Swizzle Cocktails Explained

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 25, 2023

A Swizzle is a Caribbean sour drink churned with the help of a Swizzle stick. This type of cocktail always comes with crushed ice.
Swizzle cocktail

Swizzle drinks are typically made with rum and served in tall, slim Collins glasses. 

Yet, just like for sour cocktails, the base liquor can be substituted by all sorts of spirits. That's also what David Embury declares in his book Fine Art of Mixing Drinks from 1948.

The signature tool to make a proper Swizzle is the Swizzle stick. This nifty tool helps churn the ice and therefore cool the cocktail. 

What is a Swizzle Drink?

A Swizzle Cocktail is a drink made with a spirit base, citrus juice, and syrup served in a Collins glass. It follows a very particular preparation method where you churn with a swizzle stick. These drinks always contain crushed ice, making the churning-with-the-stick part a lot easier.

The Rum Swizzle is the original version of this drink, but there are countless riffs. So, the term swizzle doesn't describe a list of ingredients for a mixed drink but rather the preparation technique.

Although Swizzle cocktails are closely related to sour cocktails, their recipes and the way they're composed are more similar to punch. 

Swizzle cocktails

What is a Swizzle Stick?

The Swizzle stick is a bar tool traditionally made from a twig of an Evergreen Tree known as Quararibea turbinata or Swizzle Stick Tree. It is the one essential instrument if you want to make a Swizzle cocktail. 

The twigs used for churning the mix of liquid and ice had 5 or 6 prongs at one end. When quickly turning the stick, these prongs help blend the ingredients.

Today, Swizzle sticks are usually made of metal or plastic instead of wood. However, you can still find some traditional ones made of Quararibea turbinata twigs.

Swizzle Stick with prongs

How to Swizzle a Cocktail

Swizzling a cocktail is not overly complicated and is actually quite fun. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Pour crushed ice first, followed by all ingredients, into a Collins glass until it's 2/3 filled. 
  2. Hold the swizzle stick between the palms of your hands and put it into the liquid you just poured into the glass.
  3. Now rotate the swizzle stick back and forth with the palms of both hands - just like you would want to start a fire.
  4. While swizzling, move the stick up and down slowly and carefully for the best results.
  5. Add more ice and swizzle again until the glass is frosted outside.
  6. Fill up with even more crushed ice and garnish your Swizzle Cocktail. 

This process of quickly swizzling a drink chills a drink super quickly. At the same time, it also allows for aeration. Usually, these two things also happen when shaking or stirring a cocktail.

The reason this way of chilling a drink became so popular in the Caribbean is it's way more efficient than shaking or stirring.

At the time this method became popular, ice was rare in the Caribbean and the weather was quite hot. Thus, chilling a drink should use as little ice as possible. 

Origin of the Swizzle Cocktails

The first written mention of swizzle drinks in the Caribbean was in St. Kitts in 1838. A few years later, there's also written proof about this drink from Barbados. 

These early versions of Swizzle drinks were either made of a combination of rum and water or some sort of spruce beer mixed with rum and water.

Thus, it took until the 1900s until Swizzles contained rum, sugar, flavorings, and ice. Back then, people exclusively used wooden swizzle sticks made from Quararibea turbinata. In 1909, US physician and writer Edward Emerson wrote the following:

"Swizzle is composed of six parts water to one of rum and an aromatic flavoring..." 

Ten years later, a similar drink from Barbados was described as "a sort of native cocktail, made of the ordinary liqueurs mixed in a vessel with cracked ice and sugar, and then stirred to a froth by means of a 'swizzle-stick'."

The name "Swizzle" most likely derives from its non-alcoholic forerunner - the Switchel. 

A Switchel is a Caribbean drink, also known as Haymaker's Punch. It consists of water, vinegar, ginger, honey, and molasses. 

Popular Swizzle Cocktail Recipes

The basic Rum Swizzle is the best-known Swizzle drink. But there are some pretty famous riffs like the Chartreuse Swizzle based on the herbal, overproof liqueur Green Chartreuse, the Queen's Park Swizzle, or the Bermuda Rum Swizzle.

The ingredients in a classic Swizzle are: 

Queen's Park Swizzle cocktail

Recipe Queen's Park Swizzle

The signature drink of Queen's Park Hotel in Trinidad and one of the most important Swizzle cocktails.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Caribbean
Keyword: crushed ice, Demerara syrup, lime juice, mint, rum, swizzle
Servings: 1
Calories: 262kcal
Cost: $2.80


  • 1 Jigger
  • 1 Swizzle Stick


  • 2 oz Demerara Rum
  • 1 oz Lime juice
  • 1 oz Demerara syrup
  • 8-10 Mint leaves
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • Mint sprig for garnish


  • Add mint leaves and Demera syrup in a Collins glass and muddle gently.
  • Add Demerara rum and lime juice as well as crushed ice. Make sure the glass is two-thirds full.
  • Use the swizzle stick and start swizzling the cocktail until the glass is frosted.
  • Add more ice, then float the cocktail with bitters.


Serving: 4.5ozCalories: 262kcalCarbohydrates: 36.03gProtein: 0.16gFat: 0.03gSodium: 10.24mgPotassium: 81.28mgSugar: 33.7gVitamin C: 9.6mgCalcium: 31.04mgIron: 0.32mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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