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The Tree of Life

by Dom Pennock

The swizzle stick, that small bit of plastic used to stir a cocktail, most people will have one sequestered from a drink at some point as a small memento. If there were two swizzles exactly the same but one is from a night out or great holiday, you'd want to keep the one with memories, they are as ephemeral as the moment yet little keys to precious times.

But where did they come from? before the plastic was the glass swizzle, sometimes plain but also found with adornment or a paper label inside.

Before that the propelling whisk used to remove unflattering gasses from ladies champagne bore the name swizzle and before that we have to go back to one of the great roots of cocktails Rum and it's presence on the plantations of the West Indies and before that a seed of course seeds are what everything grows from.

The seed in question grows in the Caribbean and grow into Quararibea turbinata or the swizzlestick tree. A small perennial tree or shrub.

The branches of this tree form with side branches radiating outward from a central point, like spokes on a bicycle wheel.

Quararibea Turbinata Swizzle Stick Tree
Branch from Quararibea Turbinata aka Swizzle Stick Tree

Suitable selected branches can then be paired down and cleaned up to create a wooden stir stick like an uncovered umbrella with very short arms, originally they were used on the hot plantations to stir a drink called swizzle, well we'd call it a drink in those days it was hardly seen as a drink at all merely watered rum. (from The Arkansas Gazette, 15 Apr 1834, Tue, Page 1)

"Now sir will you drink?" said the Planter addressing Mr Berecroft "Thank you" replied Mr Berecroft "I never drink so early in the morning"

"Drink! why this is nothing but swizzle" replied the planter.

From its early roots as a fortuitously found fragment of foliage used to stir one of the first cocktails this little twig has grown and changed many times being reinvented over 200 years of drinking and cocktail culture to survive as a cocktail relic, now found made of plastic or gold and diamonds many swizzles are available but some of the best bars will still stock these hand worked branches of the Swizzlestick Tree to honor their cocktails authentic roots.

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