Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Swizzle Solution

So there you are, nice & comfortable, skimming the pages of a dusty cocktail book in print before your parents were born. The author, some Trader fellow named Vic, is going on about all sorts of great-sounding drinks. Lots of one’s you’ve heard of, even a few you’ve made before – Punches, Sours, Fizzes, Swizzles…hang on a ‘tic…a what now? Swizzle..?! In examining the recipes, further details present themselves: “swizzling” appears to be a technique, taking the place of stirring maybe? But wait, our author offers an explanation on the idea:

“[…] a word about swizzling. I think it’s a hell of an idea. You get your drink and stir it with a spoon but you don’t get the proper dilution to make it taste good. With your pet swizzler you work it up and down in the drink between the palms of your hands and you get a good chill on the drink and the proper dilution of any strong drink.” (p 51)

Sounds great! Now where does one get a 'pet swizzle', eh? As it occasionally does, the Internet proves little use, offering up piles of garnish items called stir or swizzle sticks – little kitschy bits of plastic you occasionally get in a drink here or there – but that’s not the animal Vic was talking about.

The swizzle stick which our esteemed Trader discuses is a fairly common tool throughout the Caribbean islands & other tropical regions. It is really just a stick, grown from the Quaraibea Turbinate plant – which is native to (& only available on) many of the southern islands like Jamaica, Martinique & Grenada. All well & good if you live in that part of the world, but for whatever reason these handy little twigs are not exported beyond their native climates. What's a cocktail geek to do?

Well, as this convoluted narrative was how I came across the whole idea, I should probably stop rambling and share the three solutions I know to exist:

1. Use those frequent flier miles & hit up an island market – but wait, I’m fresh out of those.
2. Use a round-shafted spoon in an approximation of the swizzling technique – but this doesn’t work so well.
3. Use the directions what follow to make your own pet swizzle:

Here’s How:

1. Buy a long-handled wooden kitchen spoon (or ransack the kitchen drawer for one)*.
2. Procure a few short bamboo skewers (they come in a box of about a billion).
3. Trim the spoon end off of the shaft (if you'd like a light muddler on one end of the swizzle, leave a ¼" of the spoon on) with a saw.
4. Trim the skewers down to approximately 1" in length with a saw or clippers.
5. Select a drill bit one size smaller than the skewers you intend to use as the fit has to be very tight**.
6. Center the bit & drill your first hole ⅛" from one end of the handle.
7. Use anything that forms a right angle (t-square, protractor, &c) to line the bit up at a 90º angle to the first hole & drill a second hole about ⅛" from the first one.
8. Carefully tap the skewers into the holes - go slowly & try to make them even on both sides of the handle.
9. Round any edges off the skewers & handle with a file or fine-grit sandpaper.
10. Wash the whole thing in a dishwasher/by hand and coat with mineral oil such as you would a muddler***.
10a. Smile and whip up a:

Queen’s Park Swizzle
3 oz. Demerara Rum (preferably 86º)
2 Teaspoons: Demerara Simple Syrup
Juice of ½ fresh Lime
7-9 fresh Mint leaves
3 heavy dashes Angostura bitters
Clap the mint to release oils & juice the lime.

Combine ingredients (including spent lime shell) in a chimney glass. Fill with crushed ice & swizzle until frost forms on outside of glass. Add more crushed ice if desired, garnish with a fresh mint sprig & serve with a straw.

...and smile again.

A few remarks about the instructions above:
*Don't use dowels from the craft/hardware store as these are generally treated with unsavory chemicals; food-grade wood only.
**Don't use glue or varnish, lest it wear down or dissolve off into a drink.
***Be sure to treat you new pet swizzle with mineral oil just as you would your pet muddler as this will prolong its useful life immensely.

Cheers & Enjoy!


The Opinionated Alchemist said...

Absolutely great post! Do you have also a picture of a "real" swizzle stick?
I am not really a fan of DIY - but I am really tempted [kinda home improvements]...


Chris Stanley said...

While I've seen photos of them before, I don't have one as such. But if you check out the Pegu Club's video clips here you can see one in use (its the second video in the loop).

I have to say, I've tried to make swizzle drinks before having made this gizmo, and it makes a huge difference (it's also barely 15 minutes worth of work). Good luck & let me know how it works out for you

Tiare said...

Great post Chris, as usual!

Well, one of your swizzlers is on my wish list..


Celestina said...

Swizzling seems kinda like making fire, old school. I think a new drink is in the making: the "Quest for Fire". Any ideas?

Chris Stanley said...

Tiare: yet another surprise guessed...

Celestina: I think this merits some serious experimentation. You say fire & my first thought is J. Wray & Nephew Overproof rum - any further ideas?


Celestina said...

I might have an idea if I had an idea as to what those liquors are.
Rookie pwns c0cktai1 noob!

Unknown said...

Finicky Post! You had a massive occurrence. I am plagued with your illustration. Thanks for giving out your creative mind's eye.
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sailaja said...

Thanks for the Swizzle recipe. Awesome, bookmarked to be tried.

Sailu @ Indian Recipes

Roger said...

What a great collection of cocktails, they look so tasty just want to go drinking now!

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Arthur said...

Same here Rog, can't wait to get on it!

ethan said...

Great ideas, think I'll give these a try at the weekend!
modern canvas

Roger said...

Awesome, thanks a lot for sharing this with us!
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Roger said...

Awesome, thanks a lot for sharing this with us!
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Roger said...

I do love a swizzle stick!
Jay @ canvas art prints

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