Beat the heat with this tropical cooler
With hot summer days arriving in our part of the US, it’s time to dream of escaping to the shore or the mountains. Or at least the pool.
If you’re one of the lucky escapees, there’s no better way to spend a long afternoon than sipping a tall cool one. Like a Queen’s Park Swizzle Cocktail—a rum and mint delight named after an elegant hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
And if you’re not lucky enough to get away? Well, mix up one of these babies and treat yourself to a mini-vacation right at home. No airfare required.
Recipe: The Queen’s Park Swizzle Cocktail
OK, let me say upfront that a “swizzle” and a “cocktail” are actually two different forms of alcoholic mixed drinks. So technically, it’s a bit odd (or at least redundant) to call a swizzle a cocktail. But most people today use the word “cocktail” for any mixed drink, and few know the difference between a swizzle and a cocktail (see Notes for the distinction).
So I’m just going to go with the flow on nomenclature. Besides, I’m in good company—drinks authority Robert Hess calls it a cocktail too.
The flavor of rum stars in this drink, so you really want to use an aged amber rum of good quality. Originally this drink was made with Demerara rum from Guyana, and that’s what I recommend. See Notes for more info.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
Be aware: This is a hefty drink (it contains 3 ounces of booze) and is meant to be sipped over a long period of time. If this is too much alcohol for you, feel free to reduce the amount of rum (and other ingredients).
- 3 ounces Demerara rum (see Notes)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce Simple Syrup
- ~8 fresh mint leaves (at least 5; more than 10 is overkill)
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- mint sprig and/or lime slice for garnish
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a tall glass—one that holds 12 ounces or more. Add a cup or so of crushed or shaved ice (see Notes).
- If you have a genuine swizzle stick (see Notes), use it to mix this drink. Otherwise, just use a long-handled spoon. Place the swizzle stick or spoon in the glass. Then, using your palms, twirl the handle back and forth (you’re swizzling!). Continue swizzling until the glass starts to frost (maybe 30 seconds).
- Top up the glass with more crushed ice. Add a mint sprig and/or a lime slice for garnish (I often poke the lime slice down into the glass—it looks pretty). Serve with straws.
- This drink is best when made with Demerara rum, which is distinguished by its seductive “smoky” flavor. Demerara rum comes from Guyana, and can sometimes be difficult to find. In the US, the two brands you’re most likely to see are Lemon Hart and El Dorado. Both are good.
- Lemon Hart and El Dorado rums both come in 80-proof and 151-proof varieties. You want the 80 proof for this drink.
- I used El Dorado 12-year-old rum for making this drink, and can attest that it works very well. BTW, we buy all of our booze (with our own money!) and receive no compensation whatsoever from anyone for mentioning products. This blog is noncommercial, and we’re just recommending what we like.
- If your liquor store doesn’t carry Demerara rum, ask if they can order it for you. Alternatively, you can order it directly from online liquor sources.
- Although this drink is named after a Trinidadian hotel, I don't recommend using a rum from that island when making it. Most rums from Trinidad are rather light in flavor, and really not appropriate for this drink.
- I sometimes change the recipe for this drink just a bit: I use 2½ ounces of rum, then mix the drink as called for in the Procedure. Then in Step 3, right after I’ve topped up the glass with more crushed ice, I gently pour ½ ounce of Lemon Hart Demerara 151-proof rum on top as a float (I much prefer Lemon Hart to El Dorado when it comes to Demerara 151 rum). I want the float to remain on top of the drink, so I usually pour it over the back of a teaspoon to help it stay on the surface.
- Why use a float? Because as you sip the drink through a straw, the top float layer will gradually make its way to the bottom of the glass. By the time you get to the end of the drink, much of the ice will have melted, diluting the rum. The float helps boost the flavor of the last few sips. My variation isn’t traditional, but it’s tasty.
- If you want to make a version of this drink that’s as authentic as possible, use simple syrup made from Demerara sugar (which is a form of brown sugar; look for it in the baking aisle at the supermarket). You can use our recipe for making Simple Syrup, but substitute Demerara sugar for white. Of course, if you don’t want to go to all that trouble, regular simple syrup works just fine!
- If your refrigerator/freezer has an ice maker, it can probably make crushed ice for you. But if you need to crush ice by hand, here’s a quick method: Place some ice cubes on a heavy kitchen towel, fold the towel over the ice, and whack with something heavy.
- Authentic swizzle sticks are not those plastic stirrer rods that bartenders put in drinks. 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.”
- How did it work? Well, the idea was that you’d put the swizzle stick in a glass (along with drink ingredients and ice) and quickly rotate the shaft of the stick between your palms so the root end would spin back and forth, churning your drink. The propeller action of the swizzle stick helped froth and chill the drink—no shaking necessary!
- The swizzle stick and the crushed ice are what put this particular drink in the “swizzle” family.
- Cocktails, by contrast, originally were quick pick-me-ups generally consumed in the morning (yes, really—but we’re talking late 18th and early 19th centuries; things were different then). Back in the day, cocktails almost always included bitters. Today, of course, we call almost any alcoholic mixed drink a cocktail.
- Port of Spain (or Port-of-Spain, as some write it) is the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a country made up of two islands in the southern-most part of the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus landed on Trinidad in 1498 and promptly claimed it for Spain. The islands later fell under the control of several competing European powers, but eventually became part of the British Empire. They finally gained their independence in 1962.
- The Queen’s Park Hotel opened in 1895 next to the “Savannah” in Port of Spain—a large open park in the midst of the city. At the time of its construction, the Queen’s Park was considered one of the finest hotels in the world. It was a popular destination for British and American tourists who wanted to relax in an attractive Caribbean setting. The Queen’s Park Swizzle, which probably hails from the 1920s, became the hotel’s signature drink.
- Alas, the Queen’s Park Hotel no longer exists. It was torn down in 1996, and an office complex was built on the site.
Advanced Mixological Science
“Whoa, this rum is awesome,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a long sip of her Queen’s Park Swizzle.
“Yeah, it’s 12-year-old Demerara,” I said. “From Guyana.”
“No,” I said. “Trinidad produces some nice rums, but they don’t work in this drink.”
“Though the drink is named after a hotel in Trinidad?”
“Yes,” I said. “And by the way, if you want true authenticity, you’d mix the drink with simple syrup made from Demerera sugar.”
“Which is sort of like light brown sugar?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Though sugar sold as Demerara is not necessarily from Guyana, despite the name.”
“Well, the mint reminds me of somewhere closer to home,” said Mrs K R. “Makes the drink seem like a Mint Julep.”
“True, though technically juleps are their own class of mixed drinks,” I said. “Juleps are always a shorter drink—less voluminous.”
“But with the same refreshing mint flavor,” said Mrs K R.
“Right, except with a julep, you always muddle the mint—that is, crush it,” I said. “Whereas with this drink you, well, swizzle it.”
“TMI,” said Mrs K R. “I can’t keep all this straight.”
“Yeah, cocktails can get a little technical,” I said.
“All this high-level mixology,” sighed Mrs K R. “It could really drive you to drink.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
The Zombie Cocktail
Hula Hula Cocktail
Or check out the index for more