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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.

Island Classics: W&Nderland Daiquiri


As far as cocktails go, it doesn’t get much simpler than the venerable daiquiri. You’ve got your rum, your lime juice, and your sugar water. In some circles, you’ve also got your strawberries, bananas, pineapples, kiwis, syrups, ice, blenders, and umbrellas, but those are circles in which I do not run. The original daiquiri is often credited to the American mining engineer, Jennings Cox, who was supposedly living in Cuba at the close of the 19th century–Americans love to take credit for things, don’t they?–though it’s just as likely that the drink existed before Cox because limes, sugar, and rum don’t exactly seem like scarcities in Cuba.

Tales of genesis aside, one thing is known for certain and that is that the Floridita Bar in Havana, Cuba, did so much for the daiquiri that it adopted the motto “la cuna del daiquiri” (the cradle, or birthplace, of the daiquiri). Indeed, one of El Floridita’s most famous patrons, Ernest Hemingway, has an eponymous version of the drink named in his honor. It is also known that President John F. Kennedy favored the daiquiri as his tipple of choice. So if you want to feel like a famous writer or a young, handsome President of the United States, you’d best start drinking daiquiris.

The main concern when mixing your own daiquiris is which rum to use. However, this is a test with no wrong answers, so it’s solely a matter of personal taste. My taste led me to mix mine with the extremely potent potable Wray & Nephew. I like how the slight overripe banana essence of Wray & Nephew compliments the sourness of the lime. And though it doesn’t taste it, this drink packs a pretty mean punch. You have been warned.

W&Nderland Daiquiri

W&Nderland Daiquiri

2 oz. Wray & Nephew
3/4 oz. Lime Juice
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
Lime wheel for garnish

Combine the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Island Classics: Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail


First of all, with a name like the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail, how could you not be entranced by this drink? Second, if you’ve ever been looking for an excuse to pick up a bottle of John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, here’s your opportunity. Speaking of falernum, if you’re not familiar with it, the girl at the register of my favorite wine and spirits shop in Baltimore says it tastes like Christmas, but oily. It’s a description I endorse and would only add that, to me, falernum smells like a cinnamon broom and tastes like a melted black gum drop. You know the ones. But I digress.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail caught my eye, as more than a handful of drinks before it, while thumbing through Dr. Cocktail’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails in search of inspiration. Like many drinks that evoke tiny tropical islands, it too is one of Trader Vic’s creations, though it predates many of his recipes considered to be in a genuine tiki style. And truth be told, being left out of the tiki category probably would have been just fine with the 30 or so gentlemen from the 20th Regiment of the British Army, who founded the real Royal Bermuda Yacht Club way back in 1844. It’s a fancy place and browsing their website, I’d wager it was not named ironically like some modern establishments I’ve visited along the banks of an EPA Superfund cleanup site.

The cocktail, like its namesake, is elegant. I found it to possess a good deal of subtlety, owing in no small measure to the falernum. I will confess to first mixing it “incorrectly” with a Jamaican rum before trying it out to spec with the Mount Gay and can say without hesitation that the Mount Gay adds more warmth and depth to the drink than I tasted with the Jamaican rum. Finally, I’m not the first–and probably won’t be the last–to wonder why this drink, despite its name, calls for a Barbados rum rather than one from Bermuda. It’s a small loose end, and while it might be interesting to know, it won’t stop me from enjoying this cocktail.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
1 oz. Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
Lime wheel for garnish

Combine the lime juice, falernum, cointreau, and rum in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Island Classics: Mai Tai


From the time I sipped a few overly sweet and garishly garnished poolside tropical mutations until I tracked down and mixed their simpler, more elegant classic antecedents for myself, I realized that somewhere along the line these drinks had been given a bad makeover. Though I didn’t bother to dig into the when or why this happened, promptly deeming it beyond my declared scope of work, I’m going to go ahead and blame it on America’s world-renowned sweet tooth, which seems to have developed sometime during the 1970s when lots of awful things were allowed to happen. Some good things were happening in the 1940s, however, when Trader Vic codified his original Mai Tai recipe, which I used as my guide for the drink that follows. Fans of the pineapple slice, maraschino cherry, dark rum float, and umbrella as adornments in their Mai Tai may be taken aback by the simplicity of a single sprig of mint as garnish, but like classics in any art form, the original can always stand on its own.

Mai Tai

Mai Tai

1 1/4 oz. Appleton Estate V/X
3/4 oz. Smith & Cross
1 oz. Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Orange Curaçao (or Clement Creole Shrubb, if you have the means)
1/2 oz. House Orgeat
Mint sprig for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine the lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat, then add the rum. If you’re experimenting with rum splits, mix those separately and taste until you’re happy with the outcome. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Island Classics: The Fog Cutter


On the subject of gambling, Kenny Rogers famously sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Riffing on that wisdom, I would say that when it comes to a cocktail, you’ve got to know when to drink it and know when to send it back. Such was the awkward position I found myself in one night at a hotel bar on the island of Kauai. The drink was the Fog Cutter and ordered, as it was, from the section of the cocktail menu offering up nostalgia (read: classic cocktails), I harbored a certain expectation, especially considering the list of ingredients. When the drink arrived, I was crushed, unlike the ice filling the stemless wine glass in which it was served. And though it did take me back, it wasn’t to the late 1940s, but rather to my undergraduate years when we considered the Screwdriver to be a cocktail.

While disappointment prevailed–and I did actually send the drink back–it got me thinking that surely there must be a “real” way to make this, not to mention a few of the other syrupy concoctions mixed at the pool bar and marketed under names I knew to be classics of the tiki/tropical genre. So when life gave me this lemon, I decided to squeeze it and mix up some classics.

Once back on the mainland, as expected I quickly unearthed some Fog Cutter recipes that would appear to yield results drastically different from the drink I’d tasted. The first came from Ted Haigh’s indispensable Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which includes recipes from tiki cocktail godfathers Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, though the jury seems to be out on who and where it was first conceived. (Named for a kind of diving knife and characterized by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry as the Long Island Iced Tea of exotic drinks, have one too many with a lady friend and you may find yourself wondering where something else was conceived.) For a second opinion, I consulted The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan, finding something of a mashup between the two originals. My final bit of research came when a friend from The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia generously offered me their spec for the drink. The recipe below follows The Franklin recipe most closely, though I tweaked the rums to my personal liking.

Fog Cutter

Fog Cutter

1 oz. Appleton Estate V/X
1 oz. Smith & Cross
1 oz. Macchu Pisco
1/2 oz. Plymouth Gin
1 oz. Lemon Juice
3/4 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. House Orgeat
1/2 oz. Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry
Mint sprig for garnish

Measure rums, pisco, gin, orgeat, and citrus juices into a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a Pilsner glass. Add crushed ice then float 1/2 oz. of cream sherry. Garnish with a mint sprig.