Today at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing up a Queen’s Park Swizzle. You see, February 19 is the anniversary of the U.S. Patent 1,991,871, also known as the swizzle stick. An important invention, to be sure. After all, where would we be if a gentleman named Jay Sindler had not developed the device? Fishing olives out of a coupe or Nick and Nora glass with our fingers, like a filthy animal? We’d rather not consider such a dire breach of decorum, even if the definition of the implement has changed over time. We’ll cover both varieties of swizzle stick.
The Swizzle Stick
Unlike some inventors with an invention looking for a problem to solve, Mr. Sindler was clear on the issue he addressed. As he wrote:
This invention pertains to eating implements and relates more particularly to an implement useful for picking up and conveying to the mouth articles of food such, for example, as olives, cherries, etc. which are commonly used as garnishes for food or drinks and which by reason of their shape, or the shape of the dish or glass in which the food or drink is served, are troublesome to pick up and carry to the mouth. As a specific example, the difficulty of securing a cherry resting at the bottom of a cocktail glass, without resorting to boorish antics obnoxious to people accustomed to polite social usages is so well known as to have become a matter of public comment and jest.
So there you have it. He invented a pointed stick that would allow a drinker to spear the cherry and avoid glances of disdain. Lest anyone misunderstand the foregoing paragraph he included an operating diagram as pictured here. Fortunately, this patent was issued in 1935 and is long expired, so you will not be sued for infringement if you use a toothpick or other such device for this purpose.
The Swizzle Stick from a Tree
This seems simple, but there is another pre-patent definition of swizzle stick. That is simply a small stick used to stir drinks, a branch of the Quararibea turbinata, also known as the Swizzle Stick Tree. We’re going to go on a bit about this latter device.
This swizzle stick first appeared on Caribbean sugar plantations in the 1600s. Rum was plentiful there, as you know from some other discussions like for the Kingston Negroni. The branch of the Swizzle Stick Tree, as you see in the accompanying photo, is shaped such that it could be useful if spun.
Somebody figured out that if the branch was held between the palms, and spun as it is lifted and submerged in a mixture, a good mix would result. There was the Stictchel, a spiced mix of water and vinegar that was sweetened with honey or molasses. This was popular among field hands and slaves.
Other uses eventually appeared. In the 1920s, swizzle sticks appeared in Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria and ladies of the court would use them to lower the fizziness in Champagne. Apparently belching was not becoming of royalty.
Nowadays, when we speak of swizzle drinks that make use of a swizzle stick we’re talking about something tropical.
The Queens Park Swizzle
The Queen’s Park Swizzle is a perfect example of a drink that emerged from the Caribbean. Trader Vic, who we visited for the Mai Tai on its eponymous National Day, made it a staple of his cocktail menus. In Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink he called it “a world famous drink from the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trindad.”
When you get down to it, the Queen’s Park Swizzle recipe looks like a Mojito, with a dose of Angostura bitters. That’s hardly surprising considering it’s from Trinidad, as we covered with the Trinidad Sour. Even though the hotel is long gone the drink lives on.
Queen's Park Swizzle
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Add 8-10 mint leaves and simple syrup to a tall glass.
- Muddle mint gently, dragging the leaves up the sides of the glass to coat with oils.
- Add lime juice and rum.
- Fill glass with crushed ice.
- Insert spoon or swizzle stick and holding the implement of choice between your palms spin the device while moving it up and down in the drink to mix the contents of the glass.
- Top with ice, insert straw and garnish with mint sprig.