by Josh Seaburg | photograph by Keith Lanpher
Rum, citrus, bitters, crushed ice. Throw it all in a glass, use a twig to froth it up. What sounds like an exercise in cocktail improvisation is the cornerstone of an overlooked category of drink – the swizzle.
Before it found mass recognition as a plastic stir stick in your whiskey soda, the swizzle stick was the must-have tool for Bermuda’s national cocktail. This original drink, the Rum Swizzle, is a potent mix of rums, tropical fruit juices, falernum (an almond syrup spiked with cloves and other aromatics) and bitters. Built in large vessels over crushed ice, the concoction was then mixed, or “swizzled” with a short, pronged branch from a native tree. The business end of the swizzle stick goes into the glass, partially filled with crushed ice. The swizzler then holds the stick between two palms, rotating it quickly between them to churn up the contents of the drink into a frosty, frothy delight.
Nowadays the swizzle has become an entire category of tropical drinks, defined by its trademark method. Other hallmarks include a balance of citrus juices and bitter ingredients, and a hefty pour of spirit. In fact, as noted in Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, “nearly all punches can be swizzled.” The boozy nature of swizzles mean they’re especially well-suited to being made in pitchers for a crowd, as the intense flavors stand up to the chill and dilution of abundant crushed ice. If you can’t find an authentic swizzle stick, fret not. A long barspoon works as an effective replacement.
Hint: Crushed ice is crucial for a swizzle. The easiest method to do it at home is to wrap a healthy amount of ice in a clean kitchen towel, hold it in place on a sturdy surface, and go to town with a muddler or small rolling pin.
Queen’s Park Swizzle
2 ½ ounces light rum (El Dorado 3, Plantation 3 or Cruzan Light are all good options)
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
8-10 fresh mint leaves, plus a small sprig for garnish
Hold the mint leaves in the palm of your hand, and forcefully slap it with the other. This releases the fragrant oils without bruising the mint. Place the mint, simple syrup, lime juice and rum in a large Collins glass. Fill ¾ of the glass with crushed ice and use a swizzle stick or bar spoon to swizzle until a frost forms on the outside of the glass. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice, and top with a generous layer of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a mint sprig.
2 ounces 100% agave blanco tequila
1 ounce passionfruit syrup*
¾ ounce Aperol
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a large Collins glass. Fill ¾ of the glass with crushed ice, and swizzle until a frost forms on the outside of the glass. Fill the rest of the way with crushed ice. Garnish with a grapefruit twist (optional).
For passionfruit syrup, combined 2 parts passionfruit puree (the best ones often come frozen) and 1 part sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and allow to cool before using.
Josh Seaburg has established several award-winning bar programs and a series of innovative pop-ups, highlighting elaborate cocktails and food from local chefs.