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We're all hard at work on Food & Wine's Cocktails 2008, and no one is working harder than our awesome intern Julia Bainbridge. Here she shares details of a genius Sixties cocktail party that's inspiring her own soirees.
Before I started working on Food & Wine’s annual cocktail guide, I didn’t know single-malt scotch from bourbon. But under the tutelage of the guide's marvelous deputy editor Jim Meehan, I’ve become a spirits devotee, hosting weekly cocktail parties in my tiny apartment. The inaugural bash was dedicated to dark rum: round one was a classic Dark n’ Stormy, made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum; for round two, we sipped editor Nick Fauchald’s Darker n’ Stormiers. Somewhere around Round 2, fellow intern Nick Pandolfi told me the story of Sheila West Gosling (yes, that Gosling).
It seems that in the '60s, Sheila was the grande dame of Shelley Bay, Bermuda. One night, as she was preparing her signature punch made with her family's rum, pineapple and lime juices, bitters and grenadine, she realized there wasn’t a container that would hold enough punch to serve all her friends. So she decided to use her brand-new (top-loading, I hope!) Maytag washing machine, with the spin cycle acting as a giant stirrer. So began Sheila’s famous Rum Swizzle parties, with the washing machine making regular appearances. She even took the appliance with her on a cruise ship to Philadelphia, where she had a party for friends at the legendary Orpheus Club.
Sheila’s last party was for her 81st birthday, when she served her Rum Swizzles in teacups. Now 91, she has passed along the tradition to her grandson, Stratton Hatfield, who told me he still uses Sheila's “punch bowl." Perhaps I’ll host a second dark rum party, where I'll raise my teacup to Sheila Gosling and all the eccentric party girls like her.