Birth of the American Swizzle Stick

Emilie-Noelle Provost on August 19th, 2019

The story of the American swizzle stick is a stirring tale best told over a three-olive martini, or at least Jay Sindler might say so. After all, that’s how the idea for the swizzle stick came to him. It was the winter of 1934, just months after the end of prohibition.  The Boston native, who was a keen inventor and an employee of Malden’s Converse Rubber Company, was enjoying a martini with a friend at The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Boston. All was going swimmingly until he found himself in a conundrum. In order to retrieve the martini’s olive, he would either need to fumble with soaked fingers to pluck it from the bottom of his glass, or wait until his drink was empty. In that moment, Sindler, a natural visionary, imagined a simple tool that would go on to forever change the face of cocktailing: a pick uniquely designed to stab the olive with refinement. Within six months, Sindler had applied for a patent, founded Spir-it Inc. (today Spirit Foodservice of Andover; the “Spir-it” brand name is still used to market the company’s swizzle sticks and picks), and placed an ad in The New Yorker, offering to personalize picks with the names of customers’ establishments. The garnish pick would, of course, act as a drink stirrer as well, giving rise to the American swizzle stick.

Left: Custom molded stirrer for Lombardo’s; Kona Kai, a good example of a classic custom Tiki design; Winking olive pick from the 1970s. Courtesy Spirit Food Service. Right: Jay Sindler, creator of the swizzle stick.

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