Created in the West Indies in the 1700s, the Rum Swizzle was historically crafted by rapidly rolling a dried root or stem between one's palms to transform the drink's ingredients (typically, rum, juice, a sweetener such as simple syrup, and ice) into a fine cocktail. That stem was the ancestor of the swizzle stick, now a mainstay of cocktail culture.
Though cocktails' popularity waned in the 1970s, when American wine became widely available, mixed drinks have stormed back in the past 10 years, says Liz Williams, president of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. The recession has helped. "Whenever the economy's down, other industries suffer, but we do well," says Rachel Pantely, marketing manager at Spirit Foodservice, which patented the swizzle stick in 1935 and now ships 400 million per year. "I guess people have more reason to drink."
From wedding-ready personalized stirrers to light-up swizzles, these "accessories" are, at just pennies apiece, affordable promo tools. "People stopped smoking, so no one's reaching for matchbooks. This is an alternative," says Williams. "We'll certainly never stop drinking cocktails."
A version of this article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.