A swizzle stick is a device used to stir mixed drinks, cocktails or any other beverage which might benefit from a thorough stirring. Many swizzle sticks are made from disposable plastic, but there can be some more permanent forms of a swizzle stick included in a formal bar set.
A swizzle stick may pull double duty, acting as both a garnish spear and a stir stick. A bartender may spear an olive, a pearl onion or a slice of fruit on a swizzle stick when serving certain mixed drinks, allowing the recipient to swirl the individual ingredients together in the glass. One theory on the original purpose of a swizzle stick suggests that the stick was used in the West Indies to swirl ice and alcohol together. The result would be a frosted glass.
There is also a theory which suggest the swizzle stick was first used to stir the ingredients of a rum-based drink called a Swizzle. Although the drink called a Swizzle does exist, there is no evidence that it was ever mixed with a small stirrer. The best explanation dates the swizzle stick back to the 1930s, when its inventor created a way to spear olives and other garnishes in his favorite mixed drinks.
Swizzle sticks often have a toothpick-like point on one end and a broad paddle-shaped blade on the other. While it may seem counter-intuitive to some, the paddle end is intended to be the one to use for drink stirring, not the pointed end. Some swizzle sticks, especially those designed for coffee, have openings in the blades to allow the beverage to flow through without too much resistance.
The blade end of a swizzle stick has proven to be a popular advertising opportunity for various companies, especially producers of top shelf alcoholic beverages. These stylized swizzle sticks are even considered collectible in certain circles. Antique swizzle sticks made from glass, metal or ceramics are also very popular collectibles, especially those with rare logos or unusual designs.