Welcome to Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Special, The Singapore Sling!
Greetings! I'm Hooper, your bartender. Hold on to your paper umbrellas, folks. We're going hard core tiki. How hard core? Try turn of the century, gin based, what-is-that-weird-liquor hard core. Here's my take on the Singapore Sling. Recipe's below.
2 oz. soda water
1 ½ oz. Beefeater gin
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. Demerara syrup
½ oz. Heering Cherry liquor
¼ oz. Grand Marnier
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Add the soda water to the bottom of a highball glass. Add the rest of the ingredients to your mixing glass. Shake, strain, and pour on top of the soda water. Gently add ice to the glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wedge topped with a paper umbrella.
This is an old, old cocktail in the tiki bible; it predates Trader Vic's first menu. We're pretty sure that it was first crafted by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Chinese-born bartender who made the drink sometime before 1915. This recipe is inspired by Martin and Rebecca Cate's version from The Smuggler's Cove - my favorite cocktail book ever. If you like tiki, you absolutely must read this book. This is the book that made me a bartender. It is absolutely worth your time.
I love how this cocktail balances herbal, sour, and sweet elements to make an amazing drink. It's complex in the same way a shot of bourbon or a glass of wine is complex. There are layers, and grace notes, and a lingering finish. It's a wild ride. I realize that this one's a lot more work than most of my prior recipes. You might buy a bottle or two that will gather dust. But it's so worth it.
Ingredient shot. You know it's a tiki drink when the ingredients don't all fit into the photo.
On to the ingredients:
Soda water: The seltzer brand is pretty irrelevant here, but the technique for building the cocktail matters. Don't use more than 2 ounces of soda water. Put the seltzer the drinking cup first. Pour the cocktail over the seltzer – if you need to, swirl the cup a little to make sure everything blends. Then add ice to the glass. The soda water is an ingredient, not a filler. Add too much, and it over-dilutes the cocktail and kills the sweetness.
Beefeater gin: I picked a classic London dry gin that Ngiam Tong Boon would have used at the turn of the century. Beefeater's been around since 1863, so it's a safe bet. Using a "modern" London dry gin, such as Ford's or Plymouth, would also be a solid option. There's a lot of things going on in this glass, though. A premium gin might get lost in the cocktail.
Fresh lemon juice: A proper citrus juicer is vital here. Lemon seeds and pulp are no fun in your glass, and a reamer doesn't catch all the extra bits like a juicer does.
Demerara syrup: This is, far and away, my favorite cocktail syrup. There's always a bottle of it kicking around my fridge. The caramel notes anchor the cocktail and give the herbal notes something to stand on. It's easy to make: 1 part sugar, 1 part Sugar in the Raw, 1 part water. Heat until all the sugar melts. Nice and easy. It's a killer way to sweeten your morning coffee, too.
Heering Cherry liquor: Okay, this is the tricky one. When you open this bottle and smell it, the first thought in your head will be, "I just bought a huge bottle of cherry cough syrup." It is not even remotely tasty or drinkable neat.
However, before you question my sanity, add a little Coca-Cola and taste it again — just as an experiment. It becomes far more approachable. The flavors bloom. The thick syrup unpacks and stops being cloying. Heering is basically a concentrate, meant to sail from Copenhagen to Singapore and be diluted at its destination. As a secondary ingredient, it totally makes this drink — the herbal, cherry, and sweet notes define a Singapore Sling.
Grand Marnier: Usually a Singapore Sling uses Benedictine, but I like Grand Marnier as an option. If you have Benedictine rattling around in your liquor cabinet, by all means give it a try.
Angostura and orange bitters: Bitters are the glue that hold great cocktails together. They're intensely herbaceous and bitter. Just a few drops make a noisy, clashing cocktail settle down and smooth out. I like Hella Bitters, but the classic Angostura bitters are easy to find and work great here.
Garnishes: The mint sprig is important here. Smelling the mint while you drink the cocktail brightens and perks up the drink. Smack the mint leaves a few times before tossing them on top of the cocktail to release the oils.
There's no good way to make a non-alcoholic Singapore Sling, but some tart cherry juice, lemon juice, and demerara syrup get you in the right neighborhood. Mint gives us some bright herbal notes to round things out. I decided to name this one the Maris Stella, after a convent in Singapore — this is a "virtuous" Singapore Sling, after all. Tart cherry juice is pricey but worth it — I used LakewoodOrganic juice.
Lemon lime soda (Sprite, Squirt, 7-Up)
4 oz. Tart cherry juice
2 oz. Fresh lemon juice
2 oz. Demerara syrup
Shake and strain into a highball glass. Top with lemon lime soda. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Got any questions? Feel free to e-mail me, or visit me at Tiki Underground in Hudson, Ohio. I'll be happy to help. Please don't forget to tip your bartender — donate to Wonkette at the link below. Also, if you want to buy a copy of Smuggler's Cove, or a citrus juicer, or some tart cherry juice, please use this link.