Not often do you have an opportunity to visit the birth place of a world-famous cocktail. So, when in Singapore, I made it my mission to drink a Singapore Sling. Invented by Ngaim Tong Boon in 1915 at the Raffles Hotel, the original recipe calls for gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine and fresh pineapple juice, plus some additional citrus, bitters, grenadine and orange liqueur. Typically, the pineapple juice comes from a variety called Sarawak pineapples, which are a bit sweeter and more flavorful than others, and add an extra frothy element to the drink when shaken hard.
Not surprisingly, the trek to the Raffles Hotel for a sling has become quite the tourist trap. If you walk into the hotel bar — called the Long Bar — right now and request a Singapore Sling, you’ll receive a heavily modified version of the original that’s pre-mixed and blended. So to taste the legitimate version, be sure to request a “real one” that’s hand made.
When I arrived at the Long Bar to order a Singapore Sling, I mentioned that I was interested in trying the original – nothing pre-batched. The reaction was actually quite welcome, and the bartender was happy to oblige — maybe even proud that I cared to taste the real thing. In addition to the original, I also sampled the Sling 125, which was the same recipe, but topped with Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve 125 yrs. That fancied things up a bit, also adding a dry effervescence to the drink. Not bad. There are a few other slings on the menu too, should you want to experiment.
The Singapore Sling itself is fruity and tropical, but nicely balanced and not too sweet. It’s easy to imagine sipping these on the beach — or anywhere, really — but doing so in the gorgeous confines of the Raffles Hotel just seemed perfect. However, the hefty price tag may keep your thirsty leanings at bay, as one will set you back about $30.
Besides experiencing the drink, the hotel itself is worth a trip. The Raffles Hotel is a stunning restoration of an 1887 colonial building (about $160 million was poured into the renovation in the early 90s). It’s one of the most amazing buildings I’ve seen — ever — and in my humble opinion, it’s a must-see stop on any trip to Singapore.