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Time travel, in the metaphorical sense, is not difficult when one enters the most historic hotel in Singapore. The air of Old World grandeur is overwhelming in the best way possible at Raffles Singapore, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by doormen dressed to the nines in an iconic and ornate uniform (they are, unsurprisingly, the most photographed staff on property). The architecture, interior spaces, and courtyards are striking in their understated elegance, fresh off a 2019 renovation that has at once restored the hotel's historic charm while freshening up every element. The property teems with legacy and style, from the lush palm-lined exteriors to the sophisticated suite parlors and fashionable new bars.
One celebrated part of the hotel's legacy can be found at the Long Bar, where the infamous Singapore Sling was concocted. It was here, surrounded by shelled peanuts and jazz last summer where I learned from the hotel's resident historian, Leslie Danker, about Long Bar's history—and the stealthy creation of the Singapore Sling in the early 20th century. This month, I caught up with Danker to revisit the history of this storied cocktail.
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It all began at Raffles at the turn of the 20th century, with an innovative bartender named Ngiam Tong Boon. "Following the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, Raffles was the gathering place for the community—and Long Bar was the watering hole. It was common to see gentlemen nursing glasses of gin or whisky," said Danker.
However, in 1915, women were not permitted to drink alcohol. So while men sipped on their spirit of choice, women were often seen drinking delicate fruit juices and teas.
"Ever insightful, Ngiam saw a niche in the market and decided to create a cocktail that looks like plain fruit juice but is actually infused with gin and liqueurs," explained Danker. "The clever bartender made the beverage pink to give it a feminine flair which, together with the use of clear alcohol, led people to think it was a socially acceptable drink for women. With that, the Singapore Sling was born."
Distinctly fruit-forward with a base of gin and grenadine, this cocktail is perfect for the warm weather season. Lucky for all of us, we've got the recipe right here. Below, Danker provides us with the exclusive Long Bar recipe and instructions for how to make this refreshing cocktail yourself—and we recommend where to find the very best Singapore Slings around town.
The Raffles Singapore Sling Recipe
• 30ml Widges Dry Gin
• 10ml DOM Bénédictine
• 10ml Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
• 10ml Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco
• 10ml Crawley’s Singapore Sling Grenadine
• A dash of Scrappy’s Spice Plantation Bitters
• 22.5ml Fresh Lime Juice
• 60ml Fresh Pineapple Juice
1. Chill a 12oz glass of with ice.
2. Combine all ingredients into a shaker with lots of ice.
3. Cap your shaker and give it a good vigorous shake for about 12 seconds.
4. Strain the cocktail into your chilled glass.
5. Garnish with a skewer of cherry and pineapple wedge
Recipe courtesy of Long Bar at Raffles Singapore.
Where to Order a Singapore Sling in Singapore
Nutmeg & Clove: The Singapore Sling at Nutmeg & Clove is aged for a month in an oak barrel, giving it a pleasingly bitter flavor compared to its predecessor. Their recipe includes hibiscus-infused gin, Benedictine DOM and berry syrup. The final cocktail is presented in a traditional porcelain tea cup sitting in a rattan trishaw.
Smoke & Mirrors: On top of Singapore's National Gallery is Smoke & Mirrors, looking out over the Padang and Marina Bay Sands in the distance. Smoke & Mirrors hosts an array of cocktails including the Old & New Sling, a reworked version of the original using rye whisky and cassis liqueur in the place of gin and paired with the original ingredients of orange and pineapple juice.
Bitters & Love: Bitters & Love offers the option of custom-made or off-the-menu cocktails. From the menu, try out their version of the Sling, the Singapura Love, for something adorable and fruity. The bartenders here amp up the fruity flavor with a geranium gin, and the cocktail is served in a vintage traditional cup.
Post Bar: On the menu at Post Bar is The Fullerton Sling Collection, offering several interpretations on the classic cocktail. There are eight variations in all, including the Gold Sling, which adds Goldschläger and cinnamon schnapps with gold flakes to the traditional recipe.
Junior: The bar has not just one, but two, Slings on its menu. The more traditional version ($25) is crafted with Ford’s Gin, Benedictine, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco Cherry Brandy and dry Curacao. Then there’s the Farquhar’s Sling ($25), a more rebellious representation, fueled with Plantation pineapple rum, homemade tepache and topped with champagne for an effervescent finish.