Tiki Drinks: A Closer Look at the 151 Swizzle

June 2, 2017

Rum. Lime. Sugar. The holy trinity of tropical libations. This particular combination of ingredients form the bedrock of tropical and Tiki drinks, from the dead-simple classic daiquiri to extravagant ten-plus ingredient Zombies. While the sugar may be fancied up in the form of exotic syrups like orgeat or falernum, it’s the yin-yang of sour citrus juices and sweet syrups that make us salivate in anticipation.

Within the pantheon of Tiki drinks, the 151 Swizzle may not be as well-known as the Mai Tai, but it’s arguably the simplest and most primal. A creation from the father of Tiki, Don the Beachcomber, the 151 Swizzle is essentially an overproof daiquiri accented with Don’s trademark accents – six drops of Pernod (or absinthe) and a dash of Angostura bitters:

151 SWIZZLE (Don the Beachcomber)

– ½ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
– ½ oz 1:1 simple syrup
– 1.5 oz 151 proof Demerara-style rum
– 6 drops Pernod (or absinthe)
– 1 dash Angostura bitters
– 8 oz crushed ice

Flash blend for five seconds, pour unstrained into a tall, metal vessel. (Or in a pinch, shake over ice and pour over new crushed ice.) Dust with nutmeg, garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This recipe is formulated to showcase the rum’s particular flavor above all else. Imagine that the lime, simple syrup, and Pernod are a world-class backup band, unparalleled at laying down a solid groove. The rum is the lead singer–it should have a mighty character and soul to rise above, so a deep, smoky intense Demerara style, such as Lemon Hart 151 or Hamilton 151, is what’s called for. You don’t want to Justin Bieber this drink with a light, flavorless U.S. Virgin Islands 151 rum, best suited instead for lighting on fire.

The 151 Swizzle using Lemon Hart 151 / Photo Credit: Matt Pietrek


With that said, it’s perfectly okay here to switch out one bruiser of an overproof for another. Both the Plantation Original Dark Overproof (RIP) and its replacement, Plantation O.F.T.D. Overproof, are close enough to 151 proof and can more than hold their own, flavor-wise. Think switching out Aretha Franklin for James Brown. Another worthwhile rum to experiment with is Lamb’s 151, a Navy-style rum composed of eighteen rums from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana.


Finally, a word about the serving vessel. The classic method for a 151 Swizzle is a tall, thin, silver-toned metallic cup that flares outward at the top. While you can substitute a Collins glass, it won’t carry the same panache. There’s a certain, retro space-age vibe from the classic spun-metal cup that make this simple cocktail so much more exotic–they’re worth seeking out if you’re at all serious about Tiki. Within minutes of filling the cup, the super-chilled contents create a visually compelling frost on the sides.

You might stumble across a set of these metal cups in your parent’s attic or a vintage shop, like the one shown here. Alternatively, Cocktail Kingdom sells a sleek, somewhat modernized version. Take the plunge and grab a set – they’re useful for all sorts of libations like the 2070 Swizzle, Martin Cate’s homage to the 151 Swizzle, featuring the vanilla-forward Angostura 1919 rum and Lemon Hart 151. Can you guess where 2070 comes from? Give up? It’s 1919 plus 151.

2070 SWIZZLE (Martin Cate)

– ½ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
– ½ oz 2:1 Demerara syrup
– ½ oz 1:1 honey syrup
– ¼ oz allspice dram
– 1 oz Angostura 1919 rum
– 1 oz Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum
– 4 drops Pernod
– 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to cup, add crushed ice to three-quarters full, swizzle vigorously with a bar spoon or lélé till frosty. Fill to top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of fresh nutmeg and a mint sprig.

Ready to get started? Time to hit the store.

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