In the early days, slings were generic drinks spiked with an alcoholic spirit and tempered by sweeteners and other ingredients. They evolved into beverages made with alcohol, water, and lime juice. A Gin Sling is ostensibly a Gin Rickey, which means that it is also a cooler, but the classic Singapore Sling warrants a category of its own. The Singapore Sling is a classic cocktail without a classic recipe; the recipe was lost during Prohibition. As for the precursors to the Singapore Sling, the original slings appeared at the end of the seventeenth century as a shot in the arm, and the belly, before breakfast. They were initially made with any “ardent spirits” mixed with sugar, mint, honey, and various herbs, but “sling” soon became a generic name for anything with a kick. Eventually, gin became the preferred ardent spirit, and bubbly soda water often replaced “still” water.
The Singapore Sling, also made with gin, first appeared at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Ngiam Tong Boon is credited with mixing the first Singapore Sling at the hotel’s Long Bar somewhere between 1910 and 1915. Not content to leave history alone, another source identifies the port city of Sandakan in Borneo as the cocktail’s place of origin; however, the Sandakan Sling has never made an appearance at the bar.
Recipes and garnishes for slings can be simple or complex. The photographer in you can adorn a Singapore Sling with a ballsy lime peel or a festooned toothpick “flag” of pineapple and maraschino cherry. The only water to touch one version is ice, while others call for club soda. A splash of cold club soda is entirely optional.