Having a frosted glass of the famous Bermuda Rum Swizzle is as much a part of Bermuda culture as its beaches. A rum-based cocktail that dates back centuries—before cocktails were even called cocktails—the Swizzle has a history that’s as interesting as the island itself.
Named after the way it’s made rather than the ingredients that go into it, a Swizzle is the best refreshment after a relaxing day of taking in the sun on one of Bermuda’s beautiful beaches.
But it’s not just tourists who battle it out at the bar for a glass of this intoxicating cocktail. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a fan of Bermuda’s national drink. Read on to find out where this enticing drink came from, how it’s made, and where you can enjoy this one-of-a-kind Bermuda beverage.
A Brief History
The Bermuda Rum Swizzle dates back to the mid-18th century where it was served as watered down rum, one part rum mixed with six parts water. The specialty was in the making of it, not the ingredients. A good recipe was mixed with a swizzle stick made from the stem of a native Caribbean plant spun between the palms of one’s hands, but more on that later.
The swizzle has such a varied history that many Caribbean islands try to claim the swizzle as their own, such as St. Kitts, Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica. They each have their own unique recipe dating back centuries. In fact, the Rum Swizzle was believed to be the drink of choice at one of the world’s very first cocktail parties held in London in 1924 by novelist Alec Waugh.
Having said that, Bermuda’s history with the Swizzle is unique and they have their own take. It’s easy to see why the Bermie people are able to claim it.
The Cocktail and the Swizzle
Today, Bermuda’s Rum Swizzle is served with a swizzle stick that’s been improved since its humble beginnings as a primitive blender. It was at one time a six-inch-long stick made from a Quaranbea Turbinate, also known as the Swizzlestick Tree. The tree had an aromatic bark that added a unique spicy and bitter flavor to the drink.
As time went on, the sticks were usually stripped of their bark. To try to recreate the bark’s flavor, more modern drinks started to include a dash of bitters. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, swizzle sticks were made out of metal or plastic and were common at parties held by the European elite, including Queen Victoria, who used them to lower the carbonation in her champagne.
The Sign of a Perfect Swizzle: When you spin a swizzle stick between your hands very quickly inside a cold cocktail, you will see a layer of frost appear on the outside of the glass. This is the sign of a perfect swizzle!
Bermuda Rum Swizzle Recipe
The Bermuda Rum Swizzle’s taste will depend on where you go to have it. Different bartenders in Bermuda have their own interpretation and while rum is most commonly used, other variations use Apricot Brandy or Cointreau too.
If you’re looking to whip up one of these cocktails at home, we suggest this rum swizzle recipe created by the famous bothers behind Gosling’s Rum, using two of their branded rums.
Makes 6 drinks
- 4 ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
- 4 ounces of Gosling’s Gold Rum
- 5 ounces of pineapple juice
- 5 ounces of orange juice
- ¾ ounce of Grenadine or 2 ounces of Bermuda Falernum
- 6 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Add all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into a highball or Martini glass over ice. Serve with either a slice of orange or a triangle of pineapple and a cherry.
The Rum Swizzle and the Queen of Bermuda
Sheila Gosling was Bermuda’s first “Queen of the Easter Lily Pageant.” Born with the name West in 1916, she married into the Gosling family in the 1940s.
Sheila was a born entertainer and held many famous parties throughout her life. In the 1960s, she famously hosted a party after a big tennis competition at her residence in Shelly Bay. When the guest list reached 300, including famous guests like Dolly Pitcher and Sir John Swan, she realized she didn’t have anything large enough to serve her Rum Swizzle in.
With a dash of sheer brilliance, she decided to user her brand new Hoover washing machine. Her unusual cocktail server was such a hit with her guests that she bought another dedicated to her future rum swizzle parties. The new machine held a record-breaking 16 gallons.
Not one to let travel stop her fun, the impish Queen of Bermuda even took her washing machine on a cruise where she famously mixed her favorite drink while crossing the Atlantic.
Where to Have a Bermuda Rum Swizzle
For a taste of a true Rum Swizzle, you have to visit The Swizzle Inn, Bermuda’s oldest pub, dubbed the “home of the Rum Swizzle”. Established in 1932 in a 17th-century roadside house, it has been run by the Correira family over many generations. Its motto "Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out" is amusingly appropriate after a few too many.
A favorite of Bermuda resident and American actor, Michael Douglas, you’ll find the pub at Bailey’s Bay near the Crystal Caves. You have to try the Swizzle Burger, a burger made with bacon and cheese that’s been rated ‘Best in Bermuda’ by The Bermudian.
When you visit, don’t forget to put up your business card or scribble your name on the pub‘s colorful walls!
Bet you’re thirsty for a swizzle now! You can make your own from the above recipe, or you can start planning your trip to Bermuda now. We’ll look for you at the Inn!