This Summer, at Tales of the Cocktail, I encountered the 151 Swizzle as the featured player at the most epically entertaining train-wreck of a seminar I have ever had the pleasure to attend. The session was titled “Swizzling Around the World” and led by Stanislav Vadrna. I had signed up for this session on a lark. I don’t swizzle a lot of drinks, but I had a gap in my schedule and this looked entertaining. The culmination of this event was to have all 151 people in the room make this thing called a 151 Swizzle at the same time, a “world record”.
Once I got to New Orleans, my expectations started to rise. Apparently, at the 2010 Tales, Stanislav’s session was viewed as the mixological equivalent of Woodstock. It was awesome. Women wanted to have his children. Husbands wanted their wives to have his children. That sort of thing. I kept my expectations reasonable, however. I wasn’t expecting the Sermon on the Mount, but I was now expecting this to be interesting and memorable.
Oh, it was memorable alright….
Stanislav started with a bit that he apparently has done successfully in the past, many times. He passes around a roll of toilet paper to the audience, asking each to take a single sheet and pass it on. During the time it takes to do this, he goes for a little shock value to get the group’s attention by demanding that we subsume our bartending skills in general, and our swizzling in particular, so deep into our subconscious that performing them becomes as natural as taking your normal, healthy dump first thing in the morning.
His point, of course, is more than a little valid. If you are spending your attention on making a drink, you cannot be spending it on your guest. And the secret to being a great bartender is being a great host. I can see how this little shock bit has worked for him in the past. But it did not work for him that day. and unlike when he mixes drinks, Stanilav must have to concentrate so hard on his speaking, that he was not grasping what was happening in the audience.
Obviously, he’s never done this with a crowd this large, spread out in a huge ballroom with bad sight lines, and no rational way to pass around that roll. And he only had one roll! It took forever, people kept calling for the roll to come back since it had missed them, etc. And he would not finish with the whole morning crap metaphor until we all had our (metaphorically, thank God) shitty little piece of TP. He just kept recycling his bit as he, and we, waited, getting all the more scatological with each iteration….
It was a perfect storm for the poor guy. Once a crowd is heckling you, though mostly quietly enough he could not hear (mostly), everything you do will be seen in the worst light. His interesting illustration that while the word swizzle, and the authentic swizzle sticks we were provided, may come from the Caribbean, the concept, and the tool, are fairly universal throughout the world should have been fascinating. Instead, when he started showing pictures he had taken to illustrate his ideas, I guarantee that every one of us in the room (except Tiare, bless her generous heart) were thinking, “Christ, he’s showing us a slide show of his vacation!” I know this to be true because I heard us all saying it.
It kept getting worse, but I don’t want to pile on the poor guy. If you make some or all of your living speaking to people, you will die from time to time. God knows, I sure have. It was just his day. Should I have another opportunity to attend something Stanislav does, I will. He’s charming, charismatic, attractive, and I especially like his philosophy on life and bartending.
Oh, and he taught me this fine drink. It is fun to make, especially if you have an authentic swizzle stick like the one I received, tastes good, and is an excellent use for Lemon Hart 151.
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1 1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 6 drops Absinthe
- 1 cup crushed ice
Combine ingredients, except ice, in a tall glass. Stir to mix. Add crushed ice to fill and press your swizzle stick in. Press your open hands together with the swizzle stick between them. Rub them back and forth to spin the stick. Move up and down also as you go, to thoroughly mix all the drink. Add more ice as you go if the level drops below where you want. Keep this going until the entire outside of the glass is covered in thick frost. Top with a bit more crushed ice. Grate a touch of fresh nutmeg over the surface and garnish with a cinnamon stick.