Everyone knows you can shake a cocktail, stir a cocktail or blend a cocktail. But what did bartenders do before there were electric blenders? They swizzled. Swizzling is a great way to make a drink as well being a great word. Swizzling gets a drink super cold, well mixed and diluted and creates a lovely thick frost on the glass but it’s also gentle on your ingredients. There is a small but significant set of Tiki drinks known as swizzles, the King of which is the Queen’s Park Swizzle. Hmmm. To swizzle you need some crushed ice and a swizzle stick. Kind of. The true swizzle stick – or bois lélé – is the branch of a certain Caribbean bush that is snapped in a certain way to create a kind of human powered blender attachment. You place it in a tall glass, fill with crushed ice and chosen liquids (let’s be honest we’re talkin’ rum here) place the stick between your palms and rub them back and forth with all holy fury. Lift you hands as you spin the shaft (right on!) to mix the drink evenly. There is no more satisfying way to mix a drink; I could just swizzle all day. The problem is that genuine swizzle sticks are a bit pricey for what is, after all, A Fucking Stick (and that’s a relatively cheap one) so I suggest just using a bar spoon in the same way until you are sure you want to become a regular swizzler. Why someone doesn’t market a stainless steel version of one of these sticks is beyond me.
Queen’s Park Swizzle.
King of the swizzles, the Queen’s Park Swizzle, was invented at the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad in the 1920’s. Fortunately. The QPS was a favourite of Trader Vic who famously called it “the most delightful form of anesthesia given out today.” I can’t argue with that. The astute cocktailien will immediately notice similarity to the Daiquiri formula but with a little more sugar syrup and the addition of mint and bitters. Or that it’s a Mojito with darker rum and bitters. The extra sugar is for two reasons; a long drink needs a touch more sweetness due to the extra dilution and, in any case, we need to counter the bittering effect of all that Angostura to maintain the drink’s balance. While Demerara rum is often called for in the QPS I particularly like it with Plantation Original Dark rum which is partially sourced from Trinidad and also just happens to be one of the most versatile and value-for-money rums around. Because this drink contains mint we have to take care not to swizzle it into tiny pieces (always a no-no) so I assemble my QPS as follows:
Insert the swizzle stick (or barspoon) in an empty Collins type glass and fill it 3/4 full of crushed ice. Add the liquid ingredients including 2 or 3 dashes of bitters and swizzle hard for about 20 seconds, raising the stick up through the ice and back down. Then add the mint and swizzle much more gently to incorporate without shredding the leaves. By now the drink will have settled somewhat and the glass should have a good frosty coating. Remove the swizzle stick and top up with crushed ice and fire another 3 or 4 dashes of Angostura bitters on top. Insert a straw and stir just enough to distribute the bitters through the top layer of ice. Add a mint sprig and proceed with anaesthetisation.
Queen’s Park Swizzle.
3oz / 90ml dark or Demerara rum (I used Plantation Original Dark).
1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.
1oz / 30ml simple syrup (1:1 and preferably made with demerara sugar).
5 to 7 dashes Angostura bitters in total (see text).
5 or 6 mint leaves.
Follow process described above.
Garnish with mint sprig. Add straw.
Toast the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad (1895 – 19??)