Singapore Sling

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The Singapore Sling was created at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and to this day it remains the hotel's signature drink, and it is considered a de facto national drink of Singapore.

There are many versions of Singapore Sling. Most bars nowadays serve a highly simplified version of this drink, which amounts to little more than a Tom Collins with a float of cherry brandy.

Most versions include club soda; however, the version served at the Raffles Hotel contains no club soda.

Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling


History/ Myth/ Lore of the Singapore Sling

Official Raffle's Singapore Sling Blurb, as featured on their Cocktail Menu

"The Singapore Sling was created at Raffles Hotel at the turn-of-the-century by Hainanese-Chinese bartender, Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon.

In the Hotel's museum, visitors may view the safe in which Mr. Ngiam locked away his precious recipe books, as well as the Sling recipe hastily jotted on a bar-chit in 1936 by a visitor to the Hotel who asked the waiter for it.

Originally, the Singapore Sling was meant as a woman's drink, hence the attractive pink colour. Today, it is very definitely a drink enjoyed by all, without which any visit to Raffles Hotel is incomplete."

Historical References

"The Washington Post", 6th April 1930

"...and mixed drinks from "flips of all kinds" through Singapore slings and St. Luke's rickeys to "high balls of all kinds."

According to David Herpin

This drink is believed by many to be invented by Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915 or even prior. This is not true at all. Although, the drink was extremely likely to be created at The Raffles Hotel. Here is an early printing of this drink:

The façade by Douglas Goldring in 1928

"For the rest of the voyage, he drank double whiskies with this individual and discussed the merits of a " Singapore gin-sling.""

This would mean nothing, but it is very strange that this drink appears in hundreds of publications by 1930 and none in 1927, if it was invented in 1915. Here are a few more publications legitamizing this claim:

The Alpha Xi Delta: Volume 26 by Alpha Xi Delta in 1929

"It is already dark and the scores of tiny islands around Singapore twinkle with the lights of villages and light houses ... And in order to leave nothing unfinished, the gin sling of the Raffles Hotel"

Infantry journal: Volume 36 by United States Infantry Association in 1930

"I have found that the finest drink for the tropics is a Singapore gin sling ; it just sort of embraces your soul in a gentle caress. Hong Kong ranks first in my fancy so far, though it may change later on."

There is also a large confusion over the composition of this drink, let's clear that up also. Many believe that this drink consist of cherry heering (one guess who started that rumor) and benedictine. The benedictine would make much more sense, but this is not true either. Benedictine and more specifically Benedictine & Brandy are very popular spirits in Singapore and it seems likely someone just wanted to find a drink to use B & B in, but there is no literature supporting this drink ever containing either ingredient.

There is strong evidence that this drink has always contained cherry flavored brandy as printed in these reliable publications:

Business week: Issues 2686-2694 in 1932

"And then there is the famous Raffles Hotel, where a creative bartender invented the Singapore Sling. (Mix 2 oz. Boodles British Gin, 1 oz. cherry brandy, 1 oz. lemon juice; pour over ice in a tumbler and add a splash of soda"

CIE: Volumes 50-51 by Hotel & Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, Hotel and Restaurant Employees' International Alliance and Bartenders' International League of America in 1941

"The real Singapore Sling takes cherry brandy, you'll recall. Grenadine is therefore a cheap substitute"

This drink dates between 1925 - 1928 and contained at least as of then:

Shake these ingredients:

Gin (Boodles British as early as 1938)

Cherry Brandy

Fresh Lemon Juice

Club Soda

Strain these ingredients over fresh ice in a "Singapore Sling" glass, or parfait glass (Modern)

Time Magazine, 21st February 1938

"To make the welcome as warm and damp as possible, the messes of every British ship prepared long pink rows of Singapore Gin Slings for U. S. officers.*"

"*Subject to innumerable variations, the Singapore Gin Sling is basically a Tom Collins spiked with cherry brandy."

"The Helena Independent", 11th May 1941

"SINGAPORE SLING: (3 Imported Liquors—Different Flavors)"

Time Magazine, 12th January 1942

"The officers had fallen into a routine to which they considered themselves entitled: stengahs or gin slings at the Raffles..."

"Waterloo Daily Courier", 3rd July 1949

"Dream, for example of a lovely courtyard in old Singapore, Malay attendants, white dinner jackets, lovely inscrutable ladies, coconut palms and the Hotel Raffles Gin Sling. This boon to mankind is said to consist of proper applications of dry gin, cherry brandy and Benedictine, shaken for a moment, and stirred in a bar glass, ice-chilled, filled to taste with chilled club soda and garnished with a spiral peel of a green lime."

"The Times Recorder", 14th September 1951

"The Singapore Sling is a drink. It's got gin, cherry brandy, the white of an egg and soda in it. It's red, cold and delectable. I have tried this drink and found there's nothing to it."

"Eureka Humboldt Standard", 11th May 1966

"And while we're in that neck of the woods, here is the Singapore Sling — from the noted Raffles Hotel. This is served ornamented with a spirally cut peel of lime, such as we used to enjoy in our childhood served in a glass of gingerale and called a "Horse's Neck." You need the finest, dryest gin you can obtain to make it perfectly. Also, fine cherry brandy a n d then Benedictine. At Raffles' they use equal parts, but we recommend increasing the percentage of gin to your own taste. Shake the mixture with a few ice cubes, then strain into a chilled highball glass with 1 ice cube — fill as far as you wish with chilled club soda, and decorate with the long peel."

Lethbridge Herald, 22nd April 1977

"...part of his tradition only members of his family have worked at the long bar since his uncle Ngiam Tong Boon invented the Sling there in 1915."

Press Telegram, 18th November 1977

"His name was Ngian [sic] Tong Boon and he invented the Sling in 1915, concocting it from Tanqueray gin, cherry brandy, fruit juices, bene- dictine and Cointreau."

"Syracuse Herald Journal", 20th November 1977

"His [Roberto Pregarz's] first act was to remove the neon sign over the [Raffles'] hotel entrance. He researched the original recipe for the Singapore Sling (gin, cherry brandy and sometimes Benedictine) and dug out old menus from famous occasions"

"Beachbum Berry's Grog Log," 1998

The word "sling" may have originated from the German "schlingen," which means "to swallow."

Historical Recipes

"Cocktails and How to Mix Them," Robert Vermeire, 1922

Straits Sling

(*)This well-known Singapore drink, thoroughly ice and shaken, contains :

  • 2 dashes of Orange Bitters,
  • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters,
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 1/8 gill of Bénédictine.
  • 1/8 gill of Dry Cherry Brandy
  • 1/2 gill of Gin.

Pour into a tumbler and fill up with cold soda water.

"Savoy Cocktail Book," by Harry Craddock, 1930

Singapore Sling

  • The Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1/4 Dry Gin
  • 1/2 Cherry Brandy

Shake well and strain into medium size glass, and fill with soda water. Add 1 lump of ice.

Straits Sling (6 people)

Place in a shaker 4 glasses of gin, 1 glass of Benedictine, 1 glass of Cherry Brandy, the juice of 2 Lemons, a teaspoonful of Angostura Bitters and one of Orange Bitters. Shake sufficiently and serve in large glasses, filling up with Soda Water.

Charles Baker, 1939

The original formula is 1/3 each of dry gin, cherry brandy and Benedictine; shake it for a moment, or stir in in a barglass, with 2 fairly large lumps of ice to chill. Turn into a small 10 oz highball glass with one lump of ice left in and fill up to individual taste with chilled club soda. Garnish with the spiral peel of 1 green lime. In other ports in the Orient drinkers often use C & C ginger ale instead of soda, or even stone bottle ginger beer.

Our own final improved formula calls for 2 parts dry or Tom gin, to 1 part cherry brandy and 1 part Benedictine. This is dryer, not too sweet. We also use a trifle more ice in the glass than the Raffles technique. One lump melts too quickly where we live among the coconut palms!

"Trader Vic Bartender's Guide," by Trader Vic, 1948

Raffles Hotel Sling

Shake w/cracked ice, strain into glass containing several lumps of ice; fill with chilled club soda and garnish with lime peel spiral.

Singapore Sling 1.

Squeeze lime and drop into 12 oz glass with cracked ice; add rest of ingredients and stir well; fill rest of glass with seltzer

Singapore Sling 2

Stir in 12 oz glass with cracked ice; decorate with slice of orange and sprig of mint; fill with seltzer and serve with straws

Official Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling Recipe

Garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry.

Note: At the Raffles Hotel, the gin used is Gordon's, the cherry brandy is Cherry Heering, and the grenadine is Bols.

Dale DeGroff variation

"The following is the only and real recipe for the Singapore Sling (also the best tasting). I have a fax from the head bartender sent to me at Rainbow several years ago with their original recipe...all the others whether they are in books or not are wrong AND they don't taste good! Everyone quotes Bakers version and it is wrong and doesn't taste good."

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with orange slice and cherry. Top with soda.

Beachbum Berry's Grog Log (1998)

Shake everything (except soda) with ice cubes and strain into Collins glass. Top with soda. Add ice to fill. Stir. Garnish with orange wheel and mint sprig.

Video Demonstrations on the Web

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