What Does a Singapore Sling Taste Like?

The Singapore Sling drink has an upfront fruity flavour on the tongue that is followed by a very subtle, deep earthiness. Many juice-based cocktails have a single flavour note that lingers till the finish, but the Singapore Sling is a cocktail with subtle, concealed flavours that may be found and considered with each sip.

The herbals and spices from the gin, liqueurs, and bitters become more noticeable as your palate becomes used to the fruit and sweets, decreasing the rate at which you consume it and allowing you to completely appreciate the cocktail’s subtle complexity. When you’re in the correct setting and drinking a well-made beverage, the frenetic world around you gives way to a peaceful moment of leisure—the revitalizing break that inspired the creation of the Singapore Sling in the first place.

Singapore Sling Origins

The Singapore Sling is a well-known, delectable beverage made in Singapore. This drink has solidified its status as a Singapore tradition, garnering admirers like Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling. But its precise beginnings were more mixed and churned than straight up.

Many people consider Singapore’s national drink to be the cocktail known as the Singapore Sling. However, how did thirsty ladies, colonisation, and word of mouth play a part in the invention of this delectable cocktail more than a century ago?

Imagine being the unhappy wife of a British plantation owner who owned multiple properties in Singapore in the 1920s and is typically too busy to care for you. You could use a lovely cocktail to chill down and relax with your pals because the tropical climate is oppressively humid. If you don’t mind all the judgmental looks you’ll get for drinking anything besides tea in public.

But upper-class women in Singapore had a secret: they were aware of the location of the best places to get their essential beverages (or two, or three). The Raffles Hotel was a posh setting where they could indulge without anybody noticing: a place where they could drink all day without being seen.

Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at the famous Raffles Hotel, invented the Singapore Sling, widely recognised as the country’s signature beverage, in 1915. The Singapore Sling, which primarily comprises gin, also includes pineapple, lime, curaçao, and Benedictine. Cherry liqueur and grenadine give it a lovely pink colour. The rose colour of the beverage was purposefully chosen by bartender Ngiam.

Raffles was the neighbourhood meeting place after the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, while Long Bar served as the neighbourhood bar. Men nursing gin or whiskey cups were frequently sighted. The ladies were unfortunate since social conventions prohibited them from drinking in public. Since they wanted to be modest, tea and fruit juices were their drinks of choice for them.

Ever perceptive, Ngiam saw a market need and decided to develop a drink that seems to be simple fruit juice but is infused with gin and liqueurs. Because the drink was coloured pink to give it a feminine flare and because the alcohol was clear, people were led to believe that it was a drink that was appropriate for ladies in society. The Singapore Sling was created as a result. Needless to say, it quickly became popular.

The cocktail’s fabled fame is what is more obvious about it. It was featured as the drink of desire in American writer Hunter S. Thomson’s famous 1971 novel, fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas, where the characters spent a drunken afternoon waiting for a call: “sitting there within the Polo front room — for plenty hours.” Charles Baker, the author of the 1939 drinking manual and the memoir The Gentleman’s Companion, called the Singapore Sling “a delicious, gradual-acting, insidious element.”

What is a Singapore Sling?

Atlantis’s lost metropolis is a subject everyone is familiar with. The list of lost things includes virginity, causes, Rembrandts, and more. But what about lost cocktails?

Of course, the Singapore Sling fits the bill.

With its complicated components and shady past, the Singapore Sling radiates mystery and confusion, which is only intensified by the lingering, confusing questions that come after a night of exploration.

Singapore Sling, formerly known as Gin Sling, is a gin-based drink that was created in Singapore in or around 1915 by a bartender by the name of Ngiam Tong Boon. Gin is shaken with cherry liqueur, Cointreau, grenadine, Bénédictine herbal liqueur, pineapple juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, and Angostura bitters to create the drink, which was originally made with gin, cherry brandy, orange, pineapple, and lime juice.

A pineapple wedge and a Maraschino cherry garnish the straight-up Singapore Sling that is traditionally served in a hurricane glass.

For a more low-key finish, use a cocktail umbrella and a glittering straw. Alternatively, garnish with only a cherry for a high-society feel. You make the call, and you drink.

The Singapore Sling Myth

The Singapore Sling appears to be wrapped in a sense of mystery, whether it is genuine or imagined. Even the name has a little illegal ring to it. The Singapore Sling has an exotic reputation and may be the subject of whispers in hidden places or the name of a scandalous dance that scandalized affluent suburban communities in the 1920s.

Raffles Hotel in Singapore, The Epicenter

According to many sources, bartender Ngiam Tong Boon invented this beverage precisely 100 years ago at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The cocktail formula is said to have been written down on a scrap of paper one busy evening, according to several bar tales. The Singapore Sling formula was reportedly lost because Ngiam wasn’t very good at keeping records.

This age-old drink briefly made a comeback in 1930 before disappearing again very fast. This is why there are so many recipes for this drink, most of which mention the same ingredients but vary slightly in the quantities required to achieve the most realistic flavour.

The Mysterious Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling is an excellent secret agent since it only sometimes appears in the records, and when it does, we’re not entirely sure what we’re looking at. It’s frequently appeared in cocktail novels all across the world for decades in a different woman, same clothing type of way. Eventually, it appeared that no one was aware of the original flavour of a Singapore Sling.

Amnesia was made worse with the arrival of the 1980s. The beverage was subsequently, like so many other things, distorted and debased, becoming as unpleasant and bland as the majority of the pop song drum samples from this awful decade.

The Return of the Singapore Sling

Thankfully, a Singapore Sling recipe that is historically authentic has been saved from oblivion. It is extremely doable to make this pleasant drink at home thanks to mixological detective work and the high-quality components that are commonly available nowadays.

I’ll start by saying that making a Singapore Sling is probably not something you’ll do on a whim. It needs some overhead, not to mention a well-stocked bar, and is best savoured on a special occasion with a friend, significant other, or fellow alchemist.

Ingredients of a Singapore Sling

Want to create a Singapore Sling at home? This cocktail is a prime example of a beverage with a complicated history; there are several variations that each claim to be the original.

Why should you master the Singapore Sling recipe?

In many respects, the Singapore Sling captures the evolution of mixology itself, making it a vital cocktail for beginner mixologists to learn to produce. The Singapore Sling is defined by the general outline of flavours and the function it was created to serve, such as providing drinkers with a short-term bit of relief from Singapore’s oppressively hot and humid climate. There isn’t a single agreed-upon definitive original recipe, so the drink is instead defined by its general flavour profile.

The majority of variations allow the home mixologist to explore the diverse family of cherry brandies and liqueurs while giving them a justification to include DOM Benedictine, a classic historic herbal liqueur, in their palette of flavours. Whatever variation of the beverage you decide to create, the experience that results should be long-lasting, leisurely, and cooling, like a time in the shade with the wind.

The Basic Ingredients

The majority or all of the following components are used in the majority of Singapore Sling recipes:

Gin

Fresh lime or lemon juice

Herbal and fruit liqueurs

Grenadine

Bitters

Keeping the components of the drink in balance

The interaction between acids and sugars is crucial to the harmony of flavours in this cocktail, as it is in many others. The following are the essential components:

  • The pineapple juice is rich in fructose, a fruit sugar that provides a long-lasting sweetness as opposed to the initially harsh sweetness of sugar cane and corn syrup.
  • The cherry and Benedictine liqueurs are sweetened with sugar (as is grenadine)
  • Citric acid: Citric acid from limes (and, if utilized, pineapple) gives food a strong flavour.
  • Malic acid: Unlike lemon juice, which includes nearly exclusively citric acid, limes have a more nuanced mix of acids. Malic acid, for example, contributes a persistent acidity that helps balance the sweetness of the flavours.
  • Astringent Tannins – The herbal liqueur, triple sec, gin, and bitters (as well as some higher-quality grenadines) contain astringent tannins that give the Singapore Sling its distinctive flavour. These tannins also give the drink an extra dimension between the perceived tartness of the acids and the sweetness of the sugars.

The Flavour Experience

Together, the citric acid from the fruit juices and the sugar from the liqueurs give the beverage its initial sour and sweet flavour, which rapidly wears off. Fructose from the pineapple and malic acid from the lime is still present.

While bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapples, essentially cleans your tongue of a tiny layer of flesh and the sugars associated with it, leaving your palate free of the sweet and sour sensations that once predominated it.

The mouthfeel is first made lighter by the air bubbles added to the combination by shaking it, but when the ice melts in the glass and further dilutes the drink, those bubbles disappear and the components’ intensities decrease. Until the light’s last pull washes away everything that came before, all the tastes become progressively less noticeable.

The Presentation

The primary source of the drink’s pink hue is the usage of cherry liqueurs; Cherry Heering is one of the most popular, but other varieties may be added to provide a variety of flavours and hues. The addition of grenadine also helps to produce a deep, rich colour.

Recipes and How-To Guides

Beginner Recipe 1

The Simple Singapore Sling (Without Benedictine)

The Savoy Cocktail Book, the seminal 1930 publication by Henry Craddock, has one of the earliest recorded recipes for a drink known as a “Singapore Sling.” This variation makes learning how to make the Singapore Sling easier for beginners because it doesn’t call for DOM Benedictine. Many claims that Craddock’s recipe for the “Straits Sling,” which contains DOM Benedictine, is the real heir of the contemporary Singapore Sling.

In some ways, Craddock’s Singapore Sling adheres to the traditional meaning of the pre-cocktail era’s archaic “sling,” which was merely a spirit that had been sweetened with sugar and diluted with water. But in this instance, Craddock demonstrates the sling’s transition to a cocktail, using a liqueur as the primary alcoholic component and sweetener, along with a dash of lemon juice.

The Ingredients:

Quantity Ingredient

1 ½ part Cherry Liqueur (e.g. – Heering)

¾  portion Gin

½ of a lemon juice

1 ½ part Soda Water

The Procedure:

  • Fill your little shaker tin with all of the contents.
  • Ice ought to be put in your big shaker.
  • Fill the ice with your ingredients.
  • When the huge bottom tin feels uncomfortable to the touch, combine your tiny tin with the larger one and shake the beverage.
  • Ice and soda water should be prepared in a collins glass (adding the soda water first avoids separation of the drink)
  • Fill the Collins glass with the beverage using a hawthorn strainer.

The result:

This particular variation of the beverage may be compared to an alcoholic cherry lemonade. Due to the limited amount of lemon juice and its dilution with soda water, none of the components stand out strongly. Instead, you get a very mellow, pleasant cocktail with only a trace of gin’s botanical flavouring to balance the tart lemon and sweet cherry flavours.

Intermediate Recipe 2

The sling of Singapore, 1913

The following simple Singapore Sling recipe omits the use of DOM Benedictine, but in reality, this herbal liqueur is a must-have to give a Singapore Sling its distinctive flavour. You can notice the additional depth that is brought to the beverage’s flavour in this following recipe, which presents it as an ingredient.

The recipe below is based on a 1913 Singapore Weekly Sun article that mentions “a fairly nice Sling,” which included “one cherry brandy, one Domb (i.e., D.O.M. Bénédictine), one gin, one lime juice, some ice and (soda) water, (and) a few dashes of bitters.”

The Ingredients:

Quantity Ingredient

1 part Gin

1 part Cherry Liqueur (e.g. – Heering)

1 component DOM Benedictine

1 part lime juice

1 dash of Angostura bitters

1 part soda water to 2 parts soda (for topping up)

The Procedure:

  • A tiny shaker tin should contain all the ingredients.
  • Ice ought to be put in your big shaker.
  • Fill the ice with your ingredients.
  • When the huge bottom tin feels uncomfortable to the touch, combine your tiny tin with the larger one and shake the beverage.
  • Ice and soda water should be prepared in a collins glass (adding the soda water first avoids separation of the drink)
  • Put the beverage in a Collins glass using a hawthorn strainer.
  • An apple slice and a cherry are used as a garnish (optional)

The result:

The sharpness is increased by switching lime juice to lemon juice. Since DOM Benedictine makes up a sizable portion of this recipe, the flavour is fairly noticeable. Another dimension is provided by the Angostura bitters.

Advanced Recipe 3

The Singapore Sling, according to the International Bartenders’ Association

The following recipe was served at The Raffles Hotel (the self-declared birthplace of the Singapore Sling) until 2018, which is probably why the IBA adopted it. Given the ingredients available and the culture at the time, this rendition is undoubtedly substantially different from what the original must have been over a century ago. Nevertheless, tourists have gone to this bar for decades to sample its modern fruity concoctions as a standalone tourist attraction.

This dish was promoted by The Raffles on menus and other materials seen throughout the hotel.

Additionally, note that there is no additional club soda, totally removing the beverage from its “sling” roots.

The Ingredients:

Quantity Ingredient

1 1/2 parts Gin

Cherry Heering brandy, half apart

1/4 cup Cointreau

14-part Benedictine DOM

Pineapple juice, 4 parts

Fresh lime juice in half

Grenadine in thirds

Angostura Bitters, 1 dash

The Procedure:

  • In a small shaker tin, combine all the ingredients except the grenadine.
  • Ice should be added to your big shaker.
  • Mixtures should be poured over the ice.
  • Shake the cocktail until the huge bottom tin is painfully cold to the touch after combining your tiny and large tins.
  • Pour everything into an ice-filled Collins glass using a hawthorn strainer.
  • Add a pineapple slice and a maraschino cherry as a garnish.

The result:

This version resembles a boozy fruit punch in many respects since the Benedictine has been reduced and Cointreau added, which increases the fruit flavour while lowering the herbal character. Depending on the quality, the grenadine turns it pink and increases the fructose and/or sugar. Overall, this variant could be a little too sweet and lack complexity for some palates, but it is a pleasant, refreshing fruity drink that is appropriate for crowds of tourists seeking a good time.

With this variation, the pineapple juice replaces some of the soda from the original recipe and provides a fresh sweetness and mouthfeel, leaving the drink’s core less diluted. When shaken, the pineapple also gives the beverage a unique “ead.”

Expert Recipe 4

The Singapore Sling from the Bar Cabinet:

A drier, better-balanced Singapore Sling was introduced in 2018 by The Raffles Hotel. The components themselves were altered, not the drink’s ratios. They’ve moved to Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco Liqueur, which we utilize in our final and advised version of the beverage, in place of Cherry Heering.

Additionally, we decided to use both angostura and orange bitters instead of soda and pineapple juice. The Angostura bitters may be put on top of the pineapple head and arranged in attractive patterns.

The Ingredients:

Quantity Ingredient

1 1/2 parts Dry Gin

A half-part of Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco Liqueur

One-half of a DOM Benedictine

One component of pineapple juice (not from concentrate)

Juice from one fresh lime

1 drop of orange bitters

Add 1 dash of Angostura bitters

The Procedure:

  • A tiny shaker tin should contain all the ingredients.
  • Ice ought to be put in your big shaker.
  • Fill the ice with your ingredients.
  • The huge bottom tin should feel uncomfortable to the touch when you combine your small and large tins and shake the beverage.
  • Put everything into a Collins glass with ice and strain it through a hawthorn.
  • The grenadine should be placed on top.
  • Put a cherry Luxardo and a piece of pineapple on top as garnish.

The result:

A rich underlying taste is created by the combination of the DOM Benedictine’s herbal ingredients, bitters, and gin’s botanicals. For consumers seeking an upgraded cocktail, the less sweet flavour of the Luxardo Murlacco creates a fresh balance to the acidity of the fruit juices.

While Raffles is considered the spiritual home of the Singapore Sling, you may like to try more than one by visiting any of the best cocktail bars in Singapore.

What Does a Singapore Sling Taste Like?
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Evelyn Ng

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