Until the 1800s, there was very little Scotch available for sale in cities such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, let alone London or New York. Scotch, at the time, was considered the equivalent of moonshine—a drink enjoyed by unrefined highlanders, aged in sheep bladders and filtered through tartan. No one of refinement drank the stuff; instead, urban elites enjoyed the finest European wines, along with sherry, port, and cognac. A number of factors converged in the latter half of the 19th century to change everything.
'cocktail history' on Serious Eats
January 15, 1919. North End of Boston. A large tank holding 2,300,000 gallons of molasses bursts, flooding the streets at 35 mph. The sticky wave plows through men, women, children, and horses. The molasses flow is strong and swift enough to knock down buildings and even buckle an elevated railroad, knocking a train off its tracks. The great Boston Molasses Disaster claims 21 lives, not including horses and dogs, and injures 150. And yet, when rum was dubbed kill-devil, I don't think this is what its critics had in mind.