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A sling is a type of alcoholic drink that at first was not considered a cocktail. In fact there were multiple types of drinks, like flips and toddies that initially do not fall under the heading of cocktail. The term cocktail was at first reserved in the 19th century for those drinks that contain bitters. This distinction is no longer made, and all alcoholic mixed drinks are now essentially considered cocktails, including the sling. However the first cocktails may have been called bittered slings.
The typical sling usually has several base ingredients, some type of alcohol, fruit flavors, particularly citrus, water (flat or fizzy), and sugar. In the 19th century, these drinks could be served hot or cold, and were very similar to many of the hot punches served at the time, though they typically lacked spices. The tradition of serving this drink cold, which is now the preferred method, came into popularity in the early 20th century, particularly with the invention of the Singapore Sling.
The invention of the drink is credited to Ngiam Tong Boom, a bartender at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore during the early 20th century. Historians differ as to when the drink was invented; some suggest earlier than 1910, while other suggest the recipe was first made in 1915. The Singapore Sling, though there are many recipes for it, may include the following:
The drink is garnished with mixed fruit, and served either straight up or over ice, depending upon the individual drinker’s preference. Early recipes suggest the ingredients were shaken with ice and then strained and served straight up. Surprisingly, many recipes of the Singapore version call for a dash of bitters, which would technically be outside the traditional classification for slings.
Since the invention of Singapore Slings, many people have enjoyed similar cocktails, thinking of them as typically light and fruity drinks, which can be quite refreshing in tropical environments.
There are a few variants on the Singapore style that are worth noting. Gin slings are much more true to form, containing only gin, lemon juice, sugar, water, and possibly an orange peel twist. The Highland sling substitutes Scotch for gin, but is quite similar in other respects. Other alterations either vary alcohols used or change the flavor completely by using different juices. For instance, a papaya sling uses papaya juice, and cherry versions omit most of the alcohol, and are composed only of cherry brandy, water, and lemon juice.