Bar and lounge car, 19th Century, Singani served

History of the Shoofly


Aficionados will probably recognize the basic recipe for the shoofly is that of a "buck" or "mule" drink.  In fact, the shoofly has deeper roots in the English "gin on gin", or gin with ginger beer, popular in the 19th century.  Adding the citrus has been more of a 20th century variation.

The shoofly, or "chuflay" as it's known south of the border, was developed in the early days of railroad engineering in southern american countries.  Beginning in the nineteenth century, American and British railroad engineers began to lay down railroad track in the Andes mountain ranges.  Due to the extreme isolation of these parts, their routine after hours drinks from back home such as "gin on gin" were not available.  They did, however, have access to an exceptional local spirit, Singani.  These expats would use it as long as they were "in country".

The word "shoofly" is a railroad term for a line of track that is not routine and therefore used in extraordinary terrain.  If a "fly" is a routine line of track, then a short fly, or "shoofly", is an exceptional line that takes up where the routine line does not go.  It is sometimes referred to as a "workaround".  Because of the extreme mountainous terrain, Bolivia was full of shooflys.

The British and Americans mixed their Singani with tonic, sparkling water, carbonated lemon soda, or ginger beer ("gin").  It became common to ask the steward for a "shoofly" who would then tell the bartender to prepare a "chuflay" for the "señores".

Today there are a number of variations on the shoofly.  But the basic ingredients remain the same, Singani and sparkling lemon-lime or ginger soda.  The easiest way to prepare a shoofly is to drop two or three ice cubes in a tall glass, cover the cubes with Singani, top off with mixer of choice with citrus slices optional.  Over the past many years the most popular variant of the "chuflay" has been Singani with ginger ale and a good squeeze of lime.