Two Singapore Slings surrounded by orange slices and garnished with an orange wedge and cherry

Blogs & Inspiration

Singapore Sling: Story Behind The Cocktail

The Singapore Sling has become a classic on cocktail menus across the world and a firm favourite among customers.

Authors: Tom Wood, Spirits Division Manager at Northeast Wines & Spirits 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 

Origin of the Sling

There’s a sense of mystery around the Singapore Sling cocktail, not only for its unconfirmed origins but also for its indistinct ingredients.  

What we do know is the ruby-coloured cocktail can be attributed to Ngiam Tong Boon, bartender at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which back in the day, was renowned for making the best ‘gin sling’ in town.  

Even the name of the drink is dubious. It’s referred to by some as the ‘Straits Sling’ because Singapore was grouped with Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements in 1836. But over time, Singapore gradually became synonymous with the drink’s rising popularity, so the ‘Singapore Sling’ name eventually took over.

What’s in a Sling?

When the Singapore Sling first appeared on a cocktail menu somewhere between 1900 and 1915, the ingredients were gin, lemon or lime juice, ice, soda water and most likely cherry brandy and Benedictine. Some even say it included red wine - a fact which remains unconfirmed to this day!

Unfortunately, the indecision surrounding the cocktail's recipe meant that the Singapore Sling was never left with an exact formula of ingredients, leaving it up to the interpretation of the bartender.

Bars today start with what is loosely understood to be the original ingredients, and add pineapple juice, cherry brandy, Cointreau, Bénédictine, grenadine and a couple of dashes of bitters - until they find their own balance.

Key Takeaways

  • The Singapore Sling has become a classic on cocktail menus across the world 
  • Despite its fame, the exact details of its origin, name and original ingredients are still debated. 
  • It was created by Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, where the drink rose to popularity.  
  • Bartenders often create their own interpretations of the Singapore Sling based on the assumed original ingredients – meaning there’s lots of unique takes on the classic.

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