Swizzle drinks are typically made with Rum and served in tall Collins glasses.
Yet, just like for other sour cocktails, the base liquor can be literally anything. That's also what David Embury declares in his book Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
And although Swizzle cocktails are closely related to sour cocktails, their recipes and the way they're composed are more similar to punch.
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 exactly is a Swizzle?
A Swizzle cocktail is a drink often made with Rum, churned with a Swizzle stick, and served in a Collins glass. It always contains crushed ice, no cubes, because it makes the churning-with-the-stick part much easier.
The Rum Swizzle is the original version of this drink, but there are countless riffs on it. So, the term swizzle doesn't describe the base spirit of the mixed drink but rather the preparation procedure.
The Swizzle Stick
The Swizzle stick is the one essential tool if you want to make a Swizzle cocktail.
Traditionally, this bar device is made from a twig of the Evergreen tree - also known as Quararibea turbinata.
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 and not wood. But you can still find some made from genuine Quararibea turbinata twigs.
How to Swizzle a cocktail
Swizzling a cocktail is not hard and is actually quite fun. Just follow these easy steps to create your first Swizzle:
- Pour all ingredients and crushed ice into a Collins glass until it's 2/3 full.
- Hold the swizzle stick between the palms of your hands and put it into the liquid in the glass.
- Now rotate the swizzle stick back and forth just like you would want to start a fire.
- While swizzling, move the stick up and down gently for best results.
- Add more ice and swizzle again until the glass is frosted outside.
- Fill up with 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 happen when shaking or stirring a cocktail.
The reason why this way of chilling a drink became so popular in the Caribbean is it's way more efficient than shaking or stirring.
Ice was rare in the Caribbean. Therefore, chilling a drink should use as little ice as possible. -At least back when the method was invented.
History 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.
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 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 probably the most common Swizzle drink. But there are also some pretty famous riffs like the Chartreuse Swizzle based on Green Chartreuse, Queen's Park Swizzle, or the Bermuda Rum Swizzle.
The ingredients in a classic Swizzle are:
- 2 oz Demerara Rum
- 1 oz Lime juice
- 1 oz Demerara syrup
- 8-10 Mint leaves
- 4-6 dashes Angostura 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 Angostura bitters.