By Elizabeth Heath


Women used to drink this secret cocktail

The Singapore Sling isn’t just a fruity cocktail full of booze. It’s brimming with history, too – originally invented as a way for high-society women to keep it classy while covertly imbibing.

You’re unlikely to find it on a craft cocktail menu, despite the fact that the Singapore Sling is actually among the older cocktails ever invented, concocted a few years before U.S. prohibition.

Back in 1824, Singapore and its surrounding islands were fully in the hands of the British East India Company and essentially functioned as a British colony.

In 1887, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore opened its doors and found a ready client base in moneyed Brits looking for a suitably posh haven to take up residence and pass their leisure time.

The hotel’s Long Bar had all the appeal of a proper British club where gentlemen patrons could drain highballs and snifters from elevenses until last man standing.

But what were their wives to do? Proper English ladies didn't drink alcohol (at least not in public), so they were relegated to sipping tea or punch and watching their husbands get hammered.

Ngiam Tong Boon, the savvy bartender at Raffles, saw a market and seized on it. In 1915, he created the first Singapore Sling.

It's a gin-heavy drink made with pineapple juice, lime juice, cherry liqueur, Cointreau, Benedictine, grenadine and bitters.

The pleasantly pink mix of juice and clear gin meant that the ladies could hit the punch bowl as often as they liked without fear of committing social suicide.

Through the early 20th century, Raffles’ guest list became a who’s who of the literati and glitterati. It didn't take long for the Singapore Sling to reach iconic status as the cocktail to quaff there.



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