Ethan Leslie Leong, one of the oldest veterans in Singapore’s cocktail bar scene, takes on the Singapore’s iconic cocktail with his modern Singaporean bar restaurant Sling.
There’s something of a love-hate relationship with the Singapore Sling, Singapore’s signature cocktail. It’s something you may want to order as a tourist at Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar where it was invented (or even on a Singapore Airlines flight), but most serious cocktail punters avoid the cocktail as it can be cloyingly sweet. But one of Singapore’s veteran cocktail bartenders want to change Singapore Sling’s sugary image, and has even built a new eatery around our island nation’s most famous cocktail.
Enter new modern Singaporean restaurant Sling by Ethan Leslie Leong, better known as the owner-bartender of cocktail gastrobar Maison Ikkoku over at Kandahar Street. Occupying the space below Maison Ikkoku, Sling offers up Leong’s take on local Nonya cuisine, offering a variety of familiar and traditional dishes wholly made in-house spiced up with modern touches.
Here Leong taps on his Peranakan roots for inspiration; his D.I.Y. Popiah ($36++ for vegetarian, $39++ for sweet pork, $49++ for crispy prawn) is do-it-yourself and is good for sharing; we like the crispy prawn version battered prawn pieces adding more crunch. Borrowed straight from his grandmother’s cookbook is the Nenek Chicken ($28++), an unctuous tumeric-based chicken curry that demands plenty of Nasi Biru ($3++) – rice scented with lemongrass and coloured blue with butterfly pea flower – as a flavour carrier.
We’re big fans too of the Babi Hitam ($39++), a piece of Kurobuta pork that’s been braised down in spices to tender perfection. Also worth a try – especially if you like the hawker favourite – is the Hey Mee (market price), the wok-fried noodles jazzed up with the use of Asian rock lobster in both the broth that’s used to cook the noodles, as well as having the grilled crustacean adorning it.
“My grandmother grew up in a Peranakan village and picked up all her culinary skills from her Baba/Nonya neighbours. The menu at Sling is my most personal concept to-date and is inspired by nostalgic favourites from my childhood,” Leong shares.
But as aforementioned, Sling is so-called because of its focus on the Singapore Sling. Here Leong has reimagined the original gin sling concocted by Raffles Hotel bartender Ngiam Tong Boon so many years ago into different cocktail styles. So while there’s the traditional Original Sling ($26++) – complete with classic London Dry Gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine D.O.M, Cointreau, bitters, and homemade fresh Grenadine -crafted to be as close to the original as much as possible, there are other versions too.
There’s the Majulah Sling ($25++), recreated as a Negroni and uses Campari for added bitterness. Or how about the Coco Sling ($28++), a hybrid of a Mai Tai and a gin Sling that’s topped with roasted coconut and coconut meringue? For those who like their cocktails stronger, the 1819 Sling ($25++) is a spirit-forward short drink in the style of an Old Fashioned that should be right up their alley.
We’ve tried many versions of the Singapore Sling, and if we’re to be honest there hasn’t yet been one that we feel we want to go back for. But Leong offers such different interpretations of Singapore’s signature cocktail at Sling, there’s bound to be one version you’d like.
And if you still don’t find one you’d agree with, at least you can say you’ve had some authentic Peranakan eats at Sling.
Sling by Maison Ikkoku
Address 20 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198885 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 11.30am to 2pm and 6pm to 10.30pm from Mondays to Fridays; 11.30am to 10pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
Tel (65) 6294 0078