“Weng weng is the sound an ambulance makes when it picks you up after you drink too much.” One of my college drinking buddies told me as we celebrated the end of finals week. I can’t remember who it was, but the weird name of this fruity cocktail stuck to my brain for years after I first had it.
The weng weng cocktail looks indistinguishable from orange juice which makes up a significant part of the drink. The pineapple juice that goes into it makes it so sweet that it’s also hard to identify what alcohol — and more importantly, how much alcohol — is in the cocktail. Its seemingly innocent appearance and taste make it great for chilling on the tropical beaches of Boracay, but the fact that it can be made up of anywhere from four to seven types of alcohol makes it the worst combination if you’re planning to swim.
What Makes the Weng Weng Cocktail So Deadly?
The weng weng is a personal favorite of mine because I like my alcohol to taste like dessert. Every time I introduce it to someone who’s never heard of it before, I describe it as a veteran drinker’s Singapore Sling or, for Western friends, a deadlier version of Long Island Iced Tea. Singapore Sling, a drink meant to look like juice so the dignified ladies of Singapore can drink without breaking social norms, is made up of pineapple juice, gin, grenadine, and cherry brandy. Meanwhile, Long Island Iced Tea is a mixture of vodka, gin, tequila, and rum. There are minor differences in how each drink is made depending on who you ask, but generally, those ingredients are what go into each respective cocktail.
If you throw a Singapore Sling and a Long Island Iced Tea into a pitcher and pour in pineapple juice, you get a weng weng. At that point, you’re probably a flick away from pouring your entire liquor shelf into one glass, if you haven’t done that already. Weng weng can have most or all of the following:
An innovative friend of mine added an 8th at a house party: lambanog, a type of coconut liquor with 40% alcohol by volume. In his defense, we had no grenadine at the time and the lambanog was strawberry flavored. Needless to say, that night’s weng weng had us all nursing headaches the next morning.
You can find the weng weng in just about every bar in the Philippines, but despite its popularity, it’s not clear who invented it. Was it a bunch of college kids playing at hangover alchemy who passed the recipe on to anyone who wanted the Holy Grail of Getting Wasted? Was it named after a chef nicknamed Weng Weng like some blogs claim? Or is it named after a comedian with dwarfism who rose to fame in the 1980s? I like to think it’s the last one because it would be fitting that an unassuming-looking drink that packs a punch is named after someone who had an unexpectedly successful stint of fame.
The Origins of Weng Weng’s Strange Name
If you search for “weng weng” right now, you might be surprised to find that half the search results talk about a person while the other half talk about a cocktail. The weng weng cocktail has been around long enough that word of mouth goes it started appearing in bars around the 70s to 80s which coincides with the career of Ernesto de la Cruz.
Ernesto was born on September 7, 1957 to a poor family in Metro Manila, Philippines. At first, it wasn’t evident that Ernesto had dwarfism. He was just born unusually small so his parents, likely suspecting he was born a little premature, kept him in a shoe box for his first few months of life. While it’s clear now that Ernesto had some type of dwarfism, his brother says he was never diagnosed with it and that their family simply accepted Ernesto’s condition as a consequence of his mother’s love of the image of baby Jesus.
But Weng Weng, it seems, did not have the temperament of baby Jesus. He later sought out a martial arts instructor who introduced him to Peter Caballes, a film producer. Weng Weng went on to appear in multiple action comedy films. He shot into the spotlight as a James Bond mini me called Agent 00.
Andrew Leavold, director of documentary film The Search for Weng Weng, shared his fascination and discoveries about the mysterious actor on Eastern Kicks.
“Weng Weng was very much a pioneer as far as Filipino cinema is concerned. And a minor pop culture celebrity for that very short period of time; for twelve months in 1982 he was dancing with the stars, flying to Cannes and even Los Angles Film Market.” Leavold said.
But just as Weng Weng’s brother told Esquire, the actor didn’t make much from his movies. In his words, he only made “whatever was handed to him”.
Leavold’s work on Weng Weng’s legacy highlights how fast fame can come and go, even before the days of TikTok and micro-trend cycles.
“There was talk around Manila International Film Festival in January 1982 that he might do a film in Germany or Hong Kong, but it was all talk and no one ever followed it up.” Leavold explained, “Within six months after Manila Film Festival all of that heat had died.”
According to Leavold, an editor he spoke to told him he edited ten of Weng Weng’s films, a surprising discovery given that most of Weng Weng’s movies have been lost to time and indifference towards preservation.
The actor and cocktail who share a name both remain a mystery despite their popularity.
Stirring A Boozy Storm: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Weng Weng Cocktail
The Weng Weng Cocktail
- 15 oz Orange juice
- 15 oz Pineapple juice
- 1 oz Grenadine
- 4 oz Vodka
- 4 oz Tequila
- 4 oz Gin
- 4 oz Brandy
- 4 oz Bourbon
- 4 oz Rum
- 4 oz Scotch
- Pour all ingredients into one pitcher.
- Stir your ingredients.
- Pour the finished cocktail into a glass filled with ice before serving.