The History Lesson
It sounds like a kid’s fantasy: A giant wave of sugar. The reality was not so sweet.
It was a cold January day in Boston, 1919. And, at a distilling company with the deceptively pleasant name of “Purity,” a calamity was brewing… in the form of a giant steel storage vat full of molasses.
Fifty feet tall, 90 feet wide, it had never been an especially great example of engineering. Molasses oozed from leaks all over the thing. But when advised of the problem, the company’s solution was to paint the steel brown, so the leaks wouldn’t show so much.
At around 12:40 p.m., the inevitable happened. The vat burst, with a ground-shaking roar, accompanied by what sounded like machine-gun fire. Those were the rivets popping out. Then, a 25 ft. wave of molasses – 2.3 million gallons of it — gushed outside, leveling buildings in its wake.
It was as deadly as it was absurd. Twenty-one people died. Over a 100 more were injured. And it was only this year that scientists figured out why the accident was so deadly: Apparently, the wintry air cooled the molasses, making it four times thicker and stickier. Rescuers couldn’t reach people who slowly drowned, trapped in goo.
Purity’s owners tried to blame the disaster on anarchist terrorists, but they eventually settled out of court for under a million in today’s dollars.
The cleanup, meanwhile, took weeks. And for decades later, locals swore on summer days, you could still smell molasses.
A Sticky Situation
Mixed up by Beth Hoselton, bar manager at State Street Provisions located in Boston’s North End, where the molasses flood struck.
- 1 and 1/2 ounces Privateer Amber Rum
- 3/4 ounce Molasses Syrup
- 1/2 ounce Amaro Montenegro
- 1/2 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
- 1/4 ounce Dry Orange Curaçao
- Splash of Hamilton 151
- Half a scooped out lime
- Mint sprig
Combine the first five ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over crushed ice, then garnish with flaming lime bowl of Hamilton 151, a mint sprig, and a cinnamon stick.