A History Lesson With Booze ®

The Rise of the Escalator and The Iron Pier Swizzle

This week back in 1859, a Massachusetts man Nathan Ames patented the idea of a “revolving stairway.” Let us walk you through the ensuing history of the escalator… then ascend to giddy heights with this custom cocktail.

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A device to help the disabled ended up mainly as a device to help shoppers.

It was 1859, and a guy named Nathan Ames got a patent for a pretty great — and humane — concept: A set of stairs on a moving belt… that would carry old or infirm people to upper floors in their own homes. He called it “The Revolving Stairway.”

Ames’ idea didn’t exactly catch on like wildfire, though. Maybe because, as he imagined it, the thing had to be cranked by hand. So, “The Revolving Stairway” never did get built. And it was 33 years before another guy, Jesse Reno, actually manufactured a similar device with a way less humanitarian function.

It was basically a wide belt on an incline, designed to carry crowds uphill. Reno had the first one installed at Coney Island amusement park to lift packs of fun-seekers up onto a pier. And voila: the world’s first escalator.

Actually, Reno called it an “Endless Conveyor.” The term “Escalator” was actually coined by a third guy: Charles Seeberger. Who improved on Reno’s machine by making it more like a moving stairwell, with actual steps. Escalators popped up around the world — including the British Department store “Harrod’s.” Where at first, the ride made shoppers so nervous? The store handed out shots of brandy at the top to calm them down.

Today, of course, we’re used to escalators. In fact, maybe we rely on ’em a little too much. One mall in Japan boasts the shortest escalator on Earth. It carries customers a whopping thirty-three inches- down stairs.

Iron Pier Swizzle

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Get a move on with this uplifting cocktail as patented by Katie Emmerson, bartender at The Hawthorne in Boston:

Add to a tall glass:

  • 1.5 oz Bully Boy white rum
  • .75 oz grapefruit juice
  • .5 oz cinnamon syrup
  • Barspoon grenadine
  • Dash of Angostura orange bitters

Add ice, and swizzle (with a real swizzle stick), as though you’re starting a fire with a twig. Watch the frost rise gradually… then float .5 oz of brandy at the top. Sip until elevated.