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Ask a Bartender: How Do You Properly Swizzle a Cocktail?

When it comes to prepping cocktails, we’re all familiar with chilling and dilution techniques like shaking and stirring that mellow our booze to an acceptable strength. But what about swizzling?

No, “swizzle” is not just a fun name thrown onto the end of some classic cocktails like the Queen’s Park Swizzle or the Chartreuse Swizzle. Swizzling is a proper — albeit less common — cocktail-making technique in its own right, and utilizes specific equipment to achieve optimal mixing and dilution. And while it might take a little practice, it can come especially handy when crushed or pebble ice is involved. In order to learn more about the method, we tapped celebrated New York-based mixologist Brian Miller.

“Simply put, swizzling is a method for preparing cocktails that uses a swizzle stick,” he explains. According to Miller, the first step to swizzling properly is making sure you have the proper tools at your disposal. Swizzle sticks come in many shapes and sizes, though not all are created equal. And with such rapid hand motions necessary to swizzle properly, you want to ensure your stick will stay between your fingers.

“I think the best one to use is a le bois lélé,” he explains. “It’s a wooden branch of a tree with the ends growing out like a spider web that are trimmed so they can fit into a glass, usually a highball.”

Le bois lélés are traditional swizzle sticks made from wood harvested from Martinique’s Quararibea Turbinata trees. The coarse texture of the stick ensures that you will be able to mix your cocktail adequately without the tool sliding right out of your hands. And while stainless-steel swizzle sticks can be effective, they tend to be much smaller and thus harder to control. No matter the type of swizzle stick you have at your disposal, in the end, nailing the technique is the most important part.

“Using two hands, you’ll [put] the stick between your fingers towards the end, rotating slightly back and forth by rolling it between your fingers,” Miller explains. “Then, you’ll use an up-and-down motion from the bottom of the cocktail and back down again to mix.”

When it comes to which cocktails are best served swizzled, they’re usually ones that incorporate crushed ice — like the technique’s classic namesakes or the Mint Julep. Not only do larger ice cubes make it hard to squeeze the tool into the glass, but crushed ice cubes can help hold the swizzle stick upright and make for a lot less work. Just be sure to move slowly if you’re first learning how to properly swizzle, as it can be a tricky technique to master.

“The first rule of teaching anyone anything about bartending is forgiveness, and you have to forgive yourself for not being good at something right away,” Miller says. “Start out slow and gain a rhythm. It’s just like dancing, and you’ll know when you’ve got it. Then, you can start moving up and down in the glass to dance with the swizzle stick and the ice.”

You’ll know when your cocktail is perfectly mixed when a sheen of ice forms around the outside of the glass. Just be careful picking it up before taking a sip; Miller has said several of his Queen’s Park Swizzles have slipped right through unsuspecting customers’ hands.

*Image retrieved from fesenko – stock.adobe.com

The article Ask a Bartender: How Do You Properly Swizzle a Cocktail? appeared first on VinePair.

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