Singapore Slings are now served across the globe. But which is best right here in the place where they were invented? We sent our Expat Living Review Crew to find out which bars were doing us proud!
There’s no cocktail more closely associated with the Lion City than the iconic Singapore Sling. And what a backstory it has! Back in 1915, when Singapore was a British colony, it was considered improper for a woman to drink alcohol in public. This meant men would sit drinking their cocktails on the veranda of Raffles Hotel, while the women returned to their rooms.
So, a bartender working in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel – a young man named Ngiam Tong Boon – decided to create a special cocktail just for the ladies, one that would hide the fact the women were drinking alcohol. The classic drink looked more like a fruit punch than a potent alcoholic cocktail. How subversive! It was a win-win for everybody, including the bar, which found itself a new revenue stream.
We went on a boozy tour of five Singapore venues – starting with the drink’s spiritual home – to see who offers the superior Sling…
Raffles Hotel 1 Beach Road
To be honest, we all expected this place to be a bit of a tourist trap, and the drinks to suffer as a result. I mean, is any cocktail priced at $33 (plus the usual GST and service charge of bars!) that comes in a slightly smallish glass worth it?
Turns out, it is. Our whole Crew was pleasantly surprised that this iconic cocktail had such a “nice, balanced flavour” and that it “packed a good punch”. One member loved how “the Benedictine shines through” and appreciated the “spicy cinnamon/ cardamom flavour”. Another called it “the perfect ‘winter’ drink for the Equator”.
Bartenders at the Long Bar still use the original recipe, except all the ingredients have now been upgraded, with a few specifically crafted just for the hotel. Be forewarned, though: there’s usually a line waiting to get into the recently-renovated bar, which has giant fans on the ceiling and peanut shells all over the floor. After all, they usually sell around a thousand Slings a day! Each drink is handmade, so to handle the demand, a special machine is used that can shake as many as 18 cocktails in one go.
Smoke & Mirrors
National Gallery 1 St Andrew’s Road
This sexy bar sits on top of the National Gallery with to-die-for views of Marina Bay. “It’s one of the most romantic spots in Singapore,” commented a Crew member. Unfortunately, the bar’s Singapore Sling ($28) doesn’t match the ambience. We loved that they served the drinks with metal straws, but the stuff we slurped up into those straws was “very syrupy” and “tasted like cough syrup”. Or, to put it another way: “This was like a cocktail I’d make myself at home.”
The verdict? Go for the views and order something else.
Fullerton Hotel 1 Fullerton Square
This bar in the Fullerton Hotel has a lovely glow about it. Even the tables glow! And so will you when you see the Singapore Sling prices: $15 per glass during Happy Hour, which runs from Monday to Friday, from 5 to 8pm, and Saturday from 5pm to midnight. These were definitely the least expensive cocktails of the night. (Outside of Happy Hour, the drink is $24.)
The bartenders at Post used thyme-infused gin and the drink was “quite refreshing” but it also tasted “like it doesn’t have much alcohol”. We all agreed it would be great for a hot Singapore day, but it didn’t feel like a real Sling – more of a fruit punch. Here’s a tip: Eat a bit of the sprig of thyme served as a decoration and the drink gets even nicer.
Nutmeg & Clove
10 Ann Siang Hill
If you didn’t know where it was, you might never find this second-storey bar – and what a shame that would be. “Love the 1920s Prohibition feel to it.” They serve two versions of Slings here, starting with the very traditional Singapore Sling ($19), which was a bit fruity, but refreshing. The Slinging Lion ($22), meanwhile, uses pineapple-infused Hendricks gin, aged for two weeks in a charred oak barrel; this gave it a “definite tea flavour”, even though there’s no tea in it. We all thought the drink was yummy, but that it tasted nothing like a classic Sling. One thing that made this stop even more special? The drinks are served in the world’s cutest glasses. One comes in a little rickshaw and another in a Merlion mug.
73 Amoy Street, Second Floor
This joint located behind a massive old door is another speakeasy kind of place: “A nice venue that reminds me of an old opium den.” They don’t put regular cocktails on the menu and the waiter told us that the recipe varies by bartender. We must have hit a good night. Our $26 Slings were served in cute elephant mugs with sprigs of mint, dried grapefruit and metal straws. It had a “classic sling taste with a nice orange aftertaste” and was “quite refreshing”. After five cocktails, we also thought it was time to grab some snacks; the bar food here is yummy with a twist, and priced really well. “I think this drink is great,” said one of our Crew, “and considering the price and the atmosphere, I’ll definitely be coming back.
Singapore Sling – Raffles Original Recipe
• 30ml gin
• 15ml cherry brandy
• 7.5ml Benedictine DOM
• 7.5ml Cointreau
• 120ml pineapple juice
• 15ml lime juice
• Dash of Angostura Bitters
• 10ml Grenadine
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