Back to the tropics with the Queen’s Park Swizzle

I hadn’t paid attention to swizzles until a couple of months ago. I had always found the name amusing, but I had never bothered to learn about them—so many cocktails, so little time. Then Tony Harion suggested I add the Queen’s Park Swizzle to my list of summertime coolers, and my interest was piqued. It was a hot day, and I had a brand new ice crusher, so it was time to learn about swizzles.

It turns out the “swizzle” is a sort of rum punch, with two distinguishing hallmarks: it is packed chock-a-block with crushed ice, and it is stirred with, yes, a swizzle stick, until the glass frosts.

The Queen’s Park Swizzle was apparently invented in the 1920s as the signature drink of the Queen’s Park Hotel, which was then the premier British hotel and outpost of empire in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The Queen's Park Swizzle, photo © 2011 Douglas M. Ford. All Rights Reserved.
The Queen’s Park Swizzle

The Queen’s Park is a multi-layered experience. As with any tall, iced drink in a hot climate, its flavor changes over time, most noticeably if you’re drinking with a straw. The nose is mint and bitters, and the early sips from the bottom of the glass present a strong, minted rum sour. The flavors soften as the ice melts, and gradually the “topping” of bitters works its way into the drink. It is complex, cooling, and compelling:

The Queen’s Park Swizzle

  • 3 oz. Demerara Rum (Lemon Hart 80 proof Demerara)
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice (and half shell)
  • ½ oz rich Demerara syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 8–10 leaves fresh mint

Muddle the juice, mint and syrup in a tall glass with the hull of the squeezed lime. Add the bitters and rum, and fill the glass about two-thirds with crushed ice. Swizzle until very cold, above the muddle so it stays on the bottom. Top up with additional crushed ice, and add another 3–4 dashes of Angostura atop the ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and straw.

According to David Wondrich, Trinidad had no local rums to speak of before World War II, and so imported their supply, mainly Demerara rums, from Guyana; that dark, Demerara richness is at the heart of the Queen’s Park Swizzle’s flavor profile. Lemon Hart is most commonly recommended, but El Dorado 12 or quality dark Jamaican rums are often suggested as substitutes. I’ve tried it with Smith & Cross, and I will vouch for it as a delicious Jamaican alternative.

Definitely use Demerara sugar if you have it; a rich (2:1) Demerara syrup is the natural match for the rum.

The original “swizzle stick” is a tropical twig that has smaller branching twigs radiating at right angles, propeller-like. The idea is to hold the shaft of the stirrer vertically in the glass, and spin it back and forth between your palms, just above any muddled mint or fruits, so the cross-pieces flail through the ice and churn the drink. If you don’t have Swizzle Stick Trees in your neighborhood, you can do this job nicely with a bar spoon or a little mini bar whisk.

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