It’s fun how drinks and ingredients lead from one to another. It’s also fun how analyses and posts lead from one to another. In January, before the great Tiki Month kickoff, I had the old lab coat on to fiddle with Benedictine and its lovechild, B&B. SInce I knew this month’s theme already, I cast around to see if the monks of the 16th Century had anything to offer up as regards 20th Century, faux-historical, carib-polynesian, staid WASP with a lampshade on his head drinking culture.
Low and behold, they did. The drink I want to talk about isn’t really a Tiki drink. It predates the dawn of Tiki, and it actually hails from the South Pacific region. But it looks like a Tiki drink, tastes like one, and even sounds like one. I say good enough for me. I’m talking about the Singapore Sling.
The other reason I wanted to try this drink is because it gives me a chance to talk about one of my favorite, special-purpose ingredients, Cherry Heering. I first mentioned it in one of my favorite Weird Out the Bartender or the Drinkers Around Me cocktail, the Blood and Sand, but I think I’ll go into a bit more depth now.
Cherry Heering is another of those fabulous cocktail ingredients that predate cocktails. It was first produced in Denmark in 1818 by a Peter Heering, and the liqueur seems to have been referred to as Peter Heering, rather than Cherry Heering, at various points in its existence. Like many such ancient liqueurs, you can actually enjoy it straight. This makes sense. Since there were no cocktails in 1818, how the hell else were you supposed to drink it?
Board of Tiki Idols member Tiare has a current post up on both the Mixosoleum and her own blog that goes a bit more into the technical aspects of Heering’s production. She also provides a few recipes, including a recipe for the Blood and Sand that adds some tequila into the mix. It’s worth a read, and frees me up to blather on about strange minutiae as I am wont to do. The Heering website is worth a look, but make sure you have time and bandwidth—it’s a big Flash sucker. They are currently taking the rather strange marketing approach of calling themselves a fashion accessory. Heering is running a dual contest right now, asking fashion designers to design a dress to evoke one of the classic Cherry Heering cocktails, or bartenders to create a new
fashion accessory for an existing designer dress. It’s all very stylish and gives them an excuse to cover the website and their written materials with photos of models in elegant but sexy gowns. I’m not complaining, I’m just observing. They also have lots of recipes on the site, and they have an original way of organizing them. They sort them by which fashion accessories they go with! For instance, if you are wearing black pearls, they suggest (among others) a drink called the Red Mouth. If you are rocking a glamorous bikini, they point you to the Copenheering. Oddly enough, when wearing jodphur boots, they suggest a Dive Bomb. Don’t ask me why they do this, but it’s fun, and Tiki Month is all about fun, so this I share with you.
I do seem to remember that I started out this post to talk about the Singapore Sling. Heering wants you to remember that too. They consider it the signature drink to make with Cherry Heering. It gets a prominent mention in all their advertising, its own page on the website, and they hold lots of events at the site of its birth, Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Again, it isn’t technically a Tiki drink. At least it isn’t if you choose to invoke technicalities on a genre that makes up its own rules as it goes along like a gang of eight-year-olds. But it’s got lots of ingredients, it’s fruity, it’s pink, it’s usually garnished with tropical accoutrements, it’s got that glorious name, and finally, it’s being featured right here during Tiki Month, so a Tiki drink it is:
There about a billion recipes out there for the Singapore Sling and its close descendants. This is largely because the real original recipe is lost to this plane of existence. I imagine St. Peter has it printed out on cards that he hands to the better bartenders as they arrive at the Pearly Gates. Even at the Long Bar at Raffles, they can only work with customers’ scribbled notes on bar napkins from the thirties to try to reconstruct it. Here’s a sampling of the variety of ways to skin this cat, if you’re interested. My favorite among those that I have tried is this one from Robert Hess, the Drinkboy.
- 1 1/2 oz. gin
- 1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
- 1/4 oz. Cointreau
- 1/4 oz. Benedictine
- 4 oz. pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 1/3 oz. hot process grenadine
- 1 dash Angustora Bitters
Shake with ice and pour, unstrained into a sling or other suitable glass. Garnish for effect.
For the record, Heering uses almost exactly this recipe, but with only an ounce of gin.
This is not the greatest cocktail of all time (or there wouldn’t be all those variants), but it is a darned fine one. It is complex, balanced, and all those flavors clear out when they are done, leaving your mouth feeling refreshed. And Heering is right to call this cocktail their own. The Benedictine and Cointreau are tiny but important background notes, the gin and the pineapple are the foundation, but what gives it the interest and exoticism is the cherry brandy from Denmark.