The rum swizzle, dating back to the 1700s in the Caribbean Islands, was the original boozy slushie. Locals on Bermuda and Barbados learned to beat the heat by combining rum, ice, and spices in a glass and agitating the mixture into a frothy slurry with a “swizzle stick”—a long, thin, wooden stick from the area’s native trees with prongs at the bottom.
Variations multiplied over the years, culminating in the 1920s with the invention of the grand dame of the category: the Queen’s Park Swizzle. Created at the Long Bar of Trinidad’s luxurious Queen’s Park Hotel—which overlooked the lush Queen’s Park Savannah, where planes landed and cricket games were played—the tall, ultra-quaffable rum cocktail combines mint, lime juice, bitters, and sugar and became an instant classic. Tiki grandfather Trader Vic helped popularize it in the States, declaring in 1946 that it was, “the most delightful form of anesthesia given out today.”
In the hands of contemporary bartenders, it has been further perfected into what may well be the most gorgeous drink of the canon. The layered structure, recalling a tricolor flag, is what tends to draw fellow customers’ eyes down the bar in envy: a pack of green mint sits at the bottom, ice holds the middle, a cap of red Angostura bitters crowns the top, along with a festive bouquet of mint.
But it’s the drink’s incredibly rich and mellifluous flavor that has earned the Queen’s Park Swizzle its place in the history books. “The mint is cooling, the ice is refreshing, there’s a tartness to it, and light rum goes so well with fresh citrus,” says Lucinda Sterling, of New York City bars Middle Branch and Seaborne. “It all just makes sense for a midday summer drink.” As for the centuries-old art of swizzling—you’ll know you’ve got it right when the glass starts to acquire a beautiful white sheen of frost.
Queen’s Park Swizzle
- 2 oz rum (tastes vary, but to start, try a Flor de Cana 4-Year or Havana Club 3 Year Anejo)
- 1 oz lime juice
- 3/4 oz demerara simple syrup (two parts demerera sugar to water, combined till dissolved)
- 8 mint leaves
- Angostura bitters
Combine rum, lime, demerara, and mint in bottom of a Collins or pilsner glass. Bruise mint lightly with muddler. Add crushed or pebble ice to fill about half the glass. Roll a bar spoon or a swizzle stick quickly back and forth between closed palms as you move the tool up and down through ice. You can also straw taste periodically to check dilution and coldness. Make sure not to disturb mint at bottom. Add more ice on top to form a small mound at the top of the glass, coat with Angostura bitters, and garnish with a large mint sprig out of the top or side of the ice mound. Serve with a straw.