How to mix a rum, lime and mint cocktail – Robb Report
The Queen’s Park Swizzle, for its apparent simplicity, is somewhat difficult to describe. You really just have to try.
The easiest way to think of the Queen’s Park Swizzle is as a type of Mojito, but that doesn’t quite capture it. It’s not so much a Mojito variety as it’s the Mojito’s alter ego, or it’s a dark twin. If the Mojito is like a beautiful night out with your significant other, the Queen’s Park Swizzle is like a beautiful stranger leading you by the hand down a dark hallway to the sounds of a party you can’t yet see. They have something in common, but when it comes to experiences, it’s a different kind of thrill.
The Queen’s Park Swizzle was invented, like so many other magnificent classics, in one of the grand old hotels of the British Empire. Wherever the British established a colony (at one time covering around 25% of the globe), there would tend to be an elegant colonial hotel, to keep the nobility in the aristocratic style to which they had grown accustomed. These hotels invariably housed bars, and from these majestic ruins of the empire we take a number of liquid artifacts: In Burma (now Myanmar) was the Pegu Club, where the cocktail of the same name was created ; in Singapore still stands the Raffles Hotel, from which the Singapore Sling is derived; and from the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad comes the Queen’s Park Swizzle, arguably the best of them all.
As mentioned, it has a lot in common with the classic Mojito. They both start with mint, mixed into the glass. Both use lime for acidity and sugar to balance. Both use rum, but crucially, the style of rum differs – the Mojito uses a clean white rum to lift the mint, while the Queen’s Park Swizzle reaches its best and most majestic with an aged rum, which imparts spicy depth. with indulgent vanilla that first demands your attention, then holds it. And finally, distancing itself completely from its Cuban sibling, Queen’s Park ends with a shock of the inimitable Angostura Bitters, sitting rust red on crushed ice and dominating the nose with mint and spice.
“If you like to make and drink a real doozer of a rum drink that really is a rum drink, try this,” “Trader” Vic Bergeron wrote in his 1972 bartender’s guide. This highlights the apparent limits of language – Bergeron knew as much about rum cocktails as anyone on earth, and yet this phrase makes him sound like a jester. Much better was his mark some 30 years earlier, in his Trader Vic’s Food and Drink Book where he, seeing a forest instead of trees, simply said, “The Queen’s Park Swizzle is the most delicious form of anesthesia given today.”
Queen’s Park Swizzle
- 2oz. old rum
- 0.75 oz lime juice
- 0.75 oz demerara syrup
- 8-10 mint leaves
Add mint leaves to a tall glass. Add the simple syrup and gently crush the mint into the syrup. Add crushed ice to about two thirds and swirl (either swirling back and forth with a stir stick or teaspoon, or just swirl) until the glass begins to frost. Add crushed ice to fill and decorate the top with two to three dashes of Angostura Bitters. Decorate with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
Rum: Which rum to use varies wildly, even among experts. Once in a while someone will call for using white rum which is good but honestly too much like a Mojito. Almost everyone, including the earliest recipes available, calls for aged rum, and usually from Guyana or Jamaica or both.
My favorite choice here is the so-called “Demerara” rum from Guyana – the flagship bottles here are El Dorado 8 Year or Hamilton’s 86 Demerara Rum. Jamaican rum is fine, but the funkiness, to me, draws too much attention without contributing to the whole, like a basketball player refusing to pass. Another good choice are light Spanish-style rums that will double the depth of vanilla, such as Don Q Reserva, or 5 or 7-year-old Angostura rums. And when it comes to quantity, many original recipes call for 3 oz. (Bergeron’s “doozer of a rum drink”) which is 50% too much. I brought it back to standard levels.
Demerara Syrup: This drink is at its best when it gets its texture and depth from syrup as well as rum. This comes from making a simple syrup with less refined sugar — demerara or turbinado or “raw sugar,” as it’s sometimes called — as opposed to white sugar. If all you have is white sugar, you can still make the drink, but the Demerara syrup will add a bit more to the final product.
Either way, mix equal parts sugar and hot water and stir to dissolve. Store in the fridge and the syrup should last about a month.
Bitter: Angostura Bitters originated in Trinidad, where the Queen’s Park Hotel used to be, and are classic here. They’re also ubiquitous and amazing, and there’s very little reason to do that with anything else. I’ll only note that some very talented people, like cocktail book Death & Co., choose to add a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters to the Angostura tank. While it certainly wouldn’t hurt (it clashed with Jamaican rum, but you shouldn’t use it anyway), the only time I thought it actually helped was when the rum was particularly vanilla, like with Bacardi’s 8 or something like Zaya Gran Reserva.
Ice: Aside from the Mint Julep, I can’t think of a drink in the classic cocktail canon that needs crushed ice so badly. “Swizzle” demands it. The flavors all work if you shake it like a normal Mojito or something, but it’s definitely worth the effort to crush some ice: buy a bag from your local Ice Company (or Sonic Drive-In , which sells cheap bags), pound it yourself with a Lewis Bag & Mallet, blend it in the blender, wrap it in a kitchen towel, and smash it with a rolling pin, whatever. Shaved ice thins out quickly, which is what we want, and helps bitters stay on top for presentation.
Overlay: Like all layered drinks, you can choose your own plan of attack – you can sip from the top, which is mostly bitter, or sip from the straw, which is not bitter. Personally, after making one of each just to see what it is, I prefer to mix it all up. It’s worth layering just for looks, but once served, the cocktail is at its best when you get a bit of everything.