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The Rum Swizzle: A Brief History Of Bermuda's 'National' Drink

By: Risha Ganguly

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The beautiful island of Bermuda is renowned for its pink sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and a lively cultural blend. Amidst the sun-soaked landscapes, one beverage has emerged as the unofficial national drink of this idyllic paradise – the Rum Swizzle. This iconic cocktail carries with it a rich history that mirrors the island's diverse heritage and the influence of the seafaring traditions that have shaped Bermuda. 

The Origins of the Swizzle 

The origins of the drink can be traced back to the 18th century when sailors and privateers roamed the seas surrounding Bermuda. The drink's name is believed to be derived from the colloquial term "swizzle stick," a tool used to mix and cool beverages. The earliest versions of the Rum Swizzle were simple combinations of one part local rum and 6 parts water, while later versions used whatever was available on the island - citrus juices, and a touch of sugar – a refreshing drink for sailors seeking respite from the relentless voyages. 

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The Swizzle House Legacy 

One name synonymous with the Rum Swizzle is the Swizzle Inn, a legendary establishment that has been serving this beloved drink since the 1930s. Located in Bailey's Bay, the Swizzle Inn claims to be the birthplace of the iconic cocktail, and its vibrant atmosphere and laid-back charm make it a must-visit place.

As the story goes, the original Swizzle Inn was a small, humble inn where sailors and locals gathered to unwind and share tales of their lives, day to day activities and just talk. The innkeepers, recognising the popularity of the concoction, perfected the recipe and turned the Swizzle Inn into a haven for those seeking the perfect Rum Swizzle drink.  

The Perfect Recipe 

While the basic ingredients of the Rum Swizzle have remained relatively consistent over the years – Bermuda rum, fruit juices, and a hint of sweetness – each establishment and bartender puts their unique spin on the recipe. Some prefer a blend of dark and light rum, while others may experiment with different citrus combinations. The art of the Rum Swizzle lies in achieving the perfect balance of flavours that captivates the palate and evokes the spirit of Bermuda.  

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Rum Swizzle Rituals 

Ordering a Rum Swizzle in Bermuda is not just about enjoying a drink; it's a cultural experience. Locals take pride in their Rum Swizzle rituals, from the precise method of swizzling – vigorously stirring the ingredients with a swizzle stick – to the choice of glassware adorned with the vibrant colours of the island. The Rum Swizzle represents more than just a beverage; it symbolises the island's hospitality and the camaraderie that defines Bermuda's social gatherings. 

International Recognition 

Over the years, the Rum Swizzle has grown beyond its island origins and gained international recognition. Bartenders around the world have embraced the cocktail, with variations appearing on menus in tropical destinations and trendy urban bars alike. Its popularity can be attributed not only to its delicious taste but also to the allure of Bermuda. From humble beginnings as a drink for sailors seeking respite, the cocktail has evolved into a cultural icon that transcends borders.