Updated: Apr 6, 2019
Retractable drink stirrers, in gold or silver, were all the rage from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Advertised as jewelry, to be worn on a charm bracelet, a watch chain, a necklace or a keychain, stores couldn’t keep them in stock through the Holiday season.
They have alternately been said to remove or restore effervescence in carbonated drinks. The prongs were to be used to pop the bubbles and remove the effervescence (to prevent unlady-like gas). The stirrer could also be used to froth a drink or to create bubbles in a drink that was going flat.
When did it all begin?
Could be that from the first time humans attempted to combine two materials, something to stir them would be required. Sticks were perhaps the easiest at hand, and we find elaborately decorated wood stirrers, frothers or mixers across the world (Mexican and French).
Roman Glass stirring rods have been dated back to 199 BCE-500 CE Across the world and back again
How did the swizzles sticks we use today evolve? In 1885, Annie Brassey described a wooden swizzle stick made from a tree branch “Stirred briskly with a swizzle-stick, rubbed rapidly between the hands," finding the tool in use in Trinidad.
Source: "In the Trades, the Tropics, & the Roaring Forties" referenced in Tales of the Cocktail article Evolution of the Swizzle Stick) https://talesofthecocktail.com/history/evolution-swizzle-stick In her book “In the Trades, the Tropics and the Roaring Forties” she mentions her intention to bring back to England the special sticks in order to recreate the drink.
So it may be that this is how the tree branch swizzle migrated back to England.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? CHECK OUT DOMINC PENNOCKS POST ON THE SWIZZLE STICK TREE
All a coincidence?
While there is evidence of Queen Victoria using a swizzle stick, it was mostly likely glass and no direct evidence that it was linked to the tree branch from Trinidad. Apparently these stirring sticks were used by Queen Victoria and other refined women of her era to stir the bubbles out of their champagne thus preventing any unladylike emissions of gas later on.
She was not the only one: eventually, both the drink and the stick migrated back to the homeland from the British colonies, and by the early 1920’s, the swizzle stick had found a new purpose.
There is a striking similarity of the wooden tree branch to the later decorative and popular gold items later carried as a status simple accessory from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. These were associated with popping bubbles in champagne.
But the wood tree branch was a blender to mix drinks, not related at all to bubbles or champagne; so what is the connection?
Form or Function
Who created the first retractable gold jewelry item? I do not know… At one time Cartier and Tiffany’s carried these beauties but were produced by many companies (my recent purchase was hallmarked in England in 1982). So don’t assume that they are all antiques.
While you may find these for sale online from $195 -$595, one might pick one up for $200 - $300. Incredibly, a swizzle with a special story recently set a new record price for a swizzle stick, selling for £23,750. This Cartier swizzle stick sold by Christie's of London in September 2017.
The gold swizzle stick was a gift to Audrey Hepburn to celebrate her breakthrough performance on Broadway in Gigi. The finial features a heart shaped hanging charm and what a charm it is! Engraved with “Audrey” on one side and “Gigi” on the other, the swizzle has a jadeite tip for resting on the bottom of the glass and is marked Cartier 23297.
In this case the magic word “Cartier” wasn’t the primary factor in the sales price, but instead two words and a story of the golden age.
Read the Christies auction listing at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/gigi-1951-1952a-swizzle-stick-cartier-circa-1950-6099913-details.aspx