The Drink That Inspired the Swizzle Stick
We all know what a swizzle stick is — or at least think we do. It’s one of those colorful rods made of florescent plastic that bartenders put in some drinks because . . . because why? To stir it?
Today swizzle sticks are more decorative than functional, but originally they were an important part of drink making. In fact, it was impossible to make a drink called a “swizzle” without a swizzle stick. (A swizzle is an entire class of drinks, like a sour, or a fizz, or a Collins, or a punch.)
The original swizzle sticks were cut from bushes and measured maybe a foot long. The root end of the stick was trimmed to form little “blades.” You would put it in a glass filled with crushed ice, booze, and mixers, and then quickly rotate the shaft of the stick between your palms so the root end would spin back and forth, churning your drink. This propeller action would help froth and chill the cocktail — no shaking necessary!
The Bermuda Rum Swizzle is by far the best drink in the swizzle family, IMO. It’s a tall, delightful combination of rum and citrus. Refreshing and thirst quenching.
Just the summer sipper you need for Labor Day weekend.
Recipe: Bermuda Rum Swizzle
The first swizzle drinks probably originated in Jamaica or one of the other Caribbean islands. But over time, the rum swizzle became most associated with Bermuda. Some now call it Bermuda’s National Drink.
Swizzles are really a form of sour — like a Whiskey Sour — because they’re nothing more than a mix of liquor, citrus, and sweetener. It’s the swizzling that sets them apart. Rum is the alcohol that you’ll find most often in a swizzle. But you can substitute any liquor you’d like.
The original swizzles were made in pitchers, and were intended to serve a crowd. Today we usually mix up one or two at a time. And modern swizzle sticks lack the blades or fingers of the original, so they’re pretty useless for creating the frothing and chilling action that’s a hallmark of this drink. It’s much easier to shake.
My favorite recipe for this cocktail is one I very slightly adapted from Robert Hess (who in turn credits the Gosling people — makers of Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda rum).
This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.
- 2 ounces dark rum (I like Gosling’s Black Seal; Meyer’s works well too)
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice (since I only use pineapple juice in drinks, I buy those little 6-ounce cans to minimize waste)
- 1 ounce fresh orange juice (freshly squeezed OJ makes a huge difference)
- ¼ ounce falernum (see Notes)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- slice of lime or orange, and/or maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.
- Shake well and strain into a tall (10 - 12 ounce) glass filled with crushed ice or ice cubes.
- Garnish if you wish. I usually serve with long straws to make sipping easier.
- Hess’s version omits the Angostura bitters. I think the bitters add just a touch of spice that’s pleasant, but you may think otherwise. Most recipes for swizzles include bitters.
- As discussed in our post on Planter’s Punch, falernum is a ginger- and lime-flavored syrup. Fee Brothers makes a very good commercial one, and it’s stocked at many liquor stores. Otherwise Amazon carries it (at a price). There really isn’t an adequate substitute for falernum, but Homemade Grenadine will kinda sorta work in this recipe. I’d start with 1/8 ounce grenadine, then adjust to taste.
- The Gosling folks have a recipe on their website for a swizzle that will serve six people. It requires 4 ounces of dark rum (they specify Gosling’s Black Seal, natch); 4 ounces gold rum (what a surprise, they suggest Gosling’s Gold Rum!); 5 ounces pineapple juice; 5 ounces orange juice; 2 ounces falernum (or ¾ ounces grenadine); and 6 dashes Angostura bitters. Put ingredients in a pitcher half full of crushed ice, then churn vigorously until the mix is frothy and icy cold. What to use for churning? You’ll either have to cut your own swizzle stick or figure out something else — a wooden spoon, maybe? Or you could just invest in a large cocktail shaker. Strain into a cocktail (martini) glass and serve “up” — without ice.
- Mixing this drink in a pitcher (as the Gosling site suggests) is traditional. But serving it in a cocktail glass definitely is not, nor is serving it up. Still, it sounds like a pretty presentation.
- If you want to make a differently flavored swizzle, a pretty good formula is 4 parts liquor of your choice, 2 parts lime or lemon juice, 1 part sweet (I suggest Simple Syrup, but depending on the liquor you’re using you could also consider Homemade Grenadine, falernum, or another sweetener), and a dash or two of Angostura bitters. Thus you could make a Gin Swizzle, a Whiskey Swizzle, or a What-Have-You Swizzle.
Summer Winds Down
“Wow, I can’t believe Labor Day is almost here,” Mrs. Kitchen Riffs observed as we were enjoying a pair of Bermuda Rum Swizzles the other evening. “Summer is almost over.”
Of course, summer in the northern hemisphere doesn’t technically end until the third week of September. But at least for those of us in the US, Labor Day always seems to signal that summer is over and fall is on its way.
We’ll still enjoy plenty of warm days for the next month or so, but cooler weather is definitely coming. And with that, a change in our eating habits. We’ll be seeing fewer main-course salads, more hearty soups.
“It’s been a great summer,” I reminisced, “but like all summers, too short. One of my favorite things this year has been our Summer Sippin’ Series — we’ve really gotten to know quite a few new drinks!”
“And reacquainted ourselves with some favorites,” Mrs K R agreed. “Like my all-time favorite — the Piña Colada.”
I grinned. “You’ve made your point that we need to have that one more often. But there’s room for other drinks, too. Like this Bermuda Rum Swizzle — isn’t it great? Next week we’ll finish out the Summer Sippin’ Series with a drink I’ll bet you haven’t had. And it’s named so appropriately for the last drink in the series: The Last Word Cocktail."
“The Last Word? Seriously? That’s the name of a real drink?”
Seriously. And it’s terrific. Look for it here on Kitchen Riffs after Labor Day.
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