Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


In hot and humid NYC last week, we were invited downstairs to our neighbors Tobin (of Hella Bitters) and Jourdan for a cocktail. “I’m mixing swizzles,” he emailed.

A perfect summer cocktail if ever there were one. Born centuries ago in the Caribbean, the swizzle is nothing more than booze, sugar, bitters, and soda, with plenty of crushed ice. Ideally you spin the crushed ice with an actual five-prong swizzle stick, made from a native plant, to help the sugar dissolve. (You can buy them at our go-to cocktail supply store, Cocktail Kingdom.)

Tobin, a cocktail pro, used both Scotch and gin (in separate drinks; I requested gin, Donna had the scotch version below) along with a fiery Pasilla De Oaxaca bitters. But he noted that any spirit will work, and certainly rum would have been the spirit of choice in the Caribbean. Both cocktails are given below.

However you cool off—and how NYC has cooled off; the weather gods have given us a city-wide swizzle!—at the end of this fine week in July, hope yours is a happy Friday!

Basic Swizzle

  • Juice of 1 lime (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 or 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • 2 ounces rum (or spirit of your choice)
  • 2 ounces soda water (or as much as you wish)
  1. In a highball glass combine the lime juice, sugar, and bitters. Add crushed ice about three-quarters of the way up the glass. Add the rum and club soda.
  2. Swizzle well. No garnish required.

Swizzle Me This, Batman

  • 3/4 ounce pineapple syrup*
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 2 ounces Scotch (we used JW Gold Label Reserve—stay away from anything too peaty like Laphroaig)
  • 3 sprays (or a dash) pineapple-infused Drambuie**
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • 5 drops smoked saline***
  • 3 or 4 dashes Hella Bitters
  • Pineapple leaf, for garnish
  1. In a highball glass combine the pineapple syrup and lime juice. Add crushed ice about three-quarters of the way up the glass. Add the Scotch, Drambuie, club soda, smoked saline, and bitters. Stir the cocktail well, preferably with a swizzle stick.
  2. Garnish with a long pineapple leaf, pointy side up. Careful not to poke your eye out.

*Making this syrup is easy, but it takes a couple hours. Get pure juice—nothing from concentrate. Measure out a quantity of sugar equal to half the pineapple juice you’re going to use and reserve. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the pineapple juice to a simmer, using a wooden spoon to skim the surface of the foam that rises. When reduced by half, stir in the sugar until dissolved and turn off the heat.

** In a glass jar combine slices of ripe pineapple with about 10 ounces Drambuie. Cover and let sit for several hours or overnight. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. You can add by the dash or get fancy and use an atomizer to spritz the inside of the glass.

***You’ll need to get smoked salt at a local specialty shop or online. A couple ounces of salt will be plenty. In a bowl, add hot water to the salt, an ounce at a time, until the salt is completely dissolved. The ratio should be approximately 4:1 water to salt.

Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.