Ralph Ramkarran’s column, based on a longer article by Kamal Ramkarran, on the “long-lost swizzle” brought back vivid memories of my own experiences of that remarkable and potent concoction.
Not long after arriving in then British Guiana in June, 1955, to take up a post in Bookers I was invited, summoned really, to attend an “At Home” with Mr H G Seaford, then Chairman of Bookers Stores and Mrs Seaford at Colgrain House in the evening. Friends I had already made playing tennis at the GCC took me there. But before going they decided it would be a good idea to have a few beers at the nearby Georgetown Club. I was 22 years old, playing tennis competitively and not used to drinking much, so by the time we arrived at Colgrain I was not exactly well away, but getting there rapidly.
As we entered Colgrain, at the top of the beautifully polished flight of stairs ‒ before we proceeded to meet gracious Mrs Seaford and formidable, craggy, white-suited HG ‒ stood in stately uniform the butler, Mr Edwards, with a tray of swizzles frothing enticingly in what I am pretty sure were double-shot glasses. My first sight of swizzles. I was told that a swizzle must be downed in one go, which I dutifully did, and then carefully walked on to meet our host and hostess, greeting them not exactly with a slap on the back but, I was told later, a little more boisterously than etiquette should have indicated.
After that Mr Edwards kept circulating with his tray and I kept swallowing at one go what increasingly seemed a most delightful and bracing drink. I have the haziest recollection of being escorted from Colgrain and home by my dear complicit friends!
I have sometimes wondered what discussions might have gone on at the highest levels. What would have been disturbing would not so much have been the social gaffe of becoming considerably under the weather at my very first Bookers command performance, but much more the frightful suspicion that perhaps this young recruit could not hold his liquor, a failing quite sufficient to ruin a promising career at its very start!
From then on for decades I remember swizzles of various ingredients, liquors, preparations, frothiness and degrees of potency being part of my social experience on a number of occasions, especially at Christmas time. They always gave me a special buzz, a certainty that, really, life was very pleasant.
I seem to remember there was a time when swizzles at midday on Saturdays were a tradition at the Georgetown Club. I certainly remember the excellent and famous butler at Herdmanston House, Mohammed ‒ trained by the even more famous Harry, Georgetown’s greatest barman ‒ Mohammed used to serve perfect swizzles ‒ can it have been? ‒ right up to the late 1990s. If he is still around can he please confirm this to me?
I haven’t had a swizzle for years. Having read Ralph’s piece I am going to see what I can do this Christmas to bring back a memory or two.