Keep it classic

In its distinctive, squat brown bottle Cointreau is not the ideal bottle for the odd flair or even for the speed rail but, as Sarantopoulos points out, “there is always a price to pay for being distinctive and different”.  

He adds: “We have noted that while there are no acrobatics with Cointreau it is nonetheless handled with great ease and skill by bartenders.”

While currently much work is underway to popularise the Cointreau Fizz, which, with its blend of lime and soda water, is an easy drink to make at home, the triple sec was also part of arguably the most liqueur-centric cocktail of all time, the Singapore Sling.   

Developed by head bartender of the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, one Ngiam Tong Boon back in 1915, the original recipe has been lost, which is a crying shame because, as a result, variations on its original theme abound.  

But the original Sling certainly combined gin with Cherry Heering, Benedictine, Cointreau, pineapple and lime juice, along with Angostura bitters. Some recipes even call for a goodly splash of grenadine.


Even more of a shame is the fact that the version now ‘concocted’ at Raffles is a pre-mix form that relies heavily on pineapple juice – but then if you are serving more than 1,000 Singapore Slings a day, needs must!

Benedictine above all is associated with the Singapore Sling – but also with the B&B – Benedictine and brandy. This mix became so popular Stateside that the company decided to get in on the act with its own pre-mix version, which to this day is still big business. 

The brand has recently been repackaged into a green bottle with a red seal, while the B&B is in the brown bottle with the gold seal.

“Back in 1937 Benedictine and brandy was an overnight success,” says UK distributor First Drinks brand manager Paul Curry. “But it’s the Singapore Sling that everyone talks about.” 

With its blend of 27 herbs and spices, which are sourced from all corners of the globe, Benedictine lends itself to the cocktail circuit. And, as with most of the traditional liqueurs, easy mixes have been developed for consumers to make at home: there is the Big Ben (Benedictine and tonic), Be Pamplemousse (Benedictine and grapefruit juice) and the Benediction (Benedictine and champagne).

“We do a lot of work with bartenders as it stands to reason the more you know about a brand the more likely you are to feature it on the cocktail menu,” says Curry. 

“Every four or five-star hotel will stock Benedictine but we don’t want it on the top shelf gathering dust – just waiting for someone to order a Singapore Sling. We need to get it in the repertoire.”

Liqueurs often get a bad press because of their sweetness and often bright colours – but the traditional liqueurs make excellent partners to mainstream spirits and it is worth considering how many folk dislike tequila but love a Margarita, or indeed do not like cognac but love a Sidecar. 

The liqueur does bring out the best, and that’s why these classics have endured the test of time.