One of the things I have learned being a parent is just how much of our communication is based in shared experiences and references. This is why it is so easy to chat with folks you have known a long time and why meeting new people from different cultures often has a stumbling period as you learn how to better understand one another. Last year, I instituted a Film History 101 course for the kid to help fill in an empty space in his daily virtual school schedule. Obviously, my intent was to help keep him occupied, but I also wanted to give the boy a better understanding of how films are made and why all those small details from the screenplay to the set design to the editing and more, all really matter. Just how much work it takes from so many people to tell a story well. Being able to choose the curriculum has also helped me to fill in some of the gaps in his popular culture education. I am happy to report that he now, not only understands what the filmmaker is trying to say when they choose a low camera angle or high contrast film or choppy editing, but he also understands why dad says “bright light” whenever the curtains are opened unexpectedly, why sleds are Rosebuds in our household and why anytime he claims to not be afraid, I respond with “you will be”. So many times in the middle of a screening he will stop me to ask if he just got a reference or not. It has been gratifying. So in the spirit of shared experiences, please join me now as we stand and make the Queen’s Park Swizzle.
The swizzle is an entire category of drinks, generally made in the glass and churned up using a swizzle stick. The short version is that a swizzle stick is not the little plastic stick that crops up in drinks to stir them, but is in fact an actual stick with 4-5 short branches trimmed off that comes from a particular type of tree and makes a nearly perfect tool for mixing tropical drinks by rolling back and forth between your palms. I went into deeper detail when I talked about the Kaieteur Swizzle last year, so if you want to know more, I highly recommend that article. Of course, I should have made this drink first, since the Queen’s Park is the quintessential Swizzle, but I somehow neglected to. In fact, the main reason we are enjoying this one today is that I keep trying to reference it, only to realize that I have not yet shared it with you, gentle readers. So today, we will rectify that oversight. This drink was created sometime in the 1920’s in the bar at the swanky Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad’s Port of Spain. The hotel opened in 1895 and was famed as a luxury destination not only for it’s beautiful accommodations, but for the elegance of its bar and restaurant. So let’s jump in and make their signature drink.
Like other swizzles, this one is built in the glass, so grab a collins glass and toss in 7-8 fresh mint leaves, I had to go with way more cause my winter mint crop has tiny leaves, and 2 ounces of a golden rum, I chose El Dorado 5 year. Muddle those mint leaves lightly and swirl around the glass to coat it with those fragrant mint oils and rum. Add 3/4 of an ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, 1/2 an ounce of demerara simple syrup and 2 stabs of Angostura bitters. Next, fill the glass about 2/3 of the way with crushed ice and get ready to stir. I figure some calypso music is the way to go here, so crank up Hary Belafonte’s version of “Jump In The Line” and get to stirring well by rolling your swizzle stick back and forth between your palms while also gently raising it up and down, to the beat of the music. Get your hips in there and really enjoy yourself or, I guess, you can just stir it up with a barspoon if you have not yet dropped twenty bucks on a stick from Martinique with the sole purpose of using it to mix a small category of tropical drinks. When well stirred, fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice and cap it up. I like to throw 3-4 stabs of angostura biters on top for the visual and the aroma, but you do you. Garnish with some fresh mint and maybe one of those plastic drink stirrers that folks usually call swizzle sticks, toss a paper straw in there and serve.
This one is wonderful, nice and easy going. A true porch sipper or, if you are enjoying it in the spirit of the fancy hotel where it was born, a true veranda sipper. Well balanced, not too sweet, not too booze forward, just a nice little taste of the tropics, perfect for escaping this chilly evening in January, at least for a moment. This one is very similar to the classic Mojito and is a nice one to sneak in on people every once in a while, to expand their boundaries, if nothing else.
To be fair, I basically made this drink today, so I will be able to refer back to it when I make other drinks, but on some level that is a lot of what our society is about, shared references. Think about it, the next time you are talking to someone. Just how long would it take to communicate if you did not have the shorthand of being able to refer to things you have both done, or pop culture references from movies and tv or basic info that is available to folks in your cultural area. It is kind of like Carl Sagan said when asked how to make an apple pie, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Frankly, that just takes too long, so shared experiences are good. This is also why widely available public education is a good thing. I am all for more people having access to knowledge. The more people that know things, the easier it is for us to communicate and we sure could use more of that these days. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.