There’s no right way to make a rum swizzle, just ask any Bermudian. Often referred to as “Bermuda’s national drink,” the rum-based cocktail is a staple at bars and restaurants across the island and typically contains a blend of different citrus juices, spices and bitters. But because no two renditions are the same, locals often find it difficult to come to a consensus over whose blend is best.
Just ask Jay Correia, owner of the Swizzle Inn, a local pub and restaurant that claims ownership of the invention of the rum swizzle.
“Everyone here in Bermuda who makes a rum swizzle claims that they have the best one,” says Correia. “The recipes change radically depending on who you’re talking to. Everyone wants you to try their rum swizzle, but what I tell people is that we have the original. It’s a friendly competition. I have people come in and ask me to taste [their version] and they want me to tell them that theirs is better than ours, but of course I never do.”
While many bars and restaurants around the island offer rum swizzles, each with its own variation on the recipe, the Swizzle Inn remains the most vocal about theirs and their claim of its origins. Other locales outside of Bermuda have also staked their claim as the inventors, including Caribeean islands like Saint Kitts and Barbados. However, Correia asserts that its origins “as it pertains to Bermuda” date back to 1932, when the Outerbridge family, a prominent local family with roots on the island going as far back as the 1600s, opened the Swizzle Inn in Bailey’s Bay, part of Hamilton Parish on the north side of the island, and put their own twist on the drink using whatever was available at the time.
To make the drink back then, “they used the rums available locally, which was Gosling’s Rum, and blended it with a Barbados rum that was also prevalent on the island at the time,” he says. “In the 1930s, the inventory of what was available on the island was pretty limited, so they used what they could, which was orange and pineapple juices, some lemon juice and falernum [a syrupy liqueur that contains ginger, lime, almond and spices]. They created the cocktail in a pitcher using the swizzle stick, which is cut from [the swizzle stick tree, Quararibea turbinata], which would agitate the drink and make it foamy. And that’s how the swizzle in Bermuda was created.”
Over the years, locals have put their own spin on the drink, experimenting with different amounts of juices or adding in new ingredients, such as grenadine to give it a splash of color. However, the Swizzle Inn has stayed consistent with its recipe (see below), and has set the tone of what ingredients should be included to make a traditional version of the drink, though using a swizzle stick plucked straight from a tree is no longer part of the regimen.
Since the creation of that first batch of cocktails, the rum swizzle has become a crucial part of the island’s culinary culture. (Correia estimates that the Swizzle Inn sells roughly 200,000 each year.) And while it may get overshadowed by other cocktails, such as the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, whose recipe is much stricter since it must contain Gosling’s Rum based on two trademarks that the company holds with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the recipe for the rum swizzle is laid back—just like the island itself.
“The rum swizzle is certainly a drink that’s consumed by tons of Bermudians,” Correia says. “It’s a drink that’s part of our culture, so far that at social gatherings in Bermuda, nine times out of ten you’ll find a batch of rum swizzle made by the host.”
The Swizzle Inn’s Rum Swizzle Recipe
4 ounces Goslings Black Seal Rum
4 ounces Goslings Gold Seal Rum
3 ounces Triple sec
5 ounces pineapple juice
5 0unces orange juice
Juice of 2 lemons
2 ounces Bermuda falernum or sugar syrup
6 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Mix all ingredients with ice and shake vigorously until a frothing head appears. Strain into stemmed cocktail glasses.