Singapore Sling turns 100

Raffles Singapore, where the drink was created, has masterclasses and a cake to celebrate milestone

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The Singapore Sling (right), that iconic drink that put the island republic on the world stage, celebrates its 100th anniversary next month.

The pink gin-based cocktail, which was created by Hainanese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon while he was working at Raffles Singapore hotel a century ago, is a popular beverage served in bars around the world, from New York to Tokyo.

For the Sling's centennial anniversary, the Raffles Singapore is holding Singapore Sling masterclasses, where bartenders at the hotel's iconic Long Bar will reveal the secret behind their version of the drink, which has remained unchanged since 1915.

The hotel has also introduced a SlingaPore cake, a pink lime sponge with pineapple mousse, cherry jelly and Singapore Sling marmalade, which is sold at Ah Teng's Bakery.

Both the masterclasses and SlingaPore cake are available till the end of the year.

Although some media reports say the Sling was created as early as 1913, Raffles Singapore says the cocktail was developed by Ngiam in 1915. The drink was originally named the Singapore Gin Sling and is a variation of the classic gin sling cocktail, which mixes gin, fruit brandy, lemon juice and soda water.

The hotel's restaurant and bar operations manager Randolph Velasco, 32, says: "Ngiam actually made the drink specifically for women of that era because it was not proper for them to be seen drinking an alcoholic beverage.

"He solved this problem by making the tipple look like a fruit juice with the use of pineapple and lime juices, which makes the drink very easy on the palate."

The Singapore Sling, which sells for $29++ at the bar, has London Dry Gin, cherry brandy, DOM Benedictine, Cointreau, grenadine, bottled pineapple and lime juices, a dash of Angostura bitters and is garnished with a pineapple slice and a maraschino cherry. The cherry brandy gives the cocktail its bright pink colour.

Mr Velasco says the Long Bar serves a "healthy number" of Slings daily, but declines to say how many.

If you do not wish to try the Singapore Sling, there is always Ngiam's other famous cocktail - The Million Dollar Cocktail (gin, sweet and dry vermouth, pineapple juice, egg white and a dash of Angostura bitters).

Mr Leslie Danker, 75, resident historian of Raffles Singapore, says the drink gained notoriety when it was featured in one of author Somerset Maugham's barside tales, The Letter (1926). It was based on a real-life scandal involving the wife of the headmaster of a school in Kuala Lumpur who was convicted after fatally shooting a male friend. She was eventually pardoned.

He says: "Raffles Hotel has immortalised one of Maugham's great stories by continuing to serve the tangy, bittersweet creation to her patrons."

melk@sph.com.sg

Singapore Sling masterclasses will be conducted in groups of five at $88++ a person, with a minimum of 10 people. For groups of fewer than 10, a minimum spend of $880++ is required. Bookings are to be made three days in advance. Call 6412-1816 or e-mail dining.singapore@raffles.com

The SlingaPore is available at Ah Teng's Bakery at $6++ a slice or $48++ for a whole cake and at Raffles Grill as an a la carte dessert at $18++.