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slkinsey

Swizzles!

94 posts in this topic

I would think that the efficacy of a float would be a bit minimized due to the fact that a Swizzle is consumed from the bottom of the glass up through a straw.

Depends on why there's a float. If it's there because the fellow didn't want to bother with two glasses for his shot and chaser, (Like with those champagne cocktails with liqueur floats) then a straw would defeat the purpose. But if the float is there for aroma, as part of a flaming garnish, and/or to help balance out the dillution one gets by nursing a drink, (like with overproof rum floats) then a straw is a good bet.

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for aroma

That's always been my understanding of the purpose of the float.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Don't forget the visual aspect! The liqueur runs down through the cocktail, cascading through the crushed ice. For a while it can look good. Higher proof spirits etc will just sit, and that is where caution should be exercised, as I have seen too many inch thick layers of Wood's 100 in my life. Yuck.

Cheers!

George

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I don't have a recipe, but I saw my first swizzle stick at Pegu Club on Monday night, while the 'tenders were making a Ti Punch for me (hoooo-weeee was it good). You've probably already had that, though, slkinsey. :smile:

The stick reminded me of the small wooden whisk used to whip matcha during Japanese tea ceremonies. Wonder what the history is behind swizzle sticks and drinks...

The swizzle stick you saw at the Pegu Club was harvested from a tree in Martinique by a rasta friend of mine who cuts and cleans them. The tree known as bois lele in Martinique is very symmetrical. Each node has about five branches growing perpendicular from the main branch and another smaller branch extending in the direction of the branch we use as a handle for the stick. Each of these five perdicular branches extends to another node where five more branches grow perdendicular to that branch.

The trees grow to be quite tall with some of the bigger branches being several inches in diameter. This tree also grows in other tropical islands but the swizzle sticks from Martinique seem to be the best I've found.

They also add a little magic to every cocktail as they aerate the cocktail when stirred with the lele.


Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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The Ti Punch is actually an interesting subject in the discussion of Swizzles. A Ti Punch is nothing more than ruhm agricole, a bit of cane syrup and a disk of lime peel, mixed and swizzled with crushed ice (although I understand that it was probably originally not made with ice at all).

So is a Ti Punch a "Swizzle," or is it rather a "drink that is swizzled"? To my mind there is a difference, but I am willing to be set straight.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Just to muddy the waters a bit, let me add this; it's an ad from the Kingston, Jamaica Gleaner, March 2, 1916:

"For a Delicious Thirst-Quencher Try this

Special West Indian Swizzle.

One teaspoonful [crikey!--DW] Dr. Siegert's Angostura Bitters.

Two-thirds wine glass J. Wray & Nephew's Old Rum.

One-third wine glass water.

A little Syrup or Sugar if liked.

One wine glass shaved ice.

Place in a shaker and shake well, then strain into a Cocktail

Glass.

J Wray & Nephew,

Port Royal Street, Kingston."

So. Swizzle and Cocktail, same-same?


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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That looks like some nasty Daiquiri!!!

There are some people who shake their daiquiris with crushed ice, and others who shake with ice cubes and a splash of water (to compensate for dilution).

Cheers!

George

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I have been using cracked ice instead of crushed in my swizzles. Is that wrong?


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I have been using cracked ice instead of crushed in my swizzles.  Is that wrong?

IMHO this is a very fine method indeed, as long as the drink is the proper size so that it is consumed in proper time (to avoid over dilution*) which has been very well done in my recent experience with this drink.

Edit:*


Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)

Matthew Xavier Hassett aka "M.X.Hassett"

"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters-it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to be an exellent electioneering potion..."

- Balance and Columbian Repository. May 13, 1806

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I have been using cracked ice instead of crushed in my swizzles.  Is that wrong?

Crushed is traditional, no? The small pieces? Depending on how fine the crack is (to me, "cracked ice" is big cubes of ice broken apart into two or three pieces, none smaller than a marble), I'm not sure how well the frosting of the glass would go.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Cracked ice (to me) is a myriad if shapes and sizes. When I crack (no smart a%$ comments please) I get some ice as fine as snow and some chunks half the size of the original cube. That is what I find so charming about it. The Champange Oppertuinities in "A Gentelmans Companion" would not be the same with ice that was all the same size.

One can swizzle with cracked ice, I saw it done at the Pegu club the other night, and the ice coating on the outside of the glass is the same.


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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There's a nice article in today's NY Times entitled It’s Not So Mysterious: The Secret Is in the Swizzle, by Robert Simonson.

Some discussion as to the actual effect of the swizzle process ensues:

Beyond that, what the method contributes to the drink — aside from a lively sideshow — is somewhat open to debate. Wayne Curtis, a cocktail authority and the author of "And a Bottle of Rum," suspects that the stick's significance is mainly cultural and ritualistic. Not that that’s a bad thing. "Ritual is fine," Mr. Curtis said. "There's a lot of ritual in the cocktail world."

Richard Boccato — who put the Queens Park Swizzle on the menu at Dutch Kills, a new bar in Long Island City, Queens, that he owns with Sasha Petraske — thinks there’s more at stake. "The act in the swizzling is what makes the drink aesthetically pleasing to the guest," Mr. Boccato said. "They enjoy watching it, for sure, but it's also something that integral to the preparation. It's very much what brings the drink together."

But Mr. Petraske regards swizzling as simply a more controlled way of stirring. "It's a way of not disturbing the muddled stuff that's at the bottom," he said. "Aside from that, I can't think of any difference it makes."

Dave Wondrich, as per usual, weighs in with the definitive answer. . .

The swizzle is just that kind of cocktail. The more you chase after its essence, the less you understand. The cocktail expert David Wondrich said, "Vague answers are all you’re going to get."

Er, or maybe not. . .

The one thing I found odd about the article is that it features a recipe for the QPS made with white rum instead of demerara rum. I understand that not everyone can get their hands on demerara rum (indeed, I've rarely seen Lemon Hart at retail in NYC), but I would think that at least a funky amber rum would be de rigueur.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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The one thing I found odd about the article is that it features a recipe for the QPS made with white rum instead of demerara rum.  I understand that not everyone can get their hands on demerara rum (indeed, I've rarely seen Lemon Hart at retail in NYC), but I would think that at least a funky amber rum would be de rigueur.

Toby posted a recipe in the Mint Drinks thread that uses both Brugal White Rum and Matusalem.

I think that desired visual effect of layered green/white/red (the mark of a properly composed swizzle imo) would be difficult to achieve if you were using entirely demerara rum.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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This sounds like the Swizzle he was calling the Prince Parker Swizzle upthread in 2005. It's a riff on the QPS.

That layered effect is cool, but I'm not sure it's a necessary part of the QPS. And the QPS calls for demerara rum, no two ways about it (it also has Angostura bitters, not Peychaud's -- so no red either). I'm not saying that all swizzles call for demerara rum. Just the QPS. Theoretically you could make a gin swizzle if you wanted to.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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The pictures in the NYT article you linked clearly show the layer separation, and a 'reddish' top (which I assume is the Angostura from the recipe). The article itself discusses the swizzle stick as a means to stir without disturbing the muddled ingredients (i.e. to maintain the layers). I'm not saying that if you blend them together you can't call it a swizzle, but I wouldn't consider it a very artfully/purposefully made one.

I don't know the history of the drink, so I can't comment on the necessity of demerara rum.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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As far as I can tell, the layering effect for swizzles (usually with bitters added on top) is a relatively recent affectation. I don't gather that it's part of the classic craft of this family of drinks. This isn't to say that it doesn't look cool, but I would hardly think of compromising on the flavor and character of the base spirit in order to make a visual effect, and I wouldn't consider layering necessary for making a well-crafted swizzle. It's no more necessary in making a swizzle than layering the stout over the ale is necessary in making a Black and Tan (this, too, is a relatively modern affectation).

For that matter, I wouldn't take Sasha's suggestion that that the main utility of swizzling is as "a way of not disturbing the muddled stuff that's at the bottom" as gospel truth. Most swizzles don't feature muddled mint or indeed any muddled ingredients at all.

In some instances, prioritizing a layered visual effect could lead to a lesser quality swizzle if bartenders defer to a Cuban-style white rum and overuse of bitters to make it happen. Six dashes of Angostura bitters to two ounces of white rum in Dutch Kills' version seems to be overdoing it a bit compared to three dashes of Angostura to thee ounces of demerara rum in the more traditional recipe.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Then, to get to the question the article doesn't seem to answer, what purpose does the swizzle serve?

Some cursory searching doesn't lead me to any 'traditional recipes' and I'm away from my books at the moment, so I'm left to wonder. It doesn't seem to be about a particular combination of elements, but rather a method. Just contemplating what that method involves leads me to believe the swizzle is essentially defined by presentation...the rhythmic motion (and sound), the frosting of the glass, the undisturbed layers of color (where applicable). Maybe Sasha's opinion isn't gospel, but I think it strikes closest to the heart of what I know about the drink.

I'm not for gilding the lily, or sacrificing good taste for presentation, but presentation certainly enters into the equation of the quality of a cocktail. That said, I don't think you need to choose. I quite like Toby's version, which is one of my wife's favorite cocktails, it's both beautiful and delicious.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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I would say that the kind of swizzle we see today (the non-pitcher variant) includes, in order of importance:

1. Swizzled

2. Crushed ice

3. Built in the glass

4. Base spirit

5. Sweetener (sugar, falernum, etc.)

6. Bitters (with some rare exceptions)

----

7. Usually juice (most usually citrus juice)

----

8. Sometimes herbage (usually mint), sometimes muddled

I would say that 1-6 are de rigueur, 7 is probably true of 90% of swizzles, 8 is actually quite rare but is true of one of the most famous iterations.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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After reading this topic yesterday, last night I tried a few. I had some left over basil and did this:

4 big basil leaves

2 oz beefeater

.75 oz lime juice

scant .5 light agave syrup

dash angostura

lightly muddled the basil to get the oils going, dumped all ingredients in. thoroughly cracked ice (ala Alchemist) and swizzled.

Quite good. Only bad thing is how quickly they go down.


Edited by MattJohnson (log)

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Aye, swizzles do go down quickly, and that there good sir looks like a damn tasty swizzle.

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Then, to get to the question the article doesn't seem to answer, what purpose does the swizzle serve?

Tradition and showmanship certainly play a part. The other effect of swizzling is that the agitation rapidly chills the drink. Think of it as a kind of "shaking in the glass." There is no reason a bartender couldn't, for example, swizzle a Julep in the cup rather than stirring or shaking and dumping. But, as far as the drinker is concerned, I wouldn't say that swizzling is absolutely necessary. I think the same drink, and any desired visual effect could be achieved via other means if that's what the bartender wanted to do. But why not swizzle?

Certainly swizzling can be useful if there is muddled mint or something in the bottom of the glass that the bartender would like to leave disturb, but as far as I can tell very few swizzles feature mint or any muddled material at all.

It doesn't seem to be about a particular combination of elements, but rather a method.  Just contemplating what that method involves leads me to believe the swizzle is essentially defined by presentation...the rhythmic motion (and sound), the frosting of the glass, the undisturbed layers of color (where applicable).  Maybe Sasha's opinion isn't gospel, but I think it strikes closest to the heart of what I know about the drink.

If most what you know about the drink primarily comes from your exposure to Toby's carefully layered presentation, then it's no surprise that you might think this was a fundamental feature of the drink. That's just not my experience. If the heart of what you know about the drink tells you that Sasha is correct in saying that the primary usefulness of swizzling is to leave the muddled stuff in the bottom of the glass, and yet we are faced with the evidence that the majority of swizzles don't have any mint or other muddled stuff down there to stir up, then the conclusion is that this is a mistaken paradigm of the category of drinks.

I think that the points I outlined above (in addition to being served in a tall-narrow glass) pretty well explain what can be called a swizzle. One could certainly make a layered drink, were that a substantial priority, without swizzling. In fact, most people who like to dash the bitters on the top to create a dark layer do so after they have finished swizzling the drink.

I'm not for gilding the lily, or sacrificing good taste for presentation, but presentation certainly enters into the equation of the quality of a cocktail.  That said, I don't think you need to choose.  I quite like Toby's version, which is one of my wife's favorite cocktails, it's both beautiful and delicious.

Who doesn't like good presentation? I just hesitate to suggest that a certain presentation style of relatively recent popularity should be considered a defining characteristic of the drink. I, for example, like the visual effect created when I make an Aviation by sliding the creme de violette down into the bottom of the glass rather than shaking it together with the gin, lemon and maraschino. But if this presentation caught on in a certain family of cocktail bars, I wouldn't want the "blue sunrise effect" to be thought of as a necessary or defining component of the drink. More to the point, I wouldn't want bartenders to replace the lemon juice with lime juice because it made the "blue sunrise effect" stand out better visually. And I would suggest that this scenario is somewhat analogous to using white rum in a Queen's Park Swizzle because it makes a layering effect look better.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'm currently somewhat snowed under with work at the moment - we're converting our small upstairs bar into a Tiki themed offering, opening next weekend.

Having a simple swizzle on the menu was important for me. It obviously matches the ethos, I'm also hoping it will help the staff to understand the suddenly massively increased range of rums they have at their disposal.

The house swizzle will be:

50ml English Harbour 5

25ml Lemon Juice

12.5ml Passionfruit syrup

dash Angostura bitters

(+ some simple if the customer's pallette requirs it)

I want to encourage the guys to stick to that general formula but play with it - use different rums, different flavoured syrups/falernum/liqueurs/bitters/citrus etc. They're all good enough to make sure that a quality drink will be the outcome, and will hopefully get a better understanding of how different rums (or bitters etc) change the profile of a drink before they start changing less forgiving specs. I should add that this would be done with the customer's knowledge and approval.

WRT the white rum vs demerara thing that was mentioned earlier, I feel it really does depend on how you're classifying a demerara rum. We tend to think of them as heavier than your average rum and at least golden in colour, often more towards navy rums. Surely though, a demerara rum is just a rum that comes from the demerara region of Guyana - or at least made in the same style. At this moment I'm actually drinking a daiquiri made with a white demerara rum. (El Dorado 3yo. As an irrelevant bit of trivia, I'm told that it's made at the only distillery that still has wooden pot and wooden column stills). Bloody good it is too!

Who doesn't like good presentation? 

I couldn't agree more with that - as the old cliché says, you taste first with your eyes. Of course the quality of the drink is the most important thing, but if I had two identical drinks where one was presented beautifully with a bit of theatre and the other just chucked in a glass, I know which one I'm going to choose.

I've just had a thought about swizzle sticks - you could make them out of sticks of liquorice root. This should gently change the flavour profile of the drink as it's being consumed, which is a technique I've used to good effect in the past with green chillis. I'll try this out early next week, it's one of those things which seems like a good idea but may well not work at all. If anyone has any thoughts or experience on this I'd love to hear about it!

Cheers,

Matt

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WRT the white rum vs demerara thing that was mentioned earlier, I feel it really does depend on how you're classifying a demerara rum. We tend to think of them as heavier than your average rum and at least golden in colour, often more towards navy rums.  Surely though, a demerara rum is just a rum that comes from the demerara region of Guyana - or at least made in the same style. At this moment I'm actually drinking a daiquiri made with a white demerara rum.

I think it depends on what you mean by "demerara rum." I am not an authority on this subject by any means, but I am given to understand by those who are that many of the rum-producing areas of the world are now producing rums which do not particularly accord with their traditional styles. So, for example, when one sees a recipe in Charles Baker calling for "Jamaica rum" he was not talking about something like Appleton V/X, but rather the funky darker rums that were the original characteristic style of that island (think W&N with some age).

I don't know how this would apply to something like a modern, white rum from the demerara region -- but, again, I am given to understand that the QPS calls for something in the stylistic area of Lemon Hart. This is not to say that a sort of QPS can't be made with, say, Brugal white -- and I'm sure this drink would be delicious. But it wouldn't be the same. Likewise, you could make a sort of 'Ti Punch with Ron Zacapa instead of rhum agricole. Good, but not the same.

Rum is tricky that way, because the stylistic range is so vast. Subbing one rum for another can change the fundamental character of a recipe in a way that changing brands of gin usually will not.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Rum is tricky that way, because the stylistic range is so vast.  Subbing one rum for another can change the fundamental character of a recipe in a way that changing brands of gin usually will not.

Couldn't agree more, it's one of the reasons why rum is my favourite mixing spirit. An excercise I carry out with new staff is to make a few daiquiris using different styles of rum to demonstrate that there's serious thought required when making a recipe that doesn't call for a specific rum. I also do the same thing using different syrups/sugars (eg simple/demerara/muscovado etc) to show the effect that different sugars can have on a drink - both for flavour and appearance.

Cheers,

Matt

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