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Island Classics: Singapore Sling


What separates the Singapore Sling from other island classics is that it uses gin as its base spirit rather than rum. Also, unlike many of its rum-based counterparts, there is absolutely no question or disagreement about where this drink came from or who dreamt it up. That distinction goes to a fellow by the name of Ngiam Tong Boon, a barkeep at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in, you guessed it, Singapore. He purportedly created the concoction around 1915 upon receiving a challenge from a British Colonial for something not only delectable, but befitting of the lovely women of Singapore as well. Or at least that’s the history touted on the website that also designates the drink as Singapore’s national cocktail.

Given the length of the ingredients list, you can almost forgive the Raffles Hotel for having created a special “mix” to handle the large volume of orders they are surely asked to fill. Almost. At home, though, you’re not likely under that kind of pressure so it’s good to view the extra prep time as a minor inconvenience on your way to making a completely captivating cocktail. That’s my opinion, at least.

Personally, I’m not one for sweets. I eschew candy and though I occasionally indulge in chocolate, I prefer the dark variety. I bring this up because it would be easy to look at the spec for this drink–with its pineapple, cherry, and grenadine–and jump to the conclusion that if you’re not into sweet, you should skip this one. However, that’s not the case, as the cherry brandy and Bénédictine hold their own and the lime adds just enough sour to balance the sweeter flavors. And if you make your own grenadine–1:1 POM pomegranate juice to superfine sugar–you’ll be doing even better. This recipe comes straight out of Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book though I include a mint sprig as an additional garnish for an extra splash of color.

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling
as seen in Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book

2 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 oz. Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1/2 oz. House Grenadine
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. Bénédictine
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Cherry, Mint sprig, and Pineapple Slice for garnish

Combine pineapple juice, gin, cherry Heering, Cointreau, Bénédictine, lime juice, and bitters in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry, mint sprig, and slice of pineapple.

DIY: Housemade Bitters and the Wonderland White Manhattan


I tossed “how to make your own house bitters” into Google’s search engine so many times, I’m no longer sure where the original impulse came from. Given my love for odd ingredients, science experiment-like kitchen activity, and small jars, however, it’s not difficult to see why the fascination stuck. After combing through some online instruction, this recipe published in Food + Wine (and contributed by Brad Thomas Parsons, the man who literally wrote the book on bitters) seemed a manageable place to wade into the pond.

Recipe selected, it was time to go shopping! I don’t know about your kitchen, but my pantry wasn’t already stocked with devil’s club root and wild cherry bark. Online retailers such as the Dandelion Botanical Company, however, were ready to outfit me. I must admit feeling a certain “earth mama meets wicked witch” vibe while scanning the shop’s inventory and selecting my poisons, er, I mean, herbs. I also ordered a copy of Parsons book for good measure. I could already feel that this was going to be habit forming.

bitters ingredients

Bitters Making

Once I received my collection of small ziplock baggies filled with various dried leaves and twigs, I measured out all the required bitters-making ingredients into a jar and had it all made up in a manner of minutes. The most difficult part of the recipe was the waiting–in total, the process takes a little over two weeks–and remembering to shake the mixture each evening. (In the end, B set a recurring alarm for us on his phone.)

As time wore on, there was some required straining and boiling, but mostly more waiting. Eventually the time arrived to add the final bit of maple syrup and bottle this concoction. For want of small bottles, it was time to go shopping again! (Now, shopping is not normally an activity I enjoy, but in the virtual aisles of Specialty Bottle, I think I began to understand how most women must feel in shoe stores.)

Bitters Bottles

Admittedly, now as I read through recipes for such interesting things as Rhubarb Bitters, I see that my autumnal-toned bitters may have been a little heavy for the season. Indeed, its warm and rich taste profile is well matched to bourbon and rye and apple pie. I was not about to wait for the falling leaves before using it, however, so Wonderland Mixologist Brian Sacawa designed us a drink to imbibe in the meantime.

Housemade Bitters and the White Manhattan

Wonderland White Manhattan

2 oz. Catoctin Creek Organic Mosby’s Spirit
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. bénédictine
2 dashes Woodland Bitters

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and measure in all the liquid ingredients. Stir, don’t shake, the drink and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cherry.

Housemade Bitters and the White Manhattan