Cool Off With a Cherry Sumac Swizzle


Photographs: Elana Lepkowski

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A swizzle always sounded like a Willy Wonka drink to me, the kind of thing you'd make out of snozzberries. Something about the two Zs together in the name made it seem as if you'd get something sweet and silly if you ordered one.

And then there's the look: the skinny frosted glass—sometimes over a foot tall—mounded with crushed ice. It just doesn't appear to be something all that serious. But making a swizzle requires specific tools and techniques, and swizzles can, in fact, be quite powerful in terms of alcohol content, so they're not drinks to be taken lightly.

To make a truly proper swizzle, you need a tree. I'm not kidding: there is a tree found in the Caribbean that's actually called a swizzlestick tree. Each long thin branch has smaller arms that stick out, and those sticks have long been used as a sort of hand blender to mix a swizzle. Now, you can either be really cool and find one of these online or—losing cool points but gaining practicality—simply use a bar spoon.


The basic elements of a classic swizzle are rum, lime, sugar, and ice. Here, Velvet Falernum works as a sweetener while adding a bit of spice: it's flavored with bitter almond, lime, ginger, and cloves. For this drink I've removed the lime completely, subbing in a fresh cherry syrup that features the tangy, floral and slightly savory notes of sumac.

Sumac, made from the dried fruit of the sumac plant, has long been used to add a tart, floral, almost citrusy (but slightly savory) flavor to Middle Eastern dishes. Its scent is both sweet and savory, and the taste is woodsy and lemon-tart. The tangy sumac and cherry syrup balances the heady vanilla and spice flavors of the rum and falernum.


But it's not a swizzle without the ice. Once your glass is filled with your cocktail ingredients and loads of crushed ice, you can swizzle the drink. Plunge your swizzle stick (or bar spoon, no judgement) all the way down into the ice-filled glass and then back up again, all while twirling the stick (or spoon) by rapidly rubbing the handle between your palms, like you're trying to keep warm. This should create a frost on the glass and make sure the rum gets properly diluted.

Here's a tip, though: don't try to swizzle in front of a window where temperatures are reaching close to 100 outside, or that frost might never happen.