Ordering a drink at a bar should be a pretty painless affair. You ask for a Screwdriver, you should get vodka and orange juice. Every bartender should be able to whip up a Manhattan upon request, and every guest should be able to expect a Manhattan to be more or less the same at every bar in the world.
But there are a few drinks that can be a real grab-bag when attempted at a bar. My first Mai Tai was on a booze cruise in Maui, and when I returned to work I was entertaining guests with my deep December suntan, and my Mai Tai made exactly as they did in Hawaii: cheap rum, pineapple and orange juices, artificial grenadine, and a float of dark rum. Hardly the recipe we’ve seen before.
Still, I’ve never seen a cocktail with as many variations as the Singapore Sling. Even David Embury was inspired to report, in his The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks from 1948, “Of all the recipes published for this drink, I have never seen any two that were alike.” Never mind the fact that nobody can seem to agree on the exact proportions or whether or not the drink actually contains pineapple juice, even the agreed-upon ingredients themselves are under question. Is it Cherry Heering, cherry brandy, kirschwasser, or some other cherry-flavored variant?
Personally, I never really cared for the drink anyway. Well, not until someone uncovered a recipe that I actually liked. Now, I know I give my good friend David Wondrich a fair amount of grief. I mean, given his oft-cranky demeanor, it’s hard for me not to. We see in others what we fear in ourselves, right? But nobody can deny that the man has a nose for sniffing out drink history better than anyone, and back in 2011 he unearthed a Singapore Sling that just might be the real deal.
Dave’s Singapore Sling makes a lot of sense to me as a bartender, what with its ready-available ingredients and clear proportions. But it also appeals to me as a drinker – it’s strong and balanced, a novel concept when it comes to Singapore Sling recipes. We’ve been using this version in my bars ever since I read about it.
1 oz. London dry gin
1 oz. Cherry Heering
1 oz. Benedictine
1 oz. lime juice
2 oz. soda water
1 dash Angostura bitters
In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, Cherry Heering, Benedictine, and lime juice with ice cubes. Shake ingredients until cold, and top with soda water. Strain over fresh ice in a chilled Collins glass and top with Angostura bitters.