Boston is a city rich in history. Whether it is related to tea being dumped in the harbor, or something more modern, Boston is, in the words of author Stephen Puleo, A City So Grand.
Interestingly enough, today’s cocktail is based on a topic that first introduced me to the easy writing style of Mr. Puleo – the famous Boston molasses flood. Mr. Puleo’s book Dark Tide is the captivating story of an event that is both horrifically tragic, as well as somewhat comic from a distance. On January 15, 1919, on the eve of Prohibition, a massive storage tank in Boston’s North End, which was filled to capacity with warm, sludgy molasses, burst. The pressure of thousands of gallons of molasses created a 40-foot-high freight train of stickiness that claimed 21 lives and flattened anything in its path. Of note, the old elevated train system that ran adjacent to the tank, was taken out of service and badly mangled as a result of the molasses crashing into its supporting superstructure. Visiting the North End today one can still see the dark molasses staining on many of the buildings. And on a warm afternoon, if the wind is exactly right, you can actually smell the faint acrid aroma of dried molasses.
Leave it to someone to create a cocktail in honor of such an auspicious event… Ben Sandrof, a tremendous resource on all sides of the beverage business, crafted the 1919 Cocktail in honor of Boston’s molasses flood. It seems almost ironic that a molasses tank, whose contents is the primary ingredient in making Rum, burst on the eve of Prohibition. Odd thing is that the molasses in the tank was not used to make Rum, but instead industrial ethanol to produce gun powder. No matter, like any iconic event, a cocktail seems appropriate.
The mix of ingredients in the cocktail is unusual, in that it blends Rye, Rum, Punt e Mes, an Amaro-based mixer and Benedictine, a highly herbaceous liqueur. On first blush, it would seem that this incongruous group of dance partners could never stay in step and yet, each brings a necessary part to the harmony of the cocktail. Lightly bitter and very-well balanced, the cocktail is both refreshing and rich.
My friends, I offer the 1919 Cocktail:
3/4 oz. Rye
3/4 oz. Rum
1 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Benedictine
1 dash Chocolate Bitters
Shake ingredients with crushed ice and strain into a chilled coupe.