Cocktails in History: Queen's Park Swizzle

courtesy House of Angostura
courtesy House of Angostura

An exquisite hotel bar has become a dying breed. Some grand ones do still exist in certain parts of the world, such as the American Bar at the Savoy in London or Bemelmans in the Carlyle in New York City. Yet it’s become the exception, when it used to be the rule, to find one with the right combination of comfortable seating, attractive design, warm lighting, excellent drinks and knowledgeable bartenders. Hotel bars had a golden age, and many say the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad was one of the grandest of them all.

Before the modern era of all-inclusive resort vacationing and hasty cruise stops, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad was a bustling center of trade and upscale vacationing. The Queen’s Park Savannah neighborhood was its brightly colored leisure center, a festive destination for eating, drinking and dancing the night away. The Queen’s Park Hotel was the star of this tropical retreat, where everyone (dahling) made a point of staying.

Another component that makes a hotel bar great is a fantastic signature drink. The Queen’s Park Swizzle, born there in the 1920s, is a tall, boozy rum concoction that Trader Vic famously touted in 1946 to be “the most delightful form of anesthesia given out today." Though the neighborhood has lost its luster and the hotel is long gone, this spectacular cocktail lives on.

With a few more grey weeks of winter to slog through, a tiki-esque drink like the Queen’s Park Swizzle is a welcome distraction. It features aged rum (the higher the proof, the better), lime juice, rich syrup, mint and a healthy amount of Trinidad’s most famous import, Angostura bitters. Simple enough ingredients, though it has to be constructed just the right way. It’s not nearly as complicated as it looks, however, as House of Angostura Chief Mixologist Raymond Edwards demonstrated at the Nomad Baron a recent afternoon. One just needs a tall glass, the booze, a good swizzle stick (find one here at Cocktail Kingdom) and a willingness to take a few moments to unwind and hang loose. 

Ray Edwards swizzling away at the Nomad Bar, photo by Amanda Schuster
Ray Edwards swizzling away at the Nomad Bar, photo by Amanda Schuster
  • 2 oz/60 ml aged rum, Angostura 7 yr. Rum is ideal
  • 1 oz/30ml  Demerara Sugar Syrup (1:1 demerara/turbinado sugar dissolved in water)
  • 1 oz/30ml Lime Juice
  • 8-12 Fresh mint leaves
  • 8 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Method: In a highball glass, muddle the fresh mint leaves in the lime juice and simple syrup. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour the rum over the crushed ice. Insert the swizzle stick and twirl it back and forth by rubbing the handle between your palms, which evenly chills and dilutes the ingredients, sending the mint swirling about the glass. Add more crushed ice to just above the rim of the glass, then top off with the bitters. Best sipped through a straw.