Singapore Slings and Pineapple Dreams

I have strong feelings about the Singapore Sling. Now if your not a bar geek that probably sounds pretty absurd, but in many ways the drink changed my life. Back when I was on the radio mixing up lousy witches brews and still learning the basics of how to make a drink the show’s host requested information on this classic drink. “Simple” I thought, afterall anyone who can read can find a drink recipe nowadays. I later found out the story of this famous cocktail is quite the rabbit hole.


Born in the Raffles Hotel this is one tropical that truly came from the tropics. It’s credited to turn of the 19th century bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, however whether today’s recipe was actually his is honestly unknown. Truth be told no one ever will, the original recipe was lost long ago destroyed by a fire I believe. There’s been a lot of research on the subject. Most agree that Gin, Lime, Benedictine, and Cherry brandy are ingredients in it and there are historical references that do point to the original being pink.

A Strait's Sling from Lou's Pub in Birmingham

A Strait’s Sling from Lou’s Pub in Birmingham

Most agree to this being a relative of the Straits Sling. Though I doubt the Straits Sling is “the real” Singapore Sling, it is delicious. Made by a local master at lou’s pub they are dry, sour, herbal, with just a touch of sweetness.


Sadly I feel the Singapore Sling in it’s best form is the one that sends most cocktail Illuminati into hysterics. Something about the humble pineapple and it’s delicious juice is enough to make some cocktail fans violent. It’s as if any drink it contains is as banal and insulting as the worst 1979 disco club cocktail. Sure It’s pink, and yes it is sweet, but made properly it’s never to sweet. Homemade pomegranate syrup (grenadine) and fresh (always fresh) pineapple juice makes this drink divine. After trying all the variations and dry versions I still contend that the best of all is the one from Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh. It is this version with drastically reduced pineapple that is to me, truly Tiki. So I implore all of you cocktail lovers out there, try this version. Try it with fresh juice, homemade syrup, and an open mind. If you use fresh pineapple you really don’t even need the soda.

by Ted Haigh from his book "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails".

by Ted Haigh from his book “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails”.

Singapore Sling

2 oz gin

2 oz fresh pineapple juice

¾ oz fresh lime juice

¾ oz Cherry Heering

¼ oz Cointreau

¼ oz Benedictine

¼ oz grenadine

dash angostura bitters

½ oz soda water (optional)

Shake all the ingredients together except for the soda. And pour unstrained into a chimney glass. Top with soda and lightly stir before serving.


It has a nose of spices, clove and nutmeg. There’s a bright hint of pineapple on the nose and the palate. The drink itself is long and complex with a mild bitter finish. Sweet comes on first with cherry and pomegranate, then building into herbal spice, tropical notes, and finally a mild bittersweet finish.


I get passionate about this drink because I love it. Because if I never set out to find out what it was I wouldn’t have bought Beachbum Remixed, in which you can find this and other recipes including the history of the drink in greater detail, or any of the other books in my library. It’s because of this drink that I discovered the larger world of cocktails. I’m not going to argue history, or try to say this version is the original. To be honest I doubt it is. However if anyone orders a Singapore Sling from me this is the only version they’ll receive. Till next time…

“You get hammered America!” – JFL

About JFL

Joey or JFL as he is known by friends is a culinary trained mixologist from the Heart of Dixie Birmingham, Alabama. From a weekly column in the St. Clair News Aegis to his own experiments online JFL never stops doing work on Tiki and Cocktails. When he's not studying all things spirit, wine, and beer he's pursuing his own odd interests such as cartoons, cheesy old horror movies, horror punk, hair metal, and hockey
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