Mother of the Singapore Sling?
Most people have heard of the Singapore Sling Cocktail, a drink created in the early 20th century at the Raffles Hotel (located in—no surprise—Singapore).
But the original recipe for the Singapore Sling was lost. What we have today is a recreation, and maybe not an exact one. Some mixologists think the Singapore Sling is a not-quite-accurate rendition of another drink that was being served at the Raffles Hotel bar around that time—one called the Straits Sling (locals called Singapore the “Straits”).
More about all this later. For now, the important thing to know about the Straits Sling is that it’s less complicated to make than the Singapore Sling (fewer ingredients). It also has a bright, perky flavor that’s not nearly as sweet. Which makes it a perfect drink for celebrating the last weeks of summer.
Recipe: The Straits Sling Cocktail
So how does the Straits Sling differ from the Singapore Sling? Well, the Straits Sling uses dry cherry brandy (kirschwasser), while the Singapore Sling uses sweet cherry liqueur (such as Cherry Heering). The Singapore Sling also includes additional sweetener in the form of Cointreau and grenadine, not to mention a healthy slug of pineapple juice. The Straits Sling is a more streamlined drink—which gives it a flavor that’s cleaner (and better, IMHO).
You can find quite a bit of information about the Straits Sling on the web. But the best source we know is Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. We highly recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about classic cocktails.
Our recipe is very lightly adapted from Haigh’s (we adjusted the amount of lemon juice).
This cocktail takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
- 2 ounces gin (use “London” dry gin; see Notes)
- ½ ounce kirschwasser (dry cherry brandy; see Notes)
- ½ ounce Bénédictine (see Notes)
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 dashes orange bitters (see Notes)
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- ~1 ounce sparkling water (see Step 3; you can use club soda, seltzer, or any other mixer that is convenient, flavorless, and bubbly)
- orange slice or wedge and/or maraschino cherry for garnish (optional, but festive)
- Add all ingredients except the sparkling water and garnish to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.
- Shake well and strain into a tall (10 ounce or so) glass filled with ice cubes.
- Top up with sparkling water (about an ounce—more if you need to fill the glass), then add a straw and stir to mix. Garnish with an orange slice or wedge and/or a maraschino cherry (if desired), and serve.
- When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood these days to mean London dry gin—which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores. Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
- In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste. Both of these varieties are less common than London dry.
- Kirschwasser (which means cherry water in German) is a clear brandy made from cherries. It is dry (not sweet), and although it’s an ingredient in some cocktails, is more often served in a small glass as a before or after dinner drink. Any good liquor store will carry this, although probably only one or two brands. Look for an imported one for best quality (Germany produces some good ones).
- Bénédictine is an aromatic herbal liqueur. Based on the name, you might assume that it’s produced by Benedictine monks. In fact, it was invented in 1863 by Alexandre Le Grand, a French wine merchant and industrialist. Le Grand did, however, boost sales by claiming that monks at a Benedictine Abbey in Normandy had developed the beverage.
- You really do need Bénédictine to make a proper Straits Sling (or a Singapore Sling, for that matter); there’s no substitute for this sweetish liqueur. You can’t substitute B & B (a mixture of Bénédictine and brandy) because the flavor is wrong (although B & B has a delightful taste of its own—drier than straight Bénédictine).
- Orange bitters can be hard to find, though any good liquor store should carry at least one brand. Angostura makes a good version of orange bitters, as do Fee Brothers and Bitter Truth. Our favorite brand is Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 (but for this drink, any decent brand should work).
- The “sling” was once a distinct class of drink (as were the swizzle, the daisy, the smash, and the cocktail). Today we use the term “cocktail” for almost any mixed drink.
- Slings originally were a cold version of toddies. Like a toddy, a traditional sling is a mix of spirits, sweetener, and water (often with a dusting of nutmeg). But toddies are always served hot, while slings can be either hot or cold. And toddies are usually made with plain water, while slings typically use sparkling water like club soda, or even ginger ale. Being chilled, a sling includes ice too.
- Over the years, slings became more elaborate, adding ingredients (but dropping the nutmeg). The Straits Sling is a good example of a contemporary sling—though the Singapore Sling is not (which is ironic, since it tends to be the only sling-class drink that most people can name). Ted Haigh argues that the Singapore Sling is really more like a punch (pineapple juice takes it out of the sling category).
- Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at the Raffles Hotel "Long Bar" circa 1915, is often credited with inventing the Singapore Sling. Over time his recipe was lost, however, and it’s not clear that the version of the drink we know these days is an accurate recreation. (You can find a modern version of the recipe in our post on the Singapore Sling.)
- The Singapore Sling has a sweet taste and a bright red hue that sometimes verges on neon. By contrast, the Straits Sling is dryer tasting and looks much more subdued. The differences in sweetness and color both derive in part from the different “cherry” components used in the two drinks—sweet red cherry liqueur in the case of the Singapore Sling, versus dry cherry brandy in the Straits Sling.
- Some cocktail historians speculate that the Straits Sling was the original (and only) sling-class drink served at the Raffles Hotel in the early days of the 20th century. They suggest that our modern recipe for the Singapore Sling is just a mistaken attempt to recreate that early drink (thus making the Straits Sling the “mother” of the modern Singapore Sling).
- Other people believe the two drinks were always distinct, though they happened to share several ingredients in common (and both originated in Singapore).
- Who knows which version of the story (if either) is true? What we do know is that both the Singapore Sling and the Straits Sling are good drinks—and it’s nice to have choices.
“Interesting pictures this time,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping her Straits Sling Cocktail. “Especially the last one.”
“Kitty Riffs hopped up on the set,” I said. “I tripped the shutter just as she was checking out the glass.”
“So I guess our blog will go viral now,” said Mrs K R.
“Yup,” I said. “Since everyone knows the internet is all about cute pictures of cats.”
“I hear some feline celebs have their own PR operations,” said Mrs K R.
“And I’m sure Kitty Riffs will soon join their ranks,” I added.
“Unfortunately, I don't think you captured her best side,” said Mrs K R.
“Probably not,” I said. “The lighting was all directed towards the drink.”
“Too bad,” said Mrs K R. “You’ll probably be hearing about that from her agent.”
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Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Dr. Funk Cocktail
Fog Cutter Cocktail
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Or check out the index for more
Great drink!! I have some gin that I never have any idea what to do with.
Hi Ashley, glad to help with your gin problem. Wait, that doesn't sound quite right, does it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh, the Singapore Sling and I go way way back.. I believe it was one of the first mixed drinks I ever had the pleasure to order when I was a wee lass of 18:D I haven't had one since.. likely too sweet for my tastes, so this version would be a welcome change!
This looks so good! Kitty Riffs is a great addition to your photo. It is nice to get a glimpse of what is going on around bloggers as we try to get that perfect shot.So cute.
Call it what you will, your rendition of this classic libation looks just perfectly delicious and refreshing.
That is beautiful, I like all the history and I especially like your kitty. Very nice :)
Hi John , a gorgeous drink indeed , I bet the taste is out of this world . we are having a back yard garden celebration labor and you betcha all your cocktails will be served . I have not had or heard of a Singapore or , when I am through everyone in my part of the woods will know the taste . Thanks so much for sharing :)
What a delightful cocktail this is. I have never heard of a Straits Sling, but have heard of a Singapore Sling before. Lots of great history behind this delicious cocktail. Love your photos and of course Kitty Riffs really makes this photo fun. She is beautiful, I am very fond of cats. Had my Angel Kitty for 10 years and I had to put him down, he was too ill. I love what Mrs. KR has to say...she is so funny. Thanks for sharing John...
Hi Smidge, I like the Singapore Sling, but agree it's on the sweet side. They're both nice, but I much prefer this one. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, Kitty Riffs often watches with interest while I photograph, but this is the first time she decided to insert herself into a photo! So of course I had to include her. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dan, isn't this a great drink? Loads of flavor, and pretty, too. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, it's hard to resist a kitty picture, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, Labor Day celebrations are always fun, aren't they? And this drink would be pretty welcome there, I'll bet. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dottie, sorry to hear about Angel Kitty. We've had the unhappy experiencing of putting cats down, too. But Kitty Riffs certainly keeps our attention occupied! Thanks for the comment.
Simply gorgeous!!! You have a special talent to photograph drinks!
When I was in high school, a family I routinely baby-sat for took me with them on their Florida vacation (so I could watch the kids while they vacationed). One night, they ordered me a Singapore Sling to sip in the hotel room while they went out. I felt so devilishly grown up. Nowadays, I think I'd prefer the less sweet and more adult taste of the Straits Sling. Cheers! Rocquie
Hi Denise, drinks are fun to photograph! Not to mention drink. ;-) Thanks for that very kind comment.
Hi Rocquie, I never had a Singapore Sling until I got around to making one a few years ago. I like it, but it is awfully sweet. The Straits Sling is definitely more my taste. Thanks for the comment.
Kitty Riffs is Gorgeous!! Love a well made cocktail that isn't very sweet. Great post.
I used to order Singapore slings and I forgot about them. I like the Straits Sling because I live on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. So appropriate don't you know. I love Benedictine. Its so honeyed and smooth. I can appreciate that it is one ingredients is best left unmolested by a substitution. Of course any drink with an umbrella gets my vote. I am also a cat person as well as a dog person. So Kitty Riffs rocks!
What a great cocktail - that would make for a a very happy party!
Remember when we were 21 and liked nothing but sweet cocktails? As I get older, I so appreciate something more balanced with the sweetness dialed down. This looks like my new perfect sip for summer!
I love everything about this post, and this drink. I'm a dry cocktail girl all the way, and I happen to have a big bottle of Kirschwasser hanging around, leftover from a diy cocktail cherry binge. Love love love the images!
It sounds like you have another wonderful cocktail. I love the the picture with Kitty Riffs, so cute.
Hi Ansh, isn't Kitty Riffs a cutie? And I prefer less sweet cocktails too. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carol, Kitty RIffs does rock. And she knows it! Very spoiled cat. ;-) Umbrella drinks are fun, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mary, isn't this a fun drink? Loads of flavor -- always a good thing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, sweetness an be really nice now and again, but definitely not all the time. I much prefer drinks on the dry side. And this really is such a nice summer drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sue, Kirschwasser is wonderful stuff, isn't it? It's good to use in baked goods as well as cocktails -- such great flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, I'm really surprised Kitty Riffs hasn't inserted herself into a photo earlier than this -- she's often quite curious when I'm taking pictures! Thanks for the comment.
So nice to meet Kitty Riffs! And to learn about this cousin to the Singapore Sling :)
Hi Liz, Kitty RIffs is enjoying meeting everyone. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow. You could drink this on a cold winter night and think you're in the tropics! lol
Hi GiGi, this drink is indeed the tropics in a glass! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Another awesome drink John...I love every drink that has gin. Looks delicious and so pretty.
Thanks for the recipe...hope you are having a great week :D
Hehe, I'll have to buy a cute kitten so my blog can go viral too! What a pretty drink - it makes me think of holidays in the sun. Lucky Singapore has the perfect climate for drinking this all year round xx
I never was a big fan of the Singapore Sling because it was too sweet. This looks much better! Kirschwasser - cherry brandy - that sounds like something I would enjoy straight as a sipper. I think I would really like this drink. Apparently Kitty Riffs thought the same thing. My kitty always joins me when I'm shooting as well. :)
A fabulous combination of flavors! I love your cute kitty.
i can totally drink that now #stressed #needadrink
This drink sounds really tasty, and the colour reminds me of the sun :D
Choc Chip Uru
Hi Juliana, gin works well in cocktails, doesn't it? It certainly does in this one! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, cats rule the interwebs! ;-) And you're right that Singapore has the perfect climate for this. Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, I do like the Singapore Sling even though it's sweet, but it's one of those drinks I'll only have when I'm in the mood for a sweet drink -- which isn't that often. And Kitty RIffs approves of this drink! Although maybe she thought it was a kitty cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, isn't Kitty Riffs a sweetie? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dolly, this drink certainly should help your condition. #relief ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Uru, this drink does have a somewhat sunny hue, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
This looks like such a fun drink! Just in time for the weekend too :)
What a pretty drink! The cat photo is adorable.
Another beautiful cocktail John! Just looking at it makes me feel like I am at a luxury hotel! Not only are you a good photographer of drinks, you are also a great portrait artist! Or, maybe, your cat just knows how to pose beautifully? :)
What a lovely ........ kitty :) oh gosh.... she is adorable!!! Your drink looks refreshing and as usual lovely photos.
LOL kitty riffs!
And I used to collect those umbrellas as a kid, still have the collection somewhere. Got some really cool ones from real tiki bars.
Love the cocktail and kitty too! Dry is great!
Hi John, what a wonderful drink, love your new addition Kitty Riffs.
Hi Laura, it really is a fun drink. Have a great weekend. ;-) And thanks for the comment.
Hi Mary Frances, Kitty Riffs certainly enjoyed having her photo taken! And I enjoyed drinking the cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julia, Kitty Riffs did all the work -- I just tripped the shutter. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, Kitty Riffs is a very sweet cat -- we're very lucky. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, we kinda have to call her Kitty Riffs for blog purposes, don't we? :-) Cocktail umbrellas are fun -- I have a bunch that I like to use for props. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, I agree that dry cocktails are usually much better than sweet! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, isn't this a great drink? Lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Never heard of this one before and the Kitty is so cute :)
Hi Alyssa, isn't Kitty Riffs cute?! She knows it, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
a glass for me right now, please
Looks like someone else got curious on how great this drink is :). Cheers, Kitty!
Hi Candy, coming right up! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julie, someone got very curious! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
John, this drink is a true tropical dream! Love the photos, looks so refreshing and the pink umbrella contrasts perfectly with the orange pops of color.
It looks and sounds tasty!
Hi Pam, it is! Perfect for a summer weekend. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi J+C, isn't this such a great photo? I love the colors in it! Thanks for the comment.
Great cocktail for late summer, John. Your blog is my go-to site if I'm looking for interesting cocktails. Another great recipe!
Hi Bill, isn't this such a nice drink? Hot weather has returned where I live, and this is so refreshing! Thanks for the comment.
Hey! Why don't you change the name of this blog to KittyRiffs? GREG
Hi Greg, :-) Kitty Riffs loves that idea! Thanks for the comment.
looks refreshing and slurrping delicious cocktail!!!
wow! i'd love to taste it! Btw. Your blog is awesome! I'll visit u very often!
Hi Dedy, this really is slurping delicious! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcela, it's really worth a taste! Welcome, and thanks for the comment.
I never knew what to make with Gin. My mom used to drink gin and tonic summer nights and I never liked it. This mix is more of my taste.
Pets always make the photos more worthy to look at :)) Expecting more of them :))
Why didn't I know about Kitty Riffs before? More, please! And at least she didn't show up Grumpy.
Hi Ilke, I like G&Ts, but this is a more interesting drink. And I agree it's always fun to look at pictures of pets! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, Kitty Riffs is a bit shy (although you wouldn't guess it from the photo!), which is why she hasn't appeared before. It'd be fun to use her in more photos, but that's totally up to her mood -- this is the first time she's jumped up on the set! Thanks for the comment.
I actually do find a Singapore Sling to be on the sweet side, so I would probably like this one better. And I hope Kitty Riffs, does go viral - she looks far more congenial than that Grumpy one! [she has a drink though, so maybe that explains it!]
Hi Donalyn, the drink probably explains everything with Kitty Riffs! And the Straits Sling probably would appeal to you much more since it's not nearly as sweet as the Singapore Sling. Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful color, it reminds me of summer :)
Hi Kristi, it does have great summer color, doesn't it? And summer heat has returned here, and then some (close to 100 degrees!), so this refreshing drink is most welcome. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I think your cocktail could win a fashion contest. It's beautiful. Love that last picture, so fun!
Hi Chris, isn't this a pretty cocktail? And I like that last picture, too! Thanks for the comment.
I totally agree with Chris Scheuer about your cocktails. I do not drink but I have tasted few and clubbed with that the pictures you click, strikingly beautiful. Gorgeous actually :)
Love the history lesson here and of course the cocktail recipe.
Hi Taruna, I do drink cocktails, but actually like them in part because their color can be so spectacular. Thanks for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Raymund, isn't cocktail history interesting! Not as interesting as the cocktails themselves, of course, but close. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
How come you make an alcohol look so beautiful and tempting. I love your drinks posts. It makes me want to experiment :)
Hi Marta, drinks are fun to experiment with! And they really are a fun subject for photography. Thanks for the comment.
I don't think so we serve this cocktail but I will suggest it to my brother in law because we should be having all ingredients anyhow in the bar. Thanks for sharing your recipe John and your cat is hilarious. ^.^
Hi Helene, Kitty Riffs is something, isn't she? ;-) I hope you get a chance to try this drink -- it's really good! Thanks for the comment.
Great colour, lovely mix of flavours.
Hi Caroline, isn't this a nice cocktail? Very refreshing and colorful! Thanks for the comment.
Your post reminds me of the time I used to live in Singapore. I love the food and the culture there. Yes, there is Strait culture with Nonya and their food is amazingly delicious. What a nice cocktail you captured! Gorgeous!
Hi Holly, I've never been to Singapore -- would love to travel there someday! Thanks for the comment.
So... does Kitty Riffs have her own Instagram account? Her photos would be the cream of the crop, that's for sure!
I've only ever been to the airport in Singapore so that doesn't count I don't think. I wonder if I made this Straits Sling if it would *feel* like I'd been there? Sounds delicious.
Hi Maureen, Kitty Riffs doesn't have her own Instagram account, but definitely needs one! She'd be the cat's meow. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely surprise with Kitty Riffs!!!! I love that special appearance. :) I think she should appear in at least one of your photos from now on? I can see why she's attracted to this beautiful cocktail. :)
Hi Nami, that was a fun picture with Kitty Riffs. Getting her to pose when I want her to (as opposed to when she wants to) might be a problem, though. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I agree with others- let's see more of Kitty! Whether you make the Straits Sling or the Singapore Sling, it's definitely best to make your own, and not pay the $30 they charge at the Raffles Hotel!
Hi Fran, I imagine the Raffles is charging for the "experience" of being able to drink it there. :-( I agree -- make it at home! Thanks for the comment.
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