Sweet, light, and long, the sling has served as a reliable refresher since the latter parts of the 18th Century. It wasn’t until 1915, however, that this colorful combination of spirits and sweets became a global sensation. That was the year when Ngiam Tong Boon, barman at the historic Raffles Hotel, crafted his own variation, named after the city he called home.
Blending base liquor with Cointreau, Bénédectine, and tropical fruit juices, the Singapore Sling was born. It was more than just a clever name. The drink was designed to be glamorous enough so that women would feel comfortable consuming it in public. It didn’t take long for its magical charm to make its way across the English Empire, eventually landing an entry in the prestigious Savoy Cocktail Book, it’s legacy secured. It remains, today, the most popular iteration of gin and juice never directly mentioned in a Snoop Dogg song.
NEW GIN, NEW SLING
But somewhere along the way, a certain segment of drinkers soured on the Singapore Sling. By the early parts of the 21st Century, it was largely dismissed as an unserious assemblage — more flashy regional gimmick than mixer of merit. The Hurricane of Southeast Asia, if you’d like. Although the drink remained immensely popular in its homeland, particularly at the now-legendary Long Bar where it was conceived, an update was looming; a re-imagining of the Singapore Sling to fit the mold of modern mixology.
Andy Lim, Mixologist at Long Bar, Raffles Hotel / Photo Credit: Brad Japhe
A centennial celebration of the drink— along with a happy hereditary coincidence — provided the perfect opportunity.
Sipsmith, pioneer of the UK’s contemporary craft gin revival, was started by Sam Galworthy. He’s a direct descendent of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signature sling, Galworthy’s brand developed a specific bottling for the hotel that bears his ancestor’s name. Raffles 1915 Gin was the result, sourcing botanicals from the Malayan peninsula, imparting jasmine, cardamom, and threads of oolong tea. To accentuate these nuances, the Long Bar built a remodeled Sling and the results were dazzling. A spirit-forward construct, with citrus zest draped upon herbs and spices of the Far East, it rides a narrow wave between refreshment and seriousness.
HOW TO MAKE RAFFLES 1915 GIN SLING
“This drink is a classic, back to the period of original slings — which just meant spirit, bitters, and sugar syrup,” explains Andy Lim, mixologist at the Long Bar. “This is opposed to the Singapore Sling, which is basically a sort of disguised fruit punch cocktail. Since we are adding effervescence to the drink, we used the highball glass in keeping with its history. The Raffles bar has a historic, rustic charm to it, so this drink is intended to reflect the bar theme itself.”
The Raffles 1915 Gin Sling / Photo Credit: Brad Japhe
– 45ml (1.5 oz) Sipsmith Raffles 1915 Gin (Sipsmith’s Original London Dry Gin is a workable substitute)
– 15ml (½ oz) Luxardo “Sangue Morlacco” Liqueur
– 15ml (½ oz) Bénédictine D.O.M.
– 15ml (½ oz) freshly-squeezed lime juice
– 15ml (½ oz) simple syrup
– Dash of Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients above to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour in a Highball glass over ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with lime wedge.
If you want a taste of the gin itself, you’ll have to brave a lengthy voyage to the historic Raffles Hotel in the midsts of downtown Singapore — this is an exclusive release. But it’s worth consideration: there’s more than just exceptional gin cocktails to be enjoyed here. The idyllic property exists as one of the world’s great intra-urban retreats, an incomparable Sling-sipper’s sanctuary. And there’s nothing unserious about that.
Want to make your own Raffles 1915 Gin Sling? You’re going to need some gin!