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.”

Finish reading this story on Punch now.

Photo courtesy of Siddie Nam/Flickr.



Just Eat It – Keep Food Legal brings libertarian politics to the plate

“If you want to buy a Happy Meal with a horsemeat burger, a can of Four Loko, trans fat fried foie gras, and a side of shark fin soup, I applaud your right to make those choices,” says Baylen Linnekin as we sit on his porch in North Bethesda.

The 39-year-old executive director of the nonprofit Keep Food Legal has a decidedly libertarian perspective on food politics. “We want you to have the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, eat, and drink the food of your own choosing,” he says. “We’re opposed to subsidies that skew those choices and bans that clear those choices off the board. People are not stupid. They can make their own choices and live with the consequences.”

To that end, we’re sipping on cans of lemonade-flavored Four Loko, malt liquor cranked up with guarana, caffeine, and taurine. When I admit my ignorance over the final ingredient, Linnekin offers, “I think it’s approved for use in animal feed as a stimulant, but not in human food.” That’s reassuring.

The boozy energy drink was banned in several states in 2010 after it was linked to illness and, in some cases, death. Before the company pulled it off the shelves, Linnekin ran out and bought several cases, but not because he likes it.

“It’s disgusting,” he admits. “But I don’t believe that my personal tastes should dictate what other people choose to enjoy.”

With its presiding bitterness and lingering chemical aftertaste, Four Loko definitely isn’t Country Time lemonade, but Linnekin is more concerned with his philosophical point than his palate.

Finish reading this Young & Hungry column on the Washington City Paper website now.

Photo of Baylen Linnekin by Darrow Montgomery courtesy of Washington City Paper.