There are nearly as many recipes for a Singapore Sling as there are people living in Singapore. I’ve made them many different ways over the years (this is one that’s in regular rotation), and they’ve always been good; however, the final recipe listed here makes for an exceptional beverage – one of the very, very best, in fact.
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry gives a good history of the drink in Beachbum Berry Remixed; another good bit of the drink’s history comes from David Wondrich’s piece in Imbibe magazine; finally, this New York Times article from 1982 sheds further light on the drink. And Ted Haigh, aka. Dr. Cocktail, suggests the Singapore Sling is probably a bastardization of the still-older Straits Sling, courtesy of a mistranslation that altered Kirschwasser, a very dry cherry eau-de-vie, into cherry brandy, a much sweeter beast.
Whatever the origins, and whatever the “true” recipe, the Singapore Sling is a winner. It’s perfect on a hot afternoon or evening, and just as good in the winter, when it can transport you to someplace warmer.
Just to give you some picture of the variety of recipes that one will find for this drink, I’ll share a few with you. My first encounter with the Singapore Sling came from a book called Vintage Cocktails, which was my first foray into classic mixology, although it has since proven not entirely reliable as far as its history goes. The recipe therein is relatively simple:
1 oz. gin
1 oz. cherry brandy
1 oz. Benedictine
The peel of one lime (green part only, no pith – ideally in a continuous spiral, and good luck with that)
Shake or stir the liquors together, pour into a collins or highball glass with several ice cubes, top with club soda, and add the lime peel.
In truth, this one didn’t make a big impact on me at the time; I probably made it two or three times and promptly forgot about it.
Then came this recipe:
1 oz. gin
2 oz. sour mix
1/2-3/4 oz. grenadine
Dash of cherry brandy
Shake the gin, grenadine, and sour mix, pour into an ice-filled collins glass, fill with soda, and float the cherry brandy.
Before I knew any better, sour mix (or sweet and sour) was a common ingredient around the home bar. Now I won’t touch the stuff, and you shouldn’t either. It’s an artificially flavored mess of corn syrup, and nothing but a lazy substitute for fresh-squeezed juices. If you have any, throw it out. You won’t miss it. I used to make these in a huge glass, tripling everything. I loved it, although I can’t imagine drinking it now. It’s syrupy-sweet, especially as you get deeper into the drink and the club soda tends to have already been consumed.
Berry provides several more recipes in his book, with different dates and provenances. The best, in my opinion, although not Berry’s, comes by way of Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, and is his rejiggering of what the Raffles Hotel, in Singapore and where the drink was invented c. 1915, has served since the 1970s. This is the one to use:
2 oz. gin
2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. Benedictine
1/4 oz. grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
1/2 oz. club soda (or a bit more to taste)
Combine everything but the club soda in a shaker with ice; shake vigorously and strain into a ice-filled collins glass. Add soda and a cherry (and once again, I cannot recommend Tillen Farms cherries any higher – they are absurdly good!)
There’s the finished product. It looks nearly as nice as it tastes, and it tastes wonderful. Five livers with this recipe – I wouldn’t recommend the others listed here, although if you want to try Berry’s favorite version, get his book. This one is a bit more involved than the others, but well worth the trouble. And definitely do not substitute a lesser cherry brandy for the Heering, which should, if it’s not already, be a staple of your bar.