from the Jazz Age to Today

: :  If you grew up in the 70’s, (and I think it’s safe to say that most of the Mai Tai readership did) and your parents were products of the late 50’s to 60’s “cocktail” generation (and I think it’s also safe to say that most of the Mai Tai readership’s parents were), chances are they had a collection of swizzlesticks in their liquor cabinet (and let’s face it dear readers, if your parents were products of the “cocktail” generation, they most assuredly had a liquor cabinet, if not a full blown wet bar in the faux wood paneled basement). And if you’re really lucky, maybe your dad had a lot of business trips and took advantage of the expense account, thereby adding some more exotic specimens to the standard collection of arrow and paddle style sticks. That is, if you consider “the Bowmanville Inn” an exotic locale. : :

: : While these slender plastic reminders of a night of drinks with the couple down the street at the latest Tiki bar in town, or perhaps a vacation in Vegas or the islands are a great addition to any bar, most people don’t know the full story behind them. : :

: : Originally, glass swizzles were used by jazz age flappers to stir the bubbles out of their champagne but, during prohibition, these soon became obsolete. Then, in 1933, an enterprising (and probably drunk) young chemical engineer named Jay Sindler was sitting in a Boston bar trying to fish the olive out from his martini when inspiration struck. Why not use a small “spear” instead of his fingers, which, back in 1933, was a social taboo (remember kids, this is before eating chicken wings with your hands was acceptable in public drinking establishments). He applied for his patent on March 16, 1934 and was granted the same on February 19, 1935... and the rest is history. : :

: : Made from wood, Sindler’s design was a basic flat paddle with a sharp point at the end for spearing fruit and cocktail onions. Since then, swizzles have been manufactured from bakelite and glass, which make them very collectible, but the most common ones are plastic. Bars and liquor companies soon caught on to the marketing possibilities of these little plastic wonders and, since then, designs have come and gone, each one more far-out than the last. : :

: : Starting with my parents’ own considerable collection, which I gleefully claimed when they cleaned out their liquor cabinet in preparation for selling the house, to assorted bags-full scored at Value Village, to bundles bought for pennies at garage sales, I’ve been able to amass quite a diverse collection. From tiki bars and tacky themed strip clubs to sticks hawking liquor company products, my collection proudly graces the top shelf of my 1950’s tea cart/bar. While I’ll never be a Bond Girl, I can imagine that I am, every time I use my prized 007 Perrier swizzle with a silhouette of Mr. Bond himself. And while I’m too young to have been able to dine at Toronto’s long gone Ports of Call, I can imagine that I’m there enjoying an exotic cocktail at the bar, every time I use one of my Ports of Call swizzlesticks in a Mai Tai of my own making. : :

: : There are plenty of swizzlestick manufacturers that still do a tidy business, including Sindler’s company, Spir-it (www.spir-it.com). And if you’re in the market for sticks with your own name and design (perhaps a custom MTAS stick is in the works?), they’ll do a custom order of a minimum 100,000. : :

Shauntelle Duguay © 2002

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