotel has a famous Straits Sling of gin, cherry brandy, Benedictine, Angostura Bitters, and orange bitters, and other places were making their pinkish Slings with sloe gin or claret in place of the cherry brandy. Jared surmised that Boon made the best one of these Singapore Slings which is why it survived and got famous.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Savoy Cocktail Book, Café Royal Cocktail Book, Stork Club, and Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide all published recipes, and Jared suggested that the Stork Club's was the closest. In tracing the drink recipe's history, the 1960s saw recipes that included orange liqueur as well as the orange-cherry garnish. And by the 1970s, pineapple juice had entered the equation along with gin, the three liqueurs, lime juice, and Angostura Bitters. Jared's history did not mention when grenadine appeared, but David Wondrich at a 2017 Tales of the Cocktail talk on "Great Hoaxes of Cocktail History discussed the financial desire to make the drink more affordable to produce. The drink had always been pink, so perhaps grenadine replaced some of the cherry liqueur as a cost saving measure along with the extra juices not found in the early recipes.
So the bottom line is that the original sling was probably closer to the Raffles Hotel Sling (here is a rum riff of it from the 1970s). As prepared in this more modern way, the Singapore Sling yielded pineapple, cherry, and clove aromas that later yielded gin notes to the nose as it warmed up. Next, creamy pineapple and vague fruit notes played on the sip, and the swallow offered gin, cherry, and pineapple flavors with an herbal finish.

As I curious side note, I was reminded of a 2009 recipe for a Shanghai Sling that I created as a Raffles Hotel Sling that swapped Chinese 5 spice syrup for the Benedictine.


yeah buddy said...

Why serve up? I thought slings were long drinks built over ice.

frederic said...

As I explained above, I made it akin to how we served it at a bar I worked at for it was not a drink to be lingered over in sweltering weather given that it was winter when the drink was put on the menu. There are lots of drinker's choice options out there, like the Martini known to be served in an iconic art deco "up" glass is perfectly at home on the rocks -- not the way they were supposed to be served at all.