Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar has just reopened, and while it retains its old-world charm with its palm fans and peanut shell-strewn floor, its marquee cocktail – The Singapore Sling – has been updated.
The iconic cocktail that was invented at the hotel in the early 1900s has been taken into the future with ingredients such as a new gin, a new cherry liqueur and even a grenadine syrup that was custom made for the hotel.
“The past (version of) the Singapore Sling was a bit juicy and sweet, but the current cocktail aficionado wants to enjoy something different,” says Mr Andreas Wieckenberg, executive assistant manager of food and beverage at The Raffles Hotel.
“Customers’ tastes have changed and they put more thought into what they are consuming, so we wanted to adjust the flavour profile to what people want to drink nowadays.”
Mr Wieckenberg adds: “Singapore is also one of the growing cocktail cities of the world, and we wanted to show the world that we’re producing the highest quality Singapore Sling.”
Hence, the “new” Singapore Sling is more balanced and less sweet.
To reflect that, each hand-shaken Sling now uses Widges, a classic, London dry gin made in the century-old Langley Distillery in Birmingham, England. Previously, the hotel used Gordon’s Gin.
Juniper, angelica root, cardamom, nutmeg, orange and almond are among the botanicals in Widges gin, which was created by True Believers, a part of the Singapore-based The Proof Collective.
The Proof Collective is also the parent company of distribution and consultancy arm Proof & Company, consumer retail arm EC Proof, award-winning bar 28 HongKong Street, and online F&B professional education platform Jerry.
Raffles Hotel worked with Proof & Co, which is responsible for leading bar programmes in Singapore, on the re-imagining of the cocktail.
“The goal was to re-create as closely as possible what the drink would have tasted like in the early days of the Raffles Long Bar,” says Mr Joe Alessandroni, spirits evangelist for Proof & Co.
(RELATED: Singapore, Cocktail capital)
“Rather than looking to make changes to the original recipe, we focused on the quality and authenticity of each element of the drink, and selected products with genuine provenance and unique character.”
For instance, the juniper-forward Widges gin, which has strong notes of cardamom and sweet orange, is bottled at the slightly higher 41.5 per cent alcohol by volume, “making it the perfect foil to the pineapple and cherry in the Singapore Sling”, says Mr Alessandroni.
The Sling gets its distinctive pink hue from the cherry liqueur and grenadine syrup.
The old version of the Sling used Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco, a traditional, all-natural cherry liqueur from one of the oldest independent family producers in Italy and a historical supplier to Raffles Hotel.
For the updated version, the hotel worked with Crawley’s syrup founder Jason Crawley to create a custom, all-natural grenadine using pomegranate, cane sugar and natural red colouring.
Mr Crawley, who is a drinks industry leader and inventor, was also commissioned to create a six-cup, hand-cranked Singapore Sling cocktail shaking device that is due to arrive in Long Bar in the next two weeks.
Other ingredients include Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, which is made with bitter orange and cognac, and “spice plantation” bitters that draw on local botanicals such as nutmeg, mace and cloves, which was made exclusively for Raffles Hotel by Scrappy’s Bitters from Seattle, Washington.
The only product that has been carried over from the original recipe is Benedictine D.O.M herbal liqueur.
Cocktails start at $28, with the Original Singapore Sling priced at $32.
Sling variations include the Raffles 1915 Gin Sling ($28), a precursor to the Singapore Sling that was popular throughout Malaya and uses Sipsmith’s Raffles 1915 gin; the Sakura Sling ($28), which uses Dasai 50 sake, Calvados and St Germaine elderflower liqueur; and the Vintage Sling ($188), which is made with a collection of vintage spirits from the 1950s, including Gordon’s London dry gin, Benedictine 1949 and Cointreau 1950s.
There is also a menu of classic cocktails that draws on historical recipes from the Straits Settlements, such as Gin Pahit ($26), made with gin, tonic and bitters.
The drink, also known as a “pink gin” cocktail, was favoured in colonial-era Malaya.
While drawing on the past, Raffles Hotel is also evolving with the times, starting with its sustainability efforts at the bar.
No straws will be provided with drinks, unless requested, and even then, customers will be provided with biodegradable straws.
Before the hotel closed for restoration in December last year, it made about 1,000 Slings a day across the hotel’s bars and restaurants.
Considering the sheer volume of gin used, which amounts to “several thousand bottles” a year, Raffles Hotel is also focusing on recycling efforts in collaboration with Widges.
“None of the bottles of Widges gin will be thrown away,” says Mr Wieckenberg. “Instead, they will be washed, sanitised, refilled and recapped in Singapore.”
He adds: “The world is changing and there’s no reason to throw quality bottles away. We want to protect the heritage of Raffles, but also move forward into the future.”
• Long Bar, located at Level 2, Raffles Arcade Raffles Hotel Singapore, 1 Beach Road, is open from 11am to 11pm daily.
This article was originally published in The Straits Times.