by Candice Dickinson

Swizzle has been around since the 18th Century. In the early days the popular cocktail was basically watered down rum, served one part rum and six parts water.  With time, swizzle sticks were introduced serving as a primitive blender. At about six inches long with several little spikes at the bottom these handy accessories came from a tree called Quararibea Turbinate also referred to as The Swizzlestick Tree.

Some things never change

Many sources claim that the world’s first cocktail party was held in London England, circa 1924 and that Swizzle was the drink of choice.  Other sources say that the first cocktail party actually occurred at the home of Mrs. Julius S. Walshe Jr. of St. Loius, Missouri in May 1917.  The first cocktail recorded at this time was also rum base but included ice and fruit juice.

Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out!

In 1932 Bermuda’s famous pub The Swizzle Inn opened and served the first Rum Swizzle in Bermuda’s history. Since that date hundreds of thousands of business cards and graffiti have been pasted all over the walls, making the old pub a hub of history leaving memories of visitors from around the world.  Today, Swizzle Inn has two locations with their newest addition on South Shore Road.

So what’s in a Rum Swizzle?

The famous drink is usually created with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Gosling’s Gold Rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, Angostura bitters and Bermuda falernum, a mix of almond, lime, ginger and clove. The cocktail is mixed with crushed ice, shaken vigorously until a frothing head appears and strained into a cocktail glass then garnished with a slice of orange or a cherry. Many bartenders use Grenadine to give the popular drink a rich orange colour and sweeter taste and some also use Apricot Brandy or Cointreau. Taste testers might find that different bartenders across the island and around the world for that matter make their own versions but most stick to the basic guidelines of “lots a rum and juice to taste”.Some make swizzle well in advance of events and gathers, letting the flavours get to know each other!

Barrels & Barrels of Gosling’s Rum

In the beginning, Swizzle Inn would make their swizzle with bottles of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Gosling’s Barbados Rum. Today the popular drink features Gosling’s Gold rather than the Barbados Rum and shipments of rum arrive in Barrels from Gosling’s rather than bottles. That’s a lot of rum! Gosling’s also makes gallons of rum for use in rum cakes and cruising rum for the tour boats specifically used for making their swizzle. Conviently all that is required to complete the tasty cocktail using these mixes, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine and bitters!

The Queen of Bermuda

Famous for making rum swizzle in a washing machine, the late Sheila Gosling born in 1916 to the West family married into the Gosling family in the 40’s. Always an entertainer and centre of the party Sheila was the type of lady that would do the splits in the middle of the dance floor and would often be the last one standing when the sun came up.  #1 in Bermuda for tennis and golf, Sheila was also a mother of 3 and devoted grandmother. In the 60’s Sheila was hosting a party after a big tennis competition at her house on Radner Road in Shelly Bay. She was expecting about 300 people and didn’t have anything to serve her Rum Swizzle in. Fortunately she had just purchased a brand new Hoover washing machine and it was delivered that afternoon so she decided to use it for the swizzle. It was such a hit that she later purchased a separate washing machine to make her swizzle for all of her future parties. Holding about 16 gallons, the Hoover washing machine became a popular party accessory. Sheila attracted guests from all over the world including the famous Orpheus group who traveled to Bermuda and played at her parties. She once took the washing machine on a cruise and mixed swizzle while crossing the Atlantic. Sheila grew up in a segregated time but every walk of life was welcome at her house Westholme in Shelly Bay, from Dolly Pitcher, Sir John Swan, Dame Lois Brown Evans and many others from across the island. When Sheila turned 80, she held another popular party but this time she rented 300 tea cups and everyone pranced about drinking swizzle from their tea cup. In 2011 when Sheila was 94 she passed on, her family and friends enjoyed the most amazing celebration of her life.

Today the tradition continues 

Weston Hatfield, grandson of Sheila, is often spotted at big events across the island, serving up rum swizzle made in his Grandmothers washing machine. From the PGA Grand Slam of Golf to weddings, the washing machine is always a big hit. Once upon a time there was actually a pump that poured  the swizzle directly into ones mouth. Just this past summer Weston brought the old washing machine to a wedding and set up jugs of swizzle on all of the dinner tables. Guests were quite pleased with themselves as Weston kept the big jugs replenshied through out the night. The legacy lives on and if you haven’t had the pleasure maybe one day you will taste swizzle mixed in the old washing machine and have a chance to cheers Sheila.

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