When we first moved to the West Village a couple of years ago, we were both thrilled to discover that we now lived right across the street from one of our favorite bars in the city, Little Branch.
We’ve spent many a night in the subterranean speakeasy, enjoying the live jazz and watching some of the city’s most talented bartenders work their magic. Nights at Little Branch typically come with a bit of discovery, as we’ve routinely discovered incredible new cocktails and spirits we otherwise would have never found. (The Harvest Sour was one such drink we first tasted on a chilly fall night at Little Branch.)
This drink, the Queens Park Swizzle, was one of the very first drinks we ever had at Little Branch and it’s one that has stuck with us since that balmy summer night. Quite similar to a mojito, the Swizzle has its roots in Trinidad and is traditionally made with Demerara rum and a healthy dose of angostura bitters, Trinidad’s largest export. The drink itself was created at Port of Spain’s Queens Park Hotel, which opened in 1895 and was sadly later torn down.
To make our Swizzle (based on same recipe that is served at Little Branch) take the leaves from four mint sprigs and put them in a cocktail shaker. Add an ounce of simple syrup and lime juice, respectively, and then gently bruise the mint with a muddler. Next, pour in 2 oz. of Demerara rum (we are partial to El Dorado, for a traditional but inexpensive Guyanese rum) and swirl the shaker to combine the rum and the mint. Pour the shaker’s contents in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice almost to the top, then add six dashes of angostura bitters.
Next is the tricky part. The drink gets its name from the method in which it’s made—it’s swizzled rather than stirred or shaken. Real swizzle sticks are hard to come by in the U.S., so a bar spoon has to suffice for most of us, unless you have lots of friends in the West Indies! (In which case, send us a swizzle stick.)
Slide the bar spoon into the glass, stopping just before the mint leaves at the bottom. Rub your palms together, gently rotating the bar spoon and thus “swizzling” your drink. Ideally, the bitters will remain at the top, while the mint remains at the bottom, leaving a beautiful, three-layered libation. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint spring.
Out of all the cocktails we enjoy, the Queens Park Swizzle is one that is not only tasty, but also gives me a healthy dose of nostalgia every time I drink one. It reminds me of summer and new beginnings in the city I was just beginning to discover myself.