Slingin' the Singapore Sling

To know the Singapore Sling is to know just a bit about the city of Singapore itself. Singapore is an island city located at the southern tip of Malaysia. The name "Singapore" means "The Lion City" from the Sanskrit words "simha" (lion) and "pura" (city). Modern-day Singapore was founded in 1819 as a colonial trading post for the British East India Company by Sir Stamford Raffles.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was a British statesman, Lieutenant-Governor of British Java, author, and the founder of the London Zoo. The city of Singapore was a part of the British Empire until approximately 1965 (with the exception of during WWII, when the city was captured by the Japanese). The climate is extremely hot and muggy. Relief from the intense heat came with a refreshing drink at a fancy hotel.

The Raffles Hotel started out as a ten-room hotel overlooking the South China Sea. Four Armenian brothers, Martin, Tigran, Arshak, and Aviet Sarkies, leased the building in 1887. Fittingly, they named their hotel after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. The Raffles Hotel expanded over the years. Many famous celebrities were visitors to this glorious hotel... including a tiger, who wasn't necessarily invited to the party.

The Long Bar was located at a part of the hotel called Cad’s Alley in the early 1900s. It was widely known as a popular rendezvous spot. Not a formal bar, but rather a cool vantage point from which male visitors could survey the procession of beautiful ladies walking into the bar under the iron veranda. Big straw fans overhead would cool the air while guests would sip on refreshing gin slings, made popular by The Long Bar "bar man."

So what exactly is a sling? Original slings date back to the late 1700 early 1800s in America. The word “sling” comes from the German “schlingen,” meaning to gulp or swallow hastily. A sling, like a toddy , consists of spirit, sugar, and water. Being a multicultural place with so many British living there in the 19th and 20th centuries, it wasn't unusual for Signapore residents to drink American-created drinks. There were most likely several drinking establishments in Singapore slinging slings and putting their own twist on the drink.

It was the early 1900’s when Ngiam Tong Boon, a runaway from Hainan, became The Long Bar's chief bar man and made his rendition of the sling so popular. In the 1930’s, Singapore Sling mix was being sold and by the 1970s, the drink had turned into a sickly sweet pineapple and grenadine concoction. At Japp’s, we make the drink to honor Mr. Boon, which is lighter and dryer than the sickly sweet slings.

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