Today, in honor of the 80th!! Anniversary of patent # 1,991,871, better known as the Swizzle Stick, I wanted to expand on my appreciation of, and provide a little history of these unique and fun accouterments to any drink. You may have heard me reference my appreciation of them first, on Cutie Cameras earlier this month.)
There’s something about saying the word Swizzle that just makes me smile. It’s probably because there aren’t many words like it. When I think/hear “swizzle,” I think “whimsical,” “nostalgia,” and “zing!” When it comes to the swizzle stick, I think, “added class.” I also can’t help but love a means of advertising for both businesses and brands in a playful way. What other products can you say do this?
The first “swizzle sticks” have been traced to West Indies sugar plantations in the 1600s. Workers used a small branch to stir a refreshing rum elixir called the Switchel.
The birth of what we recognize as the swizzle stick of today was created shortly after the repeal of Prohibition by Jay Sindler. While trying to fish an olive out of a martini (without using his fingers) and failing, Sindler, sketched a small spear made of wood with a paddle shaped handle on his cocktail napkin. He ingeniously thought to use the paddle as a way to promote the name, address and logos of local businesses as a cheaper alternative to matchbooks and ashtrays. He and his business Spir-It Inc. obtained the patent on February 19, 1935. (While there are other swizzle stick manufactures now, Sindler’ business (now at www.spiritfoodservice.com) is still in operations today!)
I’ve been a fan of swizzle sticks since my childhood, before I really knew what they were, when my family had “drinks” on hot summer nights. Everyone enjoyed their favorite drink (mine was Ginger ale with lime) and picked a swizzle stick from my grandparent’s notable collection created from trips across the US and abroad. While trying to trying to recapture and appreciate the days of my youth, I found myself gravitating towards swizzle sticks at flea markets, thrift stores, and in online stores, picking them up here and there. They just make me smile. As a brand strategist, I also love how many swizzle’s images correspond with the location or establishment’s name. For example: anchors or lobsters for seaside restaurants (see: Cape Cod’s Landfall lobster one below), Horseshoes for racetracks, Tikis for Hawaiian or Caribbean venues, or symbols of an industry, like the TWA propellers in the image to the far right.
Over the years, I’ve amassed 100+ swizzle sticks, some I’ve even started to make into bracelets. While I prefer the vintage kind complete with advertising, I’ve received many equally loved, glass swizzle sticks from friends and family. I’ve also started to expand my collection to include other drink accouterments and bar ware like glass straws, long picks, appetizer pics, and drink charms. The latter are not the ones made popular recently to identify your wine glasses, instead, these are whimsical charms in the form of mermaids (my favorite), monkeys, giraffes, camels and more, that sit on the rim of your glass.
Here are some examples:
I fondly recall one instance where a college friend and I had reconnected at a bar that placed the mermaid charms on their drinks instead of using swizzle sticks. We were immediately enamored and begged for as many as the bar tender would give us. He eventually gave us 25!*
(*NOTE: We DID NOT indulge in 25 drinks. We just wore him down with our pleading and he gave us a few handfuls!)
It may be true that the “age” of the swizzle stick (the 50s and 60s) is gone and the use of them has diminished a bit, but I think it’s coming back. I think there is a resurgence for incorporating vintage and “retro” items into our lives. I believe it reminds us, or helps us replicate what we think of as simpler times. Elegant drinks or drinks from yesteryear, (e.g., Sidecars or Tall Tom Collins) dolled-up with a swizzle stick, allow us to stop and appreciate the moment, feel special, and enjoy ourselves. What do you think?
Here’s just a just a small sampling of my swizzle and bar ware collection:
Did you know? – A Bonus for you
In researching the history of the swizzle stick, I found that there are also drinks call Swizzles. According to Esquire, there are three main versions that originate from the Caribbean; all are based on alcohol, ice and bitters. The three are: the Guyanese (circa: 1870; without citrus), the Barbadian (circa: 1880; with citrus and soda), and Trinidad’s Peerless Green Swizzle (circa. 1890). While I have not tried these, I am including a link here in case you feel adventurous and want to make one. Be sure to add a vintage swizzle stick before you enjoy it!
What do you think of swizzle sticks? Do you ever use them? Do you get excited when they’re included in a drink? Do you have any swizzle sticks in your house – either that you’ve collected, or that your parents or grandparents have amassed?
What do you think of when you hear swizzle or swizzle stick? Do you think it was an effective way to advertising?
If swizzle sticks aren’t your thing, do you collect any other bar ware/drink accouterments?