For those of you who think a classic cocktail must ALWAYS be done in the classic style, run away right now. Don’t read on. It is not my intent to upset your orderly world.
Oh, hell, yes it is, so consider yourselves (both of you) warned as we move on to get our hands all up into the Whiskey Sour and the Singapore Sling, revised edition.
In the early days of our adventures with alcohol, who among us did not order, maybe even with great regularity, a Whiskey Sour? Yep, that’s just about everyone. Enjoying this sophisticated drink, with its creamy texture and golden good looks, was a sure sign that not only were we of age, we were ready to move out of our parents’ house. At any other time of your life to come, there will never again be so much bravado with so little substance.
So the Whiskey Sour became more than a drink. It became a statement.
The most iconic recipe for a Whiskey Sour:
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water)
- 1/2 ounce or 1 small egg white
Glassware: coupe or rocks
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and dry shake.
- Add ice to the shaker and shake well.
- Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass or over ice into a rocks glass.
Here’s another “take” on the classic recipe, from the 1938 volume of "The How and When Cocktail Book" written by Hyman Gale and Gerald Marco, with a few updated suggestions from Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric in their book, "Speakeasy". This drink was actually named Millionaire Cocktail, of which there are dozens, and possibly this is where some enterprising soul thought to add an egg to a Whiskey Sour.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
- 1/4 ounce pastis, Ricard
- 1/2 ounce grenadine (New York bar, Employees Only's recipe)
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1 egg white
Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
Glassware: cocktail or coupe
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.
- Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.
Our very own Emeril Lagasse cast his vote in the proceedings with this variation:
- 1 1/2 ounces whiskey (or bourbon, Scotch, Canadian whiskey, or Irish whiskey)
- 4 ounces sour mix, recipe follows
- Crushed ice
- 1 maraschino cherry
Combine the whiskey and sour mix in a large old-fashioned glass with ice. Stir, garnish with cherry, and serve.
- 1-ounce lemon juice
- 1-ounce sugar
- 2 ounces water
Combine lemon juice and sugar, then dilute with water and stir to dissolve sugar.
Yield: 4 ounces
Recipe courtesy of Emeril’s Delmonico, by Emeril Lagasse, published by William Morrow, 2005
One of history’s most famous, and oft-quoted bartenders, was Jerry Thomas. Here is his view on the Whiskey Sour:
- (Use small bar-glass.)
- Take 1 large tea-spoonful of powdered white sugar dissolved in a little Seltzer or Apollinaris water
- The juice of half a small lemon
- 1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey
- Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up and strain into a claret glass. Ornament with berries.
Note what is missing in Thomas’ recipe: measurements and the egg, which was a later addition to this great cocktail.
The history of the sling goes back as far as the early 1800s with gin as the base spirit, plus the addition of water and flavoring, both sweet and savory. The Singapore Sling, a long drink, was invented by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Hainan is the southernmost and smallest province in China, and there are many islands scattered throughout the area.
It was long ago when somebody noticed that the sling as a cocktail had no real definitive recipe. Every one was different, but all had that tropical quality and often the addition of some gimmicky garnish, like the paper umbrella or an oddly-shaped straw.
The Singapore Sling was actually a throwback to an earlier era of slings in that Cherry Heering was an essential ingredient, alongside fresh fruit. Slings are gin-based so the range of acceptable ingredients to pair with the spirit is almost endless.
It is the potential plethora of ingredients that encourages the Peter F. Heering Company to each year sponsor a worldwide sling competition. Very prestigious to even be recognized in this international creative environment.
The original Singapore Sling as created and served at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore:
- 1 1⁄2 oz London Dry Gin
- 1⁄2 oz Cherry Heering
- 1⁄4 oz Cointreau liqueur
- 1⁄4 oz Benedictine
- 4 oz pineapple juice
- 1⁄2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1⁄3 oz grenadine
- 1 dash bitters
Shake with ice. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Garnish with cherry and slice of pineapple.
The Sloe Gin Sling is a very popular version of the gin sling, bringing a bit more fruit and acid to the final mix. Sloe are berries that grow wild in England, but like many items British, they taste terrible fresh-picked from the hedge. They are astringent and until they are processed into a spirit, not of much use for any other purpose. Even the birds are not fond of them so that saves the car some grief.
Sloe Gin Sling:
- 1-1/2 oz Sloe Gin
- 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
- Club Soda (to taste)
- 1 slice Orange – or lemon
- 1 sprig Mint – for garnish
Garnish: Mint, Orange
Glass: Highball Glass
- Fill a highball glass with ice. Add sloe gin and lemon juice, and fill with club soda.
- Garnish with fresh mint, and an orange or lemon slice.
Ah, there is nothing like revisiting a classic cocktail, well-constructed, to bring back memories of different times and maybe different places. Then again, maybe you have no desire to do that. Quite okay. Don’t give it another thought. Perfectly acceptable.