The Life and Times of the Plastic Swizzle Stick

The tiki god glass nestled amidst the bottles of my home bar bristles with a fantastical array of plastic swizzle sticks. There’s the yellow putter from the Brae Burn Country Club, a red, lobster-topped relic from Hugo’s in Cohasset, Massachusetts and the see-through turquoise marlin emblazoned with Jimmy’s Harborside Restaurant. My favorite is a slender white stirrer topped with a miniature billboard reading “Memo: See you at the office.”

I inherited these relics from my late grandfather. He spent a lot of time out on the road in New England as a publisher’s sales rep in the mid-1950s and on through the end of the following decade. Whenever he stopped for a meal, he ordered a cocktail (or two), which usually arrived with swizzle stick jutting up from its depths. The idea was that patrons would take them home—like they would a book of matches—as a reminder of the bar or restaurant. For the establishments, the imprinted plastic utensils were branding tools.

The origins of these plastic stirrers, while muddled, have their roots in the Caribbean. The term “swizzle” begins appearing in literature in the 19th century, though it refers to a longstanding cocktail tradition—not a bartending implement. According to Edward Randolph Emerson’s Beverages, Past and Present: An Historical Sketch of Their Production (1908) a swizzle was a cocktail from St. Kitts “composed of six parts water to one of rum and an aromatic flavouring.”

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Photo courtesy of Siddie Nam/Flickr.

 

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From Smokey Blue Cheese to Dry Root Beer – My Favorite 2012 Fancy Food Show Bites & Sips

The 2012 Fancy Food Show may be over, but more than a few products made a lasting impression. Here are my top picks from the expo that I hope to be enjoying again sooner rather than later. Feel free to share your faves in the comments section.

Cheese

After being smoked over hazelnut shells for 16 hours, Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue takes on a hazy, heady flavor that makes it the perfect topping (or stuffing) for a burger.

Brazos Valley Cheese makes Eden, an ash-centered Brie swaddled in fig leaves that was a highlight of the show. Slightly stinky with a strong finish, it blew my mind.

Sweets

Wax paper wrapped batons of Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm are sweet treats of the highest order. Cooler still is the fact that the confectioners have given their goats wonderfully offbeat names like Root Beer, Meridien, and Solaris.

Beat the heat this summer with Nye’s Cream Sandwiches, which come in tantalizing flavors like Caramel Latte, Smore’s, Honey Walnut, and Coconut Chocolate.

Sodas 

Fentiman’s brews up the kind of botanically complex sodas that make mixologists cream their pants. It’s latest offering – Cherrytree Cola – is so good that it makes Cherry Coke taste like dead yak urine.

Clove and vanilla notes hide in GuS’s refreshingly not-so-sweet Dry Root Beer. Crisp, yet complex, it would make for an excellent summer barbecue beverage.

DIY

Have you always wanted to try making your own pickles, but have been afraid to tackle the task? Fire & Flavor demystify the pickling process by offering a fun, easy-to-use line of premixed spices, including Crispy Ice Box Dill, Sweet Bread & Butter, and Just Can’t Beet It.

Bread is another one of those things that just seems like such a monumental task that you don’t ever want to try doing it. Lucky for you, Joe Bellavance has created the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit which makes playing with yeast easier than driving to your local bakery to pick up a boule.

Baked Goods

I knew nothing about Gagne Foods, Inc. when I stopped by their booth on the second day of the show. However, their fantastic Triple Ginger Biscuits compelled me to stop by again on the last day just so I could get one more taste.

Snacks

My first bite at the show was Rau Om’s Miso Cured Tofu. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ll admit that my expectations were low. Then the creamy – like room temperature Brie – spread hit my taste buds and I was an immediate convert. If you’ve ever wondered what umami tastes like, this is it.

Oogie’s makes popcorn in a variety of imaginative flavors. My favorite was definitely the Smoked Gouda Popcorn, which gives Smartfood’s well-loved cheddar popcorn a run for the money.

Spreads

Suan’s Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly was developed after its creator spent four years cooking in Jamaica.  The sweet and fiery spread is best on a whole-wheat cracker topped with goat cheese.

Can you really go wrong with Organic Rhubarb Jam? Not if you pick it up from Colorado Mountain Jam. Sweet with a tiny tart twinge, it would be perfect on your morning toast or an evening cheese platter.

Syrups, Oils, and Vinegars

In search of the perfect Infused White Truffle Oil, I stopped by La Tourangelle’s booth and discovered nirvana. I can’t wait to pop up some kernels, just so I can drizzle a little of this liquid gold on them.

Citadelle’s Maple Vinegar was a fun discovery and would be great for adding a tangy zip to salad dressings at any time of year.

Mixologists take note! Morris Kitchen’s syrups, which include a ginger and a rhubarb option, would be perfect for your craft cocktails. Or for drinking directly from the bottle when you think no one is looking. 

Doomsday Supplies

I’m totally going to survive the upcoming zombie apocalypse if I stock up on World Grocer‘s Canned Emergency Purified Drinking Water, which supposedly has a shelf life of more than 30 years. One small problem: zombies live forever unless you take out what’s left of their brains with a little blunt force trauma.

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